After Fast Start, Denver Stumbles to South Dakota, 93-87

Denver (5-18, 1-8 Summit League) raced out to a 26-16 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, only to follow an old, familiar script the balance of the game. The South Dakota Coyotes pulled even 41-41 at the half and pulled away in the second twenty minutes. The visitors scored 38 points in the paint along with 26 fast-break-points. South Dakota doubled Denver’s 3-point shooting, 10-5. The teams (and fans) were tortured with 71 total free throws which made the game nearly two-and-a-half hours long.

During the first half, Ade Murkey with 15 points and Roscoe Eastmond with 10 points led the Pioneers. A Roscoe Eastmond jumper at 4:22 of the first half gave DU an 11 point lead. But South Dakota came charging back with three 3-point shots and three trips to the line. Denver shot 55% for the half to 43% for USD.

The second half was tight the first ten minutes with both teams holding narrow leads.  A Hunter Goodrick layup gave the Coyotes a 4-point lead with 9:49 remaining. Denver held close but trailed by 6 points when Tyler Hagedorn nailed a 3-point shot to gave the visitors a 9 point lead, 83-74, with 2:46 remaining in the game. That shot took the air out of the arena. Denver could never recover, mostly exchanging free throws with the Coyotes and fell by the final score 93-87.

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The contest featured a whopping 71 free throws

Senior Ade Murkey finished with 28 points and 6 rebounds.  Sophomore Jase Townsend had 16 points and 8 rebounds. And, freshman Roscoe Eastmond finished the night with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Freshman big man Robert Jones had 9 points but only 1 rebound in 21 minutes of play as Denver was continually beaten in the paint. Unfortunately, sophomore David Nzekwesi could offer little inside support with only  2 points and 1 rebound in 13 minutes of play.

Denver still trails Western Illinois by one game in the standings for the eighth and final Summit League Conference playoff spot with seven games remaining.


14 thoughts on “After Fast Start, Denver Stumbles to South Dakota, 93-87”

  1. Just when DU seems to fix its offensive struggles and shoots 53% at home and scores 87 points, the Pios lose by giving up 93 at the other end.

    This young DU team tries its ass off and are competitive in almost every game into the second half. But they don’t have enough experienced horses to get over hump this league.

  2. I assume all 800 people in Magness tonight (over half of which were diehard South Dakota fans) saw the same things during yet another disappointing home loss: Billups was out-recruited again, out-coached again, and DU players did not execute again on defense giving up over 90+ points.

    Only 5 teams out of 353 D-1 schools have lost more than 18 games like DU at this point in the season. And it is not even February! This is beyond embarrassing for former players and fans. The program desperately needs new leadership as the current regime is not working.

  3. Denver has fallen to #341 RPI out of 353 D1 basketball programs nationwide. While I like the effort of the team, it seems like once one thing is fixed another thing breaks. Last night, was another tough game to watch when the defense fell apart, especially inside. I hope to see progress in the next 7 games and then I will give my honest opinion on this season and the future of DU hoops. My fear is that this cycle of losing could lead to transfers from some of our developing underclassmen or, worse yet, losing becomes the acceptable norm because ‘they play hard’.

    And, yes, no doubt this season has been particularly difficult to watch for fans – especially if you care about college basketball and DU hoops.

  4. Hopefully our 5 or 6 D1 caliber players who can return next season don’t transfer. Maybe they love DU. Billups has them still playing hard with no hanging of heads. Last night we got in foul trouble and were forced to play kids who are too slow to guard anyone. Billups recruits, so that falls on him. He didn’t get outcoached. Rodney simply does not have the kind of roster that can win a game like last night’s. Still, Dunker want Rodney to stay. Classy alum, and I’m confident he will bring in some more athletic firepower for next season. Unless we can bring in a magician to coach our team and he accepts the biggest challenge of his life, might as well keep the coach. Will Pitino coach us for $200,000 per year. I doubt he needs money. He has no team. He has no current violations. He could become God like if he got us to the NCAA’s.

  5. A bleak season continues to get bleaker. Not much else to say at this point. 87 points should have been enough to win this one, but the latter part of the 2nd half was a dumpster fire. SD made their shots and were certainly the more polished and poised team at the end. Once again, DU didn’t execute enough down the stretch. It all adds up to another frustrating loss.

    The Pioneers play hard. Murkey and Townsend, in particular, have been battling hard all season and putting this team on their shoulders. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. I like Jones. While he’s only a freshman, he competes hard. But he couldn’t make enough of an impact inside last night. And Nzekwesi just doesn’t seem to have the competitive fire or drive at this level. He’s hard to figure out. He’s a good size kid with athletic ability, good footwork and hands, but he’s largely invisible out there when he does get minutes. Bottom line–there just isn’t enough talent out there or reliable players for the Pios. It’s tough to watch.

    7 games left, 4 of which are on the road, where DU is winless. I’m digging deep to try and find some optimism.

  6. Why would you think Billups will improve his recruiting ? He has had four years to make an impact or show progress and it just hasn’t happened. If he wasn’t an alum would we even be discussing keeping him let alone extending him?

