All posts by Puck Swami

Longtime University of Denver fan and alumnus.

DU’s Financial Losses Due to COVID-19 Already Are & Will Continue to Be Substantial

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While we’re grieving for those people, jobs, and sports seasons that have been lost in this COVID-19 pandemic, we should also get ready for the financial fallout that is already following in its wake. And while it’s still difficult to think about money when lives are being lost all over the world to this virus, the economic consequences from this crisis are significant and only going to get worse for many colleges and universities, especially those such as DU, which are so tuition-dependent for revenue. Continue reading DU’s Financial Losses Due to COVID-19 Already Are & Will Continue to Be Substantial

#8 Seed Denver falls in final seconds to top-seed North Dakota State, 71-69 to end season in Summit League Tourney

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DU Senior Ade Murkey (# 0), drives in his final college game against NDSU in Sioux Falls. Murkey finished with 17 points for DU. Photo: Associated Press

It was epic, heart-wrenching and at the same time, prideful.

The eighth and final-seeded Denver Pioneers Men’s Basketball Team, playing with just one upperclassman in the lineup for most of the season, saved their very best team effort for their last game, as the Pioneers took top-seed North Dakota State into the final seconds before dropping a thrilling 71-69 heartbreaker in the opening round of the Summit League Tournament at the Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Denver sophomore and top shooter Jase Townsend, who had tied the game up at 69-69 with 25 seconds remaining, had a chance to win or tie the game again in the final six seconds with the score 71-69, NDSU.  However, instead of shooting a three-point attempt for the win, he elected (or perhaps was instructed) to drive to the basket instead for a two-point shot to tie, drawing contact from the Bison, but not a foul call, as his layup attempt fell just wide at the buzzer, ending the game (and DU’s season) at a record of 7-24.  

North Dakota State, 23-8 and 11.5-point favorites against DU, escaped to the tournament semi-finals on Monday Night. NDSU Senior Vinnie Shahid, who is DU Senior Ade Murkey’s former AAU teammate and close friend from Minneapolis, led the Bison with 22 points, including a huge three pointer and a pair of foul shots in the final minute to seal the win for the Bison. 

The Pioneers, who shot 50% from the field in the game, outscored the Bison 39-35 in the second half. DU, who had won two of their last three games just to get to the last Summit League Tourney slot in Sioux Falls and escape last place, played their total hearts out. DU’S three best players, Ade Murkey, Jase Townsend and Robert Jones led the Pioneers with excellent performances with their season on the line. 

Murkey, a senior and the heart-and-soul of the Pioneers finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists in his final game in Crimson and Gold, before fouling out in tears in the final seconds. North Dakota State coach Dave Richman called Murkey a “warrior” after the game on television, and complimented the Pioneers profusely on the near-upset. 

Townsend, who put the Pios on his back down the stretch, scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half.

Jones, the 6-10 freshman  big man, had a career-high 21 points to lead Denver in scoring on the night, with all of the points coming in the paint.

The Pioneers used solid shooting and strong defense to hold NDSU to just 39% shooting.

Indeed, the Pioneers, without their band or cheerleaders in Sioux Falls, were ‘adopted’ and cheered on by thousands of South Dakota State fans, who had arrived early for their tournament game following Denver and NDSU.

The teams traded baskets early, but it looked like NDSU might pull away after a Jaxon Knotek dunk midway through the first half. Knotek’s slam fired up the Bison crowd and gave NDSU an 18-12 lead. It didn’t last though, as the Pioneers scored the next four points.

It then looked like the Pioneers might make a run when DU freshman Robert Jones and-1 dunk at 7:13 mark tied the game at 20, but he missed the free throw and NDSU scored the next five points. Denver did get back to within one, but the Bison scored the final five points of the half to take a 36-30 lead into the locker room.

Vinnie Shahid buried a second-chance three-pointer four minutes into the second half to put the Bison up 44-36, their largest lead of the game to that point. After a stop at the other end, the all-league first-teamer hit a layup to push the lead to 46-36, which drew a timeout from the Denver bench.

NDSU was threatening to pull away again, but Denver’s Jase Townsend went on a 7-0 run midway through the frame to tie the game at 49-all, part of a 16-3 stretch by Denver that ended with the Pioneers up 58-52 with 8:33 on the clock.

The Pioneers held onto that lead until a Shahid triple put the Bison up 67-65 with 1:22 on the clock. Denver tied the game twice after that, but could never regain the lead. Shahid got fouled on a drive with six seconds left and hit both foul shots to secure the win.

Shahid led all players in the game and three Bison in double figures with 22 points. Tyson Ward added 20 points and Sam Griesel collected 10 points to go along with a career-high 13 rebounds.

Thus an otherwise horrible 7-24 DU season is over, but anyone watching the game had to admire the performance DU put in against a veteran Bison team. DU should return a nucleus of more experienced players next season, as only Murkey graduates.

DU’s Anna Zanusso ties all-time NCAA Record for low round in golf, firing 61!

In one of the greatest individual performances by a DU athlete in the history of the university in any sport, DU freshman women’s golfer Anna Zanusso fired an NCAA record-tying 61 for a low round at the Westbrook invitational tournament in Peoria, Ariz. on Sunday, Feb. 23.

“Anna [Zanusso] was incredible today,” said DU coach Lindsay Kuhle. “She hit 18/18 greens today and made 11 birdies all of which were within 15 feet of the hole. Shooting a program and NCAA record is remarkable. I can’t even begin to explain what it was like to see 61. She was in the zone, confident and in control. Her routine was very deliberate and purposeful. I couldn’t be more proud of Z to own this record.
I see this record today standing in program history for many many years to come.”

The final putt for the record is here:

Continue reading DU’s Anna Zanusso ties all-time NCAA Record for low round in golf, firing 61!

