New Mexico State Prevails, 72-67, Against Scrappy Denver Hoops

Photo: Rodney Billups with leading scorers Ade Murkey and Jase Townsend

It looked like the Pioneers were going to be blown out early. Down by as many as 18 points during the contest, a young Pioneer squad, on the back of solid defense, clawed their way back to make it a game in the final minute of play before falling New Mexico State, 72-67, at Magness Arena.

In the first half, Denver (4-7) fell into an early hole, 23-8, and it looked like a mismatch against the Aggies, who were on the verge of running DU out of their own building. But Denver settled down and fought back the rest of the night. The Pioneers crept within 11 at halftime but the fireworks were delayed until the final five minutes of the game.

Denver kept in contact with New Mexico State during the first 15 minutes of the second half. Denver employed solid defense and trailed NMSU by 10 points with five minutes to go. A Jase Townsend 3-point shot, a Robert Jones layup and free throws by Ade Murkey made it a one possession game. With 18 seconds to go, trailing by only three points 70-67, DU’s Roscoe Eastmond drove to the basket, sunk a driving basket and was fouled. Pushed in the back, Eastmond made contact with a New Mexico player under the basket and the officials called it a charge on Eastmond – no basket. Since NMSU was in the double bonus, New Mexico’s Shunn Buchanan sunk two free throws and the game was over, 72-67.

With the questionable call, Denver lost their only chance to draw even with the Aggies.

Basketball NMSU 2
Denver could only generate 8 bench points on the night

For the game, Denver continued to struggle on the offensive end, shooting 45.6% to the Aggies’ 50% from the field. Denver also cooled off NMSU’s sizzling 43.75% shooting from the arc in the first half to only 16.7% in the second half. DU also won the turnover battle, 19-15. Jase Townsend scored 29 points to lead the Pioneers, with half of his points coming from downtown (5/7). Senior Ade Murkey had 22 points, four rebounds and four steals with a very solid all-around floor game. DU gave up 40 of NMSU’s 67 points in the paint.

Overall, this was an encouraging game that shows a vast defensive improvement over last season. Denver can make stops on the defensive end. If only Denver can get off to better starts in games and generate more consistent offense, the Pioneers have a chance to win more games like this going forward.

4 thoughts on “New Mexico State Prevails, 72-67, Against Scrappy Denver Hoops”

  1. I loved the way the Pioneers battled in this game, making the second half quite entertaining. NMSU was a 11.5 point favorite, with a far more experienced roster than DU. Yet the Pioneers were right there until the very end, outscoring NMSU in the second half, until they were somewhat screwed by the bad call against Eastmond — a call that home teams usually get. The officials reviewed the play, but stuck with the original call of an offensive foul that Eastmond didn’t really deserve.

    That said, I don’t blame the officials for the DU loss. DU won’t win very many games shooting 45%, and they needed more offensive production from those players not named Murkey or Townsend to win against a good team like NMSU. Eight bench points and very low offensive production from DU’s two young bigs, Nzekwesi (2 points) and Jones (four points) spelled doom against a bigger, more experienced and more athletic Aggie team.

    It was also interesting to see former Pioneer C.J. Bobbitt, who played at DU from 2015-2017 as freshman and sophomore, playing for NMSU as a senior. Bobbitt had only two points in the game.

    If the Pios can shoot 50% from the field, play solid defense and reduce turnovers, they will have a chance to win games this year. But they need to do all three in the same game…

  2. Bobbitt scores 2-3 points every game. As for Roscoe near the end of the game, the baseline ref clearly and quickly signaled basket good. Ball was released before the charge. Tough break. We only had 2 players shoot foul shots. Not sure I’ve seen that before. Liked the attempt of our Twin Towers playing at the same time. That is the one way we get 5 D1 players on the court at 1 time. The other is playing 3 guards. Dunker enjoyed the watch.

    1. Good observations. First free throws of the entire game not until final 7+ minutes. As for Dunker, he is looking for a second job. He bet the over.

  3. I was bummed to miss this game but happy to read the Pios fought hard to make this a very competitive contest. Still relatively early in the season, but this squad has a much different, and better, feel than last year.

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