DU Falls to Dixie State, 73-70

Denver (1-3) faced Dixie State (3-0) Saturday afternoon at Magness Arena. Geographically challenged ‘Dixie State’ is actually located in St George, Utah. Interestingly, we got a view of ‘might have been’ while facing the Trailblazers in their first year in the WAC as a D1 program.

In the first 12 minutes, Denver fell behind, 18-9, on ice-cold shooting. But the Pioneers clawed back into the game over the next eight minutes.  A Drake Muller 3-point shot gave the Pioneers the lead with 2:32 left in the half, 34-33. Dixie State had the best of Denver in the final two minutes to end at the break with a 40-36 edge. The Trailblazers built their first-half lead on 8 three-point shots while Denver went 3-11 from beyond the arc.

DU could not take advantage of cold shooting by Dixie State to start the second half. Six DU turnovers in the second 5-minutes gave the Trailblazers a ten-point lead 54-44, capped by an Andrea Mulibea layup. In the final 10-minutes, the Pioneers went on a 11-0 run finished by a Robert Jones layup and a Jase Townsend floater to close within three points. Later in the period, a pair of Jase Townsend free throws pulled DU within one, at 6:31, but Dixie State pulled away again. In the final 1:30, Denver clawed within one point of the Trailblazers three times but could never gain the lead.

Denver shot an excellent 46.9% from the field and held the rebounding advantage, 38-26. But turnovers and 3-point shots told the story. DU had 22 turnovers while Dixie State canned 10-27 three’s to only 4 three-point makes for DU. This was Dixie State’s first D-1 road win.

Jase Townsend had 21 points and 9 rebounds for the Pioneers. Newcomer, Sam Hines, Jr. had 9 points and 7 points in the loss.

14 thoughts on “DU Falls to Dixie State, 73-70”

  1. Dixie State is a program in its first year of D-I transition, so this was tough loss to a team where DU was a (rare) favorite to win. Dixie State had already beaten North Dakota for its first win against a D-I team, and now they’ve won their first road game at the D-I level against the Pios.

    DU’s cold starts and turnover problems continue to haunt their team development, and while the final score was closer, DU continues to allow other teams to punish them from the arc…

  2. It has now been confirmed, that it’s easier to recruit and develop 5 good basketball players to Dixie State in St. George, Utah, than it is to a recruit and develop five good basketball players to a great school with a amazing athletic traditions and facilities in the major metropolis of Denver. Who knew?

  3. How in the world Billips is still coaching at DU is a mystery. He would have been canned, along with his incompetent staff, by most schools years ago. He hired some guy as an assistant coach who was so bad as a head coach that he was fired at Detroit after two years. The program loses money, has no fan base anymore and is a laughing stock among Division 1 programs. The Athletic Director needs to start right now looking nationwide for a coach to replace this clown show. Billips has had five years to prove that he can succeed. He has failed miserably.

  4. Always gotta be a first for something. Dixie State’s first D-1 road win in the school’s history courtesy of DU. Is that what I just read ? Nothing like getting in the record books for all the wrong reasons. I realize this loss was not as lopsided as the Gonzaga v. DU game two seasons ago when the Zags pasted a historic margin of victory on DU, 101 to 40. But nonetheless, Dixie State has something to put down in its record books thanks to the Pioneers.

    I guess as consolation, DU was at least close in this game unlike their two last 20+ point losses.

    The post-game recap by 5BWest might as well have been a cut and paste job from the past two years: too many turnovers, poor three point shooting (where are your shooters Rodney !?! – poor recruiting), and crappy three point defense. These are reoccurring issues that continue to plaque DUs play for years. All one can say is: the coaching sucks

  5. Sigh. It’s been the same thing for a while now.

    2015-16 –> 16-14
    2017-18 –> 13-15
    2018-19 –> 7-22
    2019-20 –> 6-24

    Division 1 wins last year (RPI):
    – Utah Valley (292)
    – CSU Fullerton (300)
    – Jackson St (273)
    – Omaha (164)
    – Oral Roberts (159)
    – Western Ill (341)

    DU finished 335 in the RPI last year out of 353 among the likes of Alabama State and SIU-Edwardsville.

    That’s the bottom 5% of Division 1 programs, none of whom have the resources of DU.

    Now when you go back to Billups’ other years the RPI were:
    – 203
    – 213
    – 223
    – 323

    There is nothing to be said that I have not posted before. Rodney seems like a good dude but he’s clearly in over his head and having the program absolutely flounder like this is irresponsible by the AD and does some lasting damage. I know they want to preserve good will with Billups. I understand that. But look at the track record above. It has been straight downhill and frankly did not even look competitive last year in an objectively bad conference. Hell DU DIDN’T EVEN QUALIFY for the conference tournament. They have gotten blown out by teams with RPI in the high 200s and low 300s. They make national headlines like this or Gonzaga with it’s largest margin of victory.

    When you are getting paid a six figure salary that most Americans can only dream of you need to justify that. Being a “good guy” and alumnus is not enough. Sorry. Needs to go and now. Repeating last season or God-forbid doing slightly worse is an embarrassment to what Men’s Basketball can reasonably be at DU. Not asking for the multiple top 100 RPI finishes that Joe Scott accomplished. Just asking to have them be competitive in the Summit and finish routinely above the bottom third of Division 1 programs (~RPI <250).

  6. I remember when I first saw DU’s schedule for this season. I had to Google “Dixie State” to make sure that is indeed a school (no disrespect intended) and there wasn’t a typo in the schedule or something like that. Anyway, as Piojack indicates, there really isn’t anything else to say that hasn’t already been said. The current state of the program is nothing short of a dumpster fire, and there is no reason to feel optimistic or believe this season will be an improvement. To paraphrase the immortal words of former CU football coach Dan Hawkins: “This is Division 1 basketball. This ain’t intramurals!!” Coaches are paid to recruit and develop players and ultimately win. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened under Billups’ tenure. I think we can all assume there will be a regime change in a few months when the season is over.

