The University of Denver (1-5) hosted the Texas State Bobcats (5-3) in the first game of the Pioneer Challenge Saturday afternoon at Hamilton Gym. A 19 point Pioneer lead slipped away in the second half and the Pioneer dropped a heartbreaker, 70-68.
The Pioneers got out of the blocks fast with opening leads of 15-7, 12-24 and finished the first half with a 42-23 advantage. Denver shot 68% from the floor and Jase Townsend scored 15 points to pace the Pioneers. Denver went 5-9 beyond the arc and forced 13 turnovers for their best 20 minutes of the year.
Unfortunately, the Bobcats turned the tables in the second half and outscored Denver 47-26.
The Pioneers lost starting forward Tristan Green with a groin injury to start the second half. The Bobcats used a press to quickly narrow DU’s lead to 13, 44-33, in the first four minutes. The lead dropped to 10 points six minutes into the half but a frank Ryder bucket extended DU’s lead to 12. Another run by TSU narrowed DU’s lead to six, 46-52, with 10 minutes to go as the Bobcats continued to nibble away at Denver’s lead. The game was tied for the first time in the second half, 56-56, on an Isiah Small jumper with 6:48 to go. A Caleb Asberry three gave the Bobcats a 3-point lead with 4:30 to go, 58-61. But DU countered with a Roscoe Eastmond 3-point bomb at 1:59, a 66-63 Denver lead. TSU pulled ahead 68-66 but DU’s Robert Jones countered with two free throws to draw the teams even with :35 seconds remaining. The Bobcats responded when Mason Harrell hit a jumper with 10 seconds left for a TSU 70-68 lead. A last-second shot by Jase Townsend missed and the Pioneers fell, 70-68.
In the second half, the Pioneers sorely missed starter Tristan Green who had a quick 9 points in the first half along with injuries to Roscoe Eastmond and Frank Ryder who both saw limited action in the second half. Jase Townsend finished with 22 points and emerging freshman Sam Hines, Jr. poured in 15 points. Denver had 23 turnovers to 18 for TSU. Denver could only go 1-7 on three-point shots in the second half after a hot first half beyond the arc. Robert Jones, who had COVID-19 earlier this summer, ended with 4 points and 7 rebounds. Once he rounds back into shape, DU should have three reliable scorers along with Jase Townsend and Sam Hines, Jr.