Photo credit: Jason Evans
During the 2017-2018 season, Denver men’s basketball finished with a 5-game winning streak that ended with a decisive 89-52 road win against Western Illinois in Macomb, Illinois on February 24th, 2018. That was the last time Denver secured a Summit League regular-season road win. Billups and company finished the season 15-15 and things were looking up.
Since that time, Denver was swept on the Summit League conference road – 0-8 – during the 2018-2019 campaign and missed the Summit League Tournament. This season started, once again, with two road losses to South Dakota and Western Illinois.
This week is a critical one for Denver basketball (5-15, 1-5) for two reasons. First, Denver can snap their 10-game conference regular-season road skid during their 2-game Dakotas swing. Two, Denver can inch closer to qualifying for the Summit League Conference tournament – an important sign of progress versus last season.
Denver heads on the road once again to face North Dakota (8-12, 2-4) and North Dakota State (13-6, 4-1) with a chance to end the 10-game regular conference losing streak. The North Dakota contest gives DU an opportunity to draw even with the Fighting Hawks for the last and final berth for the Summit League Tournament. A loss would leave the 9th-place Pioneers 2 games behind 8th-place North Dakota – and the Fighting Hawks would own the tiebreaker (2-0 head-to-head record). The challenge will be even greater Saturday in Fargo, where the Pioneers take on preseason favorite North Dakota State on their home court. NDSU sits all alone in the top spot (4-1) as of this writing.
Denver is showing promise coming off a 91-76 win over the Omaha Mavericks in Hamilton Gym. The Pioneers have two consistent scorers with senior Ade Murkey (15.0 ppg) and sophomore Jase Townsend (17.3 ppg). And freshman big man Robert Jones is improving every game with 8.3 ppg and 4.8 rebounds. Jones looks to be a player that will become a reliable double-digit scorer and defensive presence for Denver. DU’s back-court is taking shape, too, with sophomore Taelyr Gatlin and freshman Roscoe Eastman leading the back-court in minutes played and gaining much-needed experience.
This mid-season road trip is shaping up to be a big one as Denver looks to take another important step in turning their fortunes around this season. With only eight conference games remaining after this road trip, Denver can ill afford to fall into a deep last place hole with this few games left.