  7. I love me some Hot Rod, but I finally believe he’s maybe cut out for something other than basketball coaching. There’s no longer an excuse.

  8. Piojack’s comments and statistical analysis are “spot on”. The record and numbers don’t lie .. DU’s Men’s Hoops reputation and credibility have fallen sharply under Billups. It is interesting to note that Billups first two seasons were his best and during that time period, he was winning games almost exclusively with former Coach Scott’s players ( ex: Essinger, Byrd, Amigo, Mackey, Pemberton, Roszga, Bobbit, Neff). None of these were his recruits — he was running his program with the holdovers.

    These past three seasons, we’ve seen what the current coach’s own recruits bring to the table. He owns the current mess. We’ve seen Billups bring JUCO transfers, Grads transfers, and many of his recruits transferring to D-2 transfers after a year or so. (BTW- what is the graduation rate of Billups recruits ? He has no seniors on his roster who he recruited as freshman – he got rid of them all)

    Under Scott, DU hoops absolutely had competitive teams and credibility, not to mention some impressive RPI finishes unlike the current cellar-dweller finishes we are now accustomed to.

    (last 5 Scott)

    15-16. 16-15 193
    14-15. 12-18. 232
    13-14. 15-15. 139
    12-13. 21-9. 65
    11-12. 22-9. 93

    Of course Scott’s departure is old news and most felt he had worn out his welcome when DU’s Athletic Department chose to let him go at the end of the 15-16 season. But that decision came at a huge cost.

    Let’s not forget DU’s AD at the time (Peg Doppes) was so star-struck by the Billups name that she agreed to buy out Scott’s contract for his last two years (paying him in full) while also paying Billups new salary at the same time. As a result, Billups contract was really low compared to other D-1 coaches as the former AD felt the marriage with a DU alum and player was a recipe for success. Well, you get what you pay for – a budget coach with absolutely no experience and no business running a proud program. The predictable result: losing records, abysmal RPI rankings, embarrassing loses, and disgruntled boosters.

  9. I don’t see DU firing its head coach in midseason. Rod deserves his five years to get his program and players and to see if there is sufficient progress. If there is no more progress this year, I don’t see DU extending Rodney as coach – his 5 years contract will be up, and DU will probably find someone else for the job.

    My point here is that getting the anti-Billups pitchforks out now from the handful of unhappy diehard DU fans isn’t going to change this year’s reality, other than venting our collective frustrations. I am sure DU is just as frustrated with where this hoops program is right now as we are.

    Here’s my take: Let the season play out, and let’s see if this team can grow into a competitive group. It is possible that progress can happen. Remember at the end of last season, the Pioneers did beat out WIU and qualified for the Summit League tournament as an #8 seed, and came with in a few seconds of upsetting top-seeded North Dakota State in the final minute. That final score was 71-69, and in the three SLT games NDSU played, DU was the closest to upsetting the Bison, last year’s SL tourney champion. I’m not saying that such an tourney upset bid would have totally offset DU’s horrendous 6-24 season last year, but last year’s DU late push showed DU to be competitive in crunch time at this level, and it is possible that if DU can get 4-5 guys to play D-I level ball at the same time, such progress can be made.

    That said, what I am seeing now does not pass the D-I eye or sniff test, and as loyal a Pio fan as I am, I am not for extending anyone who hasn’t been able to win Summit League games with the advantages DU has in this league.

  10. I agree with Swami – the real test will be the Summit League schedule. With lots of new faces, the non-conference portion of the schedule is a time to get guys on the floor. However, I expect three things from every basketball team DU puts on the floor. First, player development – especially the high-end players. Jase Townsend, Robert Jones and freshman Sam Hines, Jr. are clearly the most skilled players on this year’s squad. The players need to show continued improvement/development if this team is going to get better – along with the rest of the squad. Second, this team needs to show progress in the fundimentals. Not covering 3-point shooters, sloppy turnovers and poor shot selection are coaching issues. DU has to do better if there is any hope of improvement this season. DU should never be ranked 300+ in ANYTHING. Period. Third, they need to show some fight, especially at the end of games. Right now, every Summit League team sees DU as a ‘W’. This team needs to develop a competitive mindset. Trying hard is no longer good enough.

    The reality is that mid-major basketball teams are all fielding 2-star players. Coaching, systems and player development are the difference between top teams and a floundering program. I want Coach Billups and his staff to succeed but progress must be shown this year. The Summit League is an ‘average to below average’ conference according to RPI metrics/conference rankings so a lower tier finish is no longer acceptable.

    DU needs to step up this season. It starts with BOTH the coaching staff and players taking ownership and delivering visible, significant improvement.

  11. Nope, it’s all on the coaches. At this level, it’s all about player development since you will never get the star recruits and in the current climate, if an unheralded player shows all-league chops, he will be picked off by a major in no time. At this level, almost all players are replaceable and interchangeable.

    So, a head coach needs to develop a system tailored to who he has at that given moment of the season. Injuries, transfers, incompetence, and general player indifference cannot be an impediment to building a team and can never be used as an excuse.

    This is big boy basketball and if you can’t recruit, can’t develop players, can’t forge a program identity and system, can’t game plan, and can’t make in-game adjustments, then you wind up in DU’s current situation.

    I still follow and I’m always hopeful of progress, but that doesn’t mean I have to like where we are at. Go Pios!

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