Omaha Bounces Denver Out of Game & Playoffs, 80-76

This game looked nearly identical to every game this season for Denver men’s basketball. A slow start, a comeback and a collapse in the final minutes in what has become a brutal season. That is exactly what happened Friday afternoon at Hamilton Gym as Denver fell, 80-76, to Omaha (4-19, 2-11). Along with the loss, Denver falls to 9th place in the Summit League standings and misses the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

As is their custom, Denver (2-18, 1-12) started slowly, trailing  Omaha 9-2, 16-4 and 32-19 before finding their footing. And, as usual, Denver chiseled away at the deficit but could draw no closer than 51-44 by half. UNO’s Ayo Akinwole and La’Mel Robinson smoked the Pioners with 21 and 16 points respectively as DU allowed 56% shooting by the visitors in the half. Jase Townsend and Sam Hines, Jr. kept DU within reach with 14 and 9 points respectively but the Pioneers leaky defense could not find the necessary stops needed to erase the gap.

DU started out the second half on fire with a 15-0 run and at 15:27, Taelyr Gatlin canned a 3-point shot for a DU lead, 57-55. Denver continued to build their lead extending to 64-55, a nine-point edge, capped by a Javonni Bickham layup at 12:53. But Omaha came charging back from the nine-point hole by taking the lead, 67-66,  with eight minutes to go. Omaha’s center Matt Pyle fouled out with 5:30 remaining and gave Denver some hope but timely buckets by UNO kept DU chasing the Mavs. DU took a final lead, 72-71, on a Sam Hines, Jr. layup with three minutes to go but Denver could not hold on to the lead. A three-point shot by UNO’s Ayo Akinwole, free throws and timely rebounds sealed the game for the Mavericks. Trailing by two points with only 23 seconds left, DU’s Kobey Lam threw up an ill-advised, rushed 3-point shot that missed the mark and the rebound went to Omaha. That, essentially, ended any chance Denver had to win the game.

Omaha entered the contest with two of their top scorers out – Marlon Ruffin (13.1 ppg.) and Wanjang Tut (8.8 ppg.). But shoddy defense by Denver allowed 50% shooting for the game and DU was beaten on the defensive boards, 32-20. Jase Townsend had 18 points for DU and emerging freshman Sam Hines, Jr. had 15 points in the loss.

DU concludes their season against these same Mavericks Saturday afternoon at 4:00 pm MT.

12 thoughts on “Omaha Bounces Denver Out of Game & Playoffs, 80-76”

  1. This is as bad as it gets. Total humiliation and the honor of being the absolute worst men’s basketball team in Division 1. The blame for this is widespread and responsibility for this debacle is in many places. The culprits include the following. The previous administration of the DU Athletic Department that awarded an assistant coach who had never succeeded as, or even been, a head coach, with a five year contract, basically anointing him simply because he had a degree from DU without any regard to his competency. Add the current Athletic Director, who is either blind or incompetent, for allowing the disastrous coaching staff to remain after years three and four, which showed a massive downward movement, and yet allowed Billups, and his absurd collections of assistants, otherwise known as a clown show, to remain for year number five. It is truly a demonstration of rank incompetence on all levels. Billups and his entire staff must be swept into oblivion. But what of his enablers? The people who allowed him to stay? They are equally to blame for this unmitigated disaster. Are their jobs on the chopping block, as hopefully the woeful Billups is? DU is at a crosswords. The basketball program is at rock bottom. The people who care may number in a few dozen. A few dozen! So where does it go? There are only two choices. Mediocrity is one. Sail along as a program that might be, at best, number 250 in the country. Or, go for it. Hire a big name coach with big ideas and competency, who can create excitement and, more importantly, a winning program and a winning identity to DU. Listen. A Catholic university in the middle of nowhere western Washington is ranked number one in the country. Clemson, because of its success athletically in football, is overrun with thousands of qualified applicants for its incoming freshman class. It is not rocket science. DU is in a city that is almost magical. It should be able to have an athletic program that is unequaled. To have the worst basketball program in the country is almost criminal. Bring on a big name, a qualified coach, to rebuild the program from the Billups horror show. Spend the bucks. There is, no choice. And, if the current Athletic Director doesn’t get the message, well, he needs to go to the place that Billups so richly deserves.

  2. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. It’s time DU— toss in your cards, walk away from the poker table, and cut your already huge losses. Billups needs to go.

    2-18, last place in the nation, and last place in the Summit with no post-season opportunity is the definition of failure. Very sad year for the DU basketball team (again) as they saw their once hopeful college hoop dreams implode before them. Equally hard to watch for all those former players who once wore the Pio Jersey proud. It’s also difficult to believe for us dedicated fans that the program has become the butt of many jokes and has fallen so far.

