Ft Collins – Denver (0-1) started their 2019-2020 basketball season Tuesday night with a 74-63 loss to the Colorado State Rams at Moby Arena.
In the first half, CSU gained the lead four minutes into the game and never relinquished their advantage. Denver stayed within striking distance for most of the first half until the midway point when a Robert Jones turnover and missed 3-point attempt by Jase Toewnsend fueled a Ram run and 14 point advantage. CSU built a 15 point lead with 3:38 to go in the first half when DU whittled the lead to 8 points, highlighted by a bucket by David Nzekwesi, free throws by Nzekwesi and a Taelyr Gatlin 3-point shot. The half ended 34-26 CSU.
Denver pulled within 4 points on a Roscoe Eastmond steal and bucket with 16:30 left in the second half. Shortly after that, DU’s only senior, Ade Murkey, got his 3rd foul and headed to the bench. Three minutes later, DU trailed 51-37 as the game slipped away from the Pioneers. The Pioneers could not cut the lead below 9 points for the remainder of the game.
While the Denver perimeter defense appears to have improved, there is still significant room for improvement. Denver committed 25 fouls for the game and missed 7 free throws – way too many to make a second half comeback. DU matched the Rams with 14 turnovers. DU had four players with double figures – Ade Murke (18), Taelyr Gatlin (10), David Nzekwesi (10) and freshman Roscoe Eastmond (10). Gatlin led the Pioneers in minutes with 29 followed by Jase Townsend (26) and Roscoe Eastmond (27). New JUCO transfer sophomore Tristan Green was on the floor for 20 minutes. DU collected a respectable 18 points off the bench for the night. DU held CSU to 30.4% shooting from downtown – but must continue to improve in that area going forward.
Denver’s youth was exposed when Murkey was not on the floor tonight and that is likely to be the case all season. Head coach Rodney Billups is going to be developing a raw, inexperienced squad with only two upper classmen. Freshman guard Roscoe Eastman was the surprise for DU with his speed and distribution. On the other hand, the usually reliable Jase Townsend went 3-13 from the field in a disappointing shooting night.
Final score 74-63, Rams. Next up, Utah Valley on Saturday, 1:00 MT – Magness Arena.