Denver Fades in Second Half Collapse, 80-68 to South Dakota State

For 20 minutes, DU (4-14, 0-4) looked like a well-oiled machine as the Pioneers jumped out to 46-37 halftime lead over South Dakota State. DU shot 61.3% for the half and had only three turnovers. It was clearly Denver’s best half of the season. But in the second half, DU shooting went stone cold (6-32, 18.8%) and 0-11 from downtown. SDSU was in the free throw bonus with more than 11 minutes to go in the game on calls that went the Jackrabbits way. As the fouls piled up on DU’s big men, SDSU punished Denver inside with 24 points-in-the-paint. In the final four minutes, leading by 3 points, SDSU outscored Denver 17 to 5 to seal the 80-68 victory.

Forward Douglas Wilson, a two-time NJCAA All-American, did most of the damage for the Jackrabbits with 31 points and 8 rebounds. Ade Murkey and Jase Townsend led DU with 17 and 15 points respectively along with 3 rebounds each. Freshman Robert Jones played his most solid game this season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. And, Taelyr Gaitlin scored 11 points for the Pioneers despite being hobbled with a lower body injury which occurred in the first half.

The effort continues to be there for this year’s Denver team. Unfortunately, they do not have the confidence or experience to close out games, especially on the offensive end. And, other teams will continue to take advantage of Denver, believing that Denver will eventually succumb to the pressure until the Pioneers prove otherwise. It will take mental toughness and more floor time for this young squad to fight their way out of this troubling pattern.

After the game, head coach Rodney Billups said, “We need to stay together. If the officiating is going to be that bad in our building, we need to stay together.  We played well in the first half – made stops and made shots. But, the officiating was so one-sided it was hard to get in a flow (27 free throws for SDSU). They either made baskets or went to the free throw line. We need to go on the road and get one (a win) at Western Illinois this weekend.”

6 thoughts on “Denver Fades in Second Half Collapse, 80-68 to South Dakota State”

  1. The Pioneers must learn that games are 40 minutes long, and that great first half performance is no guarantee that the second half will go well.

    The officiating did NOT determine the outcome of this game. SDSU did. Period. End of story.

    SDSU has been the best team in the Summit League for at least the last decade, and that’s because they know how to make adjustments and win games in the second half.

    SDSU knew from its scouting of DU that it was likely not going to make its usual three pointers against DU’s vastly improved and top-ranked Summit League three point defense. So instead, they adjusted. The Jacks went inside to punish the Pioneers in the paint. DU could not stop SDSU’s Douglas Wilson inside, who had his way with both of DU’s young bigs, Nzekwesi and Jones. I think DU should have tried to double Wilson more and force USD back to the perimeter, but that didn’t happen enough to change SDSU’s tactics.

    Additionally, DU shot only 18 percent in the second half, and when that happens, you usually lose no matter who you play. Again, after DU’s excellent first half, SDSU cranked up the defensive pressure and Pioneers had no more offensive answers when their shots stopped falling. DU only making a single three pointer in the entire game is a very telling stat.

    Nine-game losing streaks are no fun for anyone. The Pioneers need to get back in the gym, work harder and get better. That includes both coaches and players.

  2. First it was Lack of energy (attendance). Now it’s officiating. At some point the finger needs to be pointed back at the individual. We’re in real danger of missing out on post season play for the second straight year. Sad

  3. Is is just me, or was last night’s loss especially demoralizing? I feel weird saying that, given this team has only 4 wins in 18 games this year and had lost 8 in a row coming into the contest, but it really felt that way. The first half was really good. DU made shots, took care of the ball, and looked like a team ready to take a big step and build some confidence and maybe some momentum. I really thought the stars might be aligned for the Pios to defeat a historically very high-quality league opponent. The second half was a mess, at least execution-wise. Pios couldn’t make any shots, struggled to defend in the paint, and the Jackrabbits ran away with it in the end. Tough to watch.

    I really believe brighter days are ahead for this team, but man, it’s tough right now. The effort has been there overall, but the growing pains certainly have manifested themselves. This team has now lost 9 in a row, and you have to wonder whether this team piece together a few more wins to avoid a historically bad season………

  4. I think these kids are only as good as their coaching/leadership, and its not impressive. The substitution pattern is – well – not even a pattern. There is little enthusiasm from the bench, starting with the first seat. Officiating is not to blame, it has in my opinion not been a deciding factor this season (or last for that matter). They are rarely in a position of being ahead. Last night I had hope — and then the second half just fell apart. Did anyone listen to the post game interview on the air with Billips? I felt he was unprofessional in his fingerpointing and a few other comments. I have tried to have respect for him because something’s gotta break soon but last night cemented my feelings.

  5. Unbelievably frustrating. There is absolutely zero reason a private school in Denver should be losing consistently to public schools in the Dakotas. Tone at the top is massively important and has failed the program for many years. I appreciate DU hockey and lacrosse and the continued success but those NCAA sports will never generate the type of $$ and awareness a successful basketball program can garner. Haefner and Creech need to decide whether or not we continue to waste away valuable resources on a subpar basketball program or actually invest the time and effort in building a successful one.

    In my opinion, with the financial resources readily available at DU, Creech needs to find a seasoned leader to take over the reins of the program. Call me crazy, but pay a George Karl, Larry Brown, Rick Pitino type coach whatever they want to completely change the tone and direction. The resume alone will change the recruiting environment. Not to mention, hiring this type of coach will allow the community to rally around and generate authentic excitement, similar to that of the hockey program.

    Call me optimistic/ambitious but as an alum living in Washington state, there’s absolutely ZERO reason a small school in Spokane, Washington (with ~$500M less in endowment!), can consistently be a top 25 basketball program. If you build a program with a proven coach (DU has the $$), students/fans/tv viewership will come.

    Also maybe the WCC will finally accept us…. although that’s a rant for another day.

    We are about to approach a pivotal moment in DU basketball. Let’s face it, Billup’s tenure is inevitably over. Does DU leadership want to continue to be complacent or will we see a bona fide investment in the basketball program?

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