  7. I think Rodney’s first two years were fine – he had a full roster of competent, if largely mediocre, D-I players and he got solid, mediocre results out of them, similar to the results that Joe Scott was getting in the final years of his tenure, before he was fired by DU.

    In his third year, Rod gambled that a couple of bigger name, 3 and 4 star talented transfers (Ronnie Harrell, Jr. and Tory Stewart-Miller) from bigger basketball schools (Creighton and CU) would be the talented difference-makers to help move DU from mediocre into a league contender. On paper, those looked like a great moves at the time (we were certainly behind the perceived talent upgrade!), but it reality, it turned out to be a crushing mistake. The transfers never really jelled with the existing team and one of them was mostly injured. Team chemistry sucked, and the team took a big tumble to an 8-win season. Three upperclassmen-to-be with eligibility left (Krafka, Rodriguez, and Carlisle) all transferred to D-II schools in Texas, likely with the coaches’ blessing, although the assistant coaches who recruited Rodriguez and Carlisle are now gone.

    So now, Rodney is trying to win with 1 senior and 1 mostly hurt junior transfer, which is nearly impossible. Bad judgement? Partially. We all probably would have made the same moves to bring in the transfers, wouldn’t we? The chemistry part is hard to know from a distance, as we are….

  8. The first two seasons were reasonable. Roughly 0.500 in both. That’s fine indefinitely, I guess. However the last two seasons have been honestly embarrassing. The bar for basketball at DU is pretty low as it is, the one thing that cannot happen is to be a doormat in a bad conference. And yet here we are. Any other coach would get the can after this year. I’m hoping we find a way to move on. Another year of this only further solidifies our irrelevance I’m basketball. We should be contending for the Summit every year. No excuses. We have tremendously more financial, academic and recruiting resources at our disposal. Losing in this league to this degree is failure. No reason to reward it with another season. Sorry Rodney, it’s nothing personal.

  9. I don’t think DU is going to fire Billups after this year. First, he’s an alum and alums should get their full five-year contract to be successful, and he’s in year four of his deal. Cutting him off before his contract is up would send a bad message to future applicants.

    Second, DU I would bet that DU likely doesn’t have the extra buyout money for such a move this year. The budget has been tight, and if DU wanted to do buy him out, they’d probably need some outside money to do it. Additionally, with DU’s current women’s hoops coach on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons with an unclear future, a buyout of Billups seems even more financially less likely.

    Finally, I think Kreech wants to work with Rodney to help him Rod get better. I could see DU hoops moving most games to Hamilton gym to save money and try to build an home-gym atmosphere.

  10. All due respect Puck, your continued defense of Billups and DUs athletic administration is feeble. I can’t believe you just argued that DU’s Athletic Director plans to “work with Rodney” to help him get better next year. Are you joking ? For Pete’s sake, Rodney is a 4th year Division One Coach who should have been “game-ready” the moment he was given the job back in 2016. Are you suggesting Kreech is going to send Billups to remedial camp this summer to learn how to teach his team to play defense, learn how to substitute effectively, develop a sound offensive scheme, and recruit players who can make threes, free throws and have chemistry?All those things have been severely lacking on Billups team the past 2 years (with his own recruits) but now you suggest the new AD has some “special sauce” he’s going to serve Rodney that is going to change the 20+ loss season we’re headed for a second time ? As you admit earlier Puck, Billups fared average with Scott’s players his first two seasons — but with his own hand-picked players, his teams have been an unmitigated disaster (to quote you Puck, last year was “the season from hell”. This year looks much the same)

    What no one seems to admit is that DU made a poor hire in Billups. A quick look at his resume should have revealed that he had never been a head coach at any level in his entire career before DU — not once had he made a substation of a player at any level — not Y-ball, not junior high, nor high school. Certainly not at the college level. Nonetheless, DU unwisely chose to turn the keys to its program over to him at 33 years of age when he had absolutely no head job experience because his name was Billups and he played at Denver. Those were the reasons given by Peg when she made the hire. Based on that pedigree, DU awarded Billups a five year deal.

    Where are all the fans we were promised when Billups took over ? Instead Kreech is now planning on tucking DUs basketball tails between its legs and retreating to Hamilton Gym so the embarrassing lack of fan support isn’t so glaring. What about playing fast and exciting basketball as we were promised 4 years ago ? Certainly for the past 2 years, the only thing fast has been the fans exiting the doors of Magnus. The excitement? Watching our RPI ranking plummet to depths never seen before – now that’s action !

    My understanding is that Billups is the third highest paid employee at DU. Excellence and wins therefore should be expected. Instead his recent teams (all his own recruits) are totally underperforming in an epic fail. That’s unacceptable. The school is not getting what it pays for and deserves. Puck you suggest that because he is an alum and because DU is not under investigation by the NCAA, that DU should keep him. Do you hear the low-bar you just set ? If that is currently DUs criteria for keeping him — interestingly no mention of winning — then count me done with DU basketball.