    If former DU Head Coach Floyd Theard were still here, he’d be crying. He’d then collect himself and tell Billups to pack his bags and clean out his office immediately. He’d lead a nationwide search committee for a new, qualified coach and quickly move on down the road. Unlike the current DU Administration, he could actually evaluate talent and ability. He also had the stones to make the right decisions when they needed to be made.

    One more game tomorrow at Hamilton and this fiasco is finally over— mercifully.

  3. Let’s hire Du grad Sinbad. He played at DU. As part of his contract, he must do a 30 minute comedy routine at the end of each game. We will draw high paying fans which will cover the entire athletic department budget.

  4. We’ll have some commentary on this tomorrow or Monday. Denver basketball is really at a crossroads. And the answer/options are much more complex than we all might think. Most of all, I think about the student-athletes who do the work and try their best, yet come up short. Truly a disastrous season.

  5. I pulled up the the article referenced and linked by DUNJ. Thanks for the reminder DUNJ. Magical thinking by DU indeed !

    What’s classic about the article is the photo which accompanies it. The article was from March of 2016. In the photo, Rodney is explaining his new brand of basketball (fast, athletic and entertaining) at the press conference just after his hiring was announced. In the background of the photo, DUs former Athletic Director Peg Bradley-Doppes can be seen with a dreamy look on her face as she listened to Rodney. Peg was clearly self-impressed with her new hire as she was deeply inhaling the smoke that Rodney was blowing up the skirts of DU boosters and the local media.

    What the article doesn’t mention — and what is hilarious now looking back 5 years — is that when Peg decided to hire Rodney, she fired Joe Scott. In the process, Peg obligated DU to pay Scott for the next 2 years remaining on his contract. This did not come cheap for DU as he got paid $400,000+ each of the next 2 years for NOT coaching. Combining that with Rodney’s new salary, DU was forced to pay approximately $1 million a year in head coach salary. What a horrible business decision. Ironically, the only time Rodney’s teams were respectable and winning games was his first two years when he was playing Scott’s players. Once Rodney got to his own crop of recruits on his roster, DU started to lose, lose, and lose. And he hasn’t looked back.

    One other ridiculous story i happen to know (from inside sources formerly connected with DU’s Athletic Department) was the circus atmosphere which old Peg Bradley Doppes created at the press conference when Rodney was hired in March of 2016. As it so happened, Peg scheduled the press conference to announce Rodney’s hiring right in the middle of the DU’s spring break when all of the players had already left campus for vacation or to return home. After Peg realized that no players would be present at the press conference to clap like trained seals and celebrate the hiring of her new coach, Peg was peeved. She then reached out to the out-of-town players and demanded that they return to campus despite the fact it required them to cut short their spring breaks.

    A least two players in particular (I believe it was Joe Rosga and Daniel Amigo) were required to fly back to Denver University so that they could sit in the front row at the press conference and pretend to be excited about the hiring of Billups. Compounding the absurdity, DU’s Athletic Dept. paid the several hundred dollars in the airline fare that it cost to fly the two players back early to campus just so that they could attend Peg’s orchestrated press conference.

    I’d like to see the look on Peg’s face now in 2021 as her hiring blunder is on full display for all to see.

  6. Seemed like a good hire at the time. It did not turn out to be. Always a gamble to hire someone with no head coaching experience, and the gamble was sadly a loss. I don’t know what point there is, though, in talking about paying for airfare for a couple players to attend a press conference like that’s some big scandal. Or speculating about “the look on Pegs face now.”. She was an amazing AD, one of the best in the country. This hire was a failure, but I miss Peg and appreciate the amazing things she did for DU athletics. The current AD..I’m not so sure. I have no feelings about him whatsoever, which may be evidence that he is less than dynamic. He does need to clean up this basketball mess, though, and step out from the shadows in which he seems to exist.

  7. Gotta’ agree with Anon. Peg was probably the best AD DU ever had – especially when it came to selecting coaches. Joe Scott had 2 twenty-win seasons and came close to a conference championship. And, the Rodney Billups hire made good sense on paper. Building a winning hoops program is not easy. Selecting a coach is not easy. Recruiting the right players is not easy. That being said, DU should never be LAST in the Summit League. There is work to be done going forward but I personally think that blaming people in the past does little to help us make a proper course correction. And, lets face it, while a few of us may care deeply, DU hoops has rarely been an easy sell or a part of the cultural fabric at DU.

    1. The ink was dry and Rodney’s contract in January 2016. Peg and the DU big wigs were sweating bullets in March when they made that run in the Summit League tournament and were a couple Joe Rosga free throws away from a real sh*t storm on their hands. Peg was brought in to right the basketball ships and she failed miserably at that but succeeded in lining her pockets, even after she stepped down.

  8. The Billups Era: Smoke Show to Shit Show. The fat lady has been humming to herself, now she’s in full blown operetta. Please pull the curtain. Please.

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