Pioneer Men’s Lacrosse Destroys Winless St. Bonaventure, 16-3 in Face-Off Classic

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Denver’s Johnny Marrocco (#22) attacks the St. Bonaventure cage during DU’s 16-3 thumping of SBU in Denver on Saturday.  Photo: Jason Evans for LetsGoDU.

What a difference a week makes at Barton Stadium. 

Last Saturday, the Pioneers went toe-to-toe with a storied Duke program, losing 15-13.

This Saturday, before another sellout crowd of 2,000+ at Barton Stadium, Denver faced the St. Bonaventure Bonnies from New York State, representing the polar opposite side of the D-I college lacrosse spectrum — a second-year program that has yet to win a single D-I lacrosse game. The #13th-ranked Pioneers made sure it stayed that way, cruising to a 16-3 beat-down of the Bonnies behind the balanced scoring of 13 players at DU’s Barton Stadium on Feb. 22 in the annual Face-Off Classic.

The Pios, wearing black uniforms, jumped out to 5-1 lead in the first period, extended it to 10-1 at halftime, and throttled back a bit in the second half with a big lead, dominating the face-off X, winning 20 out of 23 face-offs  — Alec Stathakis’ won 14 of 16, while John Boos won 6 of 7 for Denver.  The Bonnies tried four different players at X to stop Stathakis and Boos, but could only win 3 of 23 faceoffs on the day. DU also won the ground ball battle, 39-19.

Freshman attackman J.J. Sillstrop led the way for the Pioneers with a 3-goal hat trick (the second such feat for the Californian in his three college games so far), Drew Erickson added two goals for DU and the Pioneers got single-goal scoring from 10 other players. The Pioneers were able to play much of the roster in the rout, with three different DU goalies getting playing time in the contest. DU played mostly reserve players in the entire fourth quarter en-route to the win.

And it certainly could have been a lot worse for the Bonnies, were it not for the heroics of SBU goalie Brett Dobson, who had an outstanding 18 saves in the contest on 34 DU shots on goal. SBU could only manage two shots on goal in the first half against DU’s best players, and finished with just eight total shots on the afternoon. Matthew DeGirolamo had two of SBU’s three markers to pace the Bonnies.

Denver moved to 2-1 on the young season. The Bonnies, who went 0-13 last year as a brand new lacrosse program, and were 0-2 coming into Denver’s Face Off Classic, fell to 0-3 this year and remain looking for the program’s first victory.

The Pios will next face the Cleveland State Vikings tomorrow (Sunday) at 4:30 PM MT in the finale of the Face-Off Classic.

Pioneer Flashback: When DU Basketball Was a Regular at Madison Square Garden (Part II)

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Madison Square Garden Marquee in 1961. Photo: New York Times

Our own Puck Swami takes a look back through DU’s rich sports history to the eight times DU men’s basketball played at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in this two-part flashback series. In the first part (here), he covered the first four DU appearances between 1947 and 1959, while in this second part (below) he covers the second four MSG appearances, which occurred between 1959 and 1966.

Continue reading Pioneer Flashback: When DU Basketball Was a Regular at Madison Square Garden (Part II)

Pioneer Flashback: When DU Basketball Was a Regular at Madison Square Garden (Part I)

Photo: The old Madison Square Garden (1925-1968) in New York City, seen here in 1932 taking up most of a city block, hosted the DU Pioneers Basketball team eight times between 1947 and 1966.

Our own Puck Swami takes a look back through DU’s rich sports history to the eight times DU men’s basketball played at New York City’s Madison Square Garden between 1947 and 1966 in this first of a two-part flashback series, which covers DU’s first four appearances in New York City.

While DU basketball is known today mostly on the basketball courts of Denver, and around the Summit League, there was once a time when the DU Pioneers were a New York City attraction, playing eight times at the legendary old Madison Square Garden in New York City in the 19-year span between 1947 and 1966.  Continue reading Pioneer Flashback: When DU Basketball Was a Regular at Madison Square Garden (Part I)

Murkey Smashes DU Records in 90-78 Pioneer Loss to South Dakota State

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Ade Murkey set a new school Divison I record with a 42 point night at South Dakota State. Photo/Rich Schmitt

University of Denver Senior Ade Murkey exploded for a school-record 42-point, 11- rebound performance in a 90-78 loss to South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D. In a horrible 5-21 season where not much has gone well for the last-place Pioneers, Murkey’s DU D-I record performance single-handedly kept the Pioneers close into the game’s final minutes and earned him a standing ovation from the South Dakota State crowd as he left the game near the end.

Continue reading Murkey Smashes DU Records in 90-78 Pioneer Loss to South Dakota State

Puck Swami: Defending Rodney Billups

Photo: Rodney Billups. DU coach Rodney Billups is in year four of his five year contract. Photo: University of Denver

“It’s not working”

“It’s been four years – DU’s record is getting worse each year”

“He’s in over his head”

“High school programs draw more fans”

We’ve all heard all these complaints before, and all of these statements have an element of truth to them. And, we continue to want to hear your voices – even if you may disagree with us. Continue reading Puck Swami: Defending Rodney Billups

Denver Pioneers Blow-Out St. Cloud St. Huskies in Series Opener, 6-3

Denver star defenseman Ian Mitchell scored one of the most memorable goals of his Pioneer career on a short-handed, unassisted breakaway — a decisive game-winning goal at 7:16 the third period, as the Denver Pioneers blew open a tight game in third period and cruised to 6-3 NCHC win over St. Cloud State University to delight the nearly 6,000 fans at Magness Arena in Denver. Continue reading Denver Pioneers Blow-Out St. Cloud St. Huskies in Series Opener, 6-3