    Puck you also suggest that DU has all of the sudden developed a tight budget. Interesting given that only several years ago when DU let Scott go, the school had to pay him for 2 full years on a buyout while still having ample funds to pay its new hire Billups his salary as well. Now apparently there is a shortage of funds in DUs athletics budget which makes it fiscally necessary to retain Rodney. Who’s kidding who with that jive ? More poignantly, I ask whose fault is it that we are now in this mess ? The answer is that we’re here because of the poor decisions made by DUs Athletic Department as it relates to Men’s basketball. Now former players and fans must continue to suffer through this embarrassing debacle

    Instead of worrying so much about one highly paid alum on the sidelines failing miserably at his duty, why doesn’t DU think about the alums suffering in the stands (or ones who won’t attend because program is so bad) ? I’m sure there are any number of talented, hardworking, eager coaches who would take the head job at DU for a reasonable price if given the opportunity. Billups has not been shy about not renewing players scholarships if they do not perform. Why should he be treated any differently as it relates to his job ? That’s life as a head coach at the D-1 level. He’ll still get paid for his last year— he just won’t be coaching. The upside will be that he won’t have the chance to decimate and tarnish DUs program any further than he already has. DU Men’s basketball can then get the new leadership it sorely needs and begin the process of rebuilding.

  11. Puck I appreciate your valuable input but disagree. There has been zero indication that this team will improve next year. Just because he is an alumnus does not mean we need to make a poor decision based on blind loyalty. He has failed. It’s ok. He got paid very well to give it a shot. Terminating him after 4 experimental years culminating in an RPI of 342 (between Alabama A&M and MD Eastern Shore) is a very reasonable action to take. As an active (and previously donor) alumnus myself I would be very frustrated if they keep him on. Who wants to watch the current product on the court? I know it’s not for a lack of trying but this is freaking Division 1 basketball, trying means jack. And Kreech potentially moving games into a high-school gym would be embarrassing and a reflection of the failure of the current staff.

    If we are going to be content with an RPI in the 300s, may as well hire the cheapest candidate and invest that money into other programs. Keeping Billups on is an expensive resignation to being a terrible team. I’d much rather see DU truly compete and win in the Summit and break through to an NCAA birth, which is why we need to change directions immediately following this season. By not doing that the message that is sent to alumni fans is “we dont care about basketball”.

    This is not the standard. We aren’t here to spare feelings.

  12. You guys make some great points, and defending Billups is certainly getting much harder to do for me. As an alum, it hurts to watch all the losing this season. I know full well that his record is getting worse, DU is stuck in in the embarrasing bottom dregs of the Summit league and in the D-I cesspool. The thought of playing all games at Hamilton Gym is not only really unappealing, and I agree that it would be an embarrassing admission of program failure.

    And frankly, if we were going on straight results and Rodney was not a DU alumnus, I’d likely be right there with you, calling for a new coach.

    But to me, this is about more than just results. I believe that being a Pioneer is a special thing and it should come with full privileges of institutional and alumni support. ROD IS ONE OF US. As a Pio, I believe he he deserves to get the full benefit of the doubt and a full chance to complete his contract for the full five years.

    If after, the full five years, we’re still not seeing an upturn worth investing in, then show him the door.

    But I can wait one more year to see if Rod can turn this ship around. I can see the much better effort level this year vs last year, I can see Townsend, Jones and Eastmond showing serious improvement as a D-I core worth building around for the future. And I would love to see, as a Pioneer who bleeds Crimson and Gold, a fellow Pio given every chance to succeed…

  13. I’m sorry Puck but your argument for keeping Billups because he’s a Pio, rings hollow in a high-profile sport such as men’s basketball. Look at St John’s, where they parted ways with their icon Chris Mullins after a season in which they MADE the NCAA tournament! But the fact is, Billups has been given four seasons to prove himself and it just hasn’t worked out.

    DenverFirst laid out above the argument for the Pios to absolutely pursue a new direction after this season. It’s Year 4 and the attendance looks like a rounding error, we have only 4 wins over D-1 opponents, in-game management and adjustments are lacking, there is a new way of losing each game, one of our only two dynamic scorers is set to graduate and based off the Rodney’s crop of recruits thus far, help does not appear to be on the horizon.

    Joe Scott got ran out of town for plateauing in mediocrity his last two years, but at least overall it was competitive basketball with some really good years sprinkled in.

    Let us not forget this article from when Billups was hired:

    The magical thinking in that article was nauseating. Rodney wasn’t ready and I’m still waiting for the exciting brand of hoops he promised once he got his guys in there. To succeed in the Summit, it shouldn’t take this long: the talent levels across the league are mostly 2- & 3-star filled rosters. Every school has to deal with working in young players and injuries and transfers, it’s a part of college basketball. To suggest otherwise is a cop out.

    You can’t blame the refs or your home crowd or lack of team cohesion or whatever, eventually it all falls on the man in charge. Billups was hired to lead and to win. It hasn’t happened, we need to move on.

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