Tag Archives: College Basketball

Denver Women’s Basketball is Turning Heads at 6-1, Shoots into Top 40 in RPI

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DU Junior Lauren Loven led the entire nation in three-pointers as of Nov. 30, 2018                  Photo: University of Denver

As Denver Pioneer fans, we’re lucky that we can pop our attention from one successful DU sports program to another. All three fall DU sports (men’s and women’s soccer plus women’s volleyball) earned appearances in their respective NCAA Tournaments this fall.  And DU hockey is now ranked seventh in the nation on this bye week, more successful than almost anyone thought they’d be at this point in the season with a young team. Which brings me to the next DU team worthy of more of our attention, the DU women’s basketball team, who have shot out to a 6-1 start to the season and a current national top 40 RPI (#39) ranking, including a current four-game winning streak, as of Sunday, Dec. 2.  (Note: Early season RPI rankings are subject to volatile swings, as game data comparisons are still somewhat paltry.)

I would venture a guess that perhaps only 10 percent of our readership here at LetsGoDU have ever been to a live DU women’s basketball game before, and it’s hard to blame them. There is a lot to do in Denver, and the DU women’s basketball teams have been pretty terrible in recent memory, known more for single-digit win/last-place seasons, a fired coach and crowds comprised mostly of friends and family members. Apart from a surprise 2001 NCAA appearance in the early years of the Ritchie Center and a period of decent mediocrity (72-52) under former coach Erik Johnson from 2008-2012, there hasn’t been a lot to cheer about with DU women’s hoops in the last 20 years.

But this year’s DU women’s team is starting to change some of that…  

The Pioneers are starting to get noticed in just the second year of the Jim Turgeon coaching era, with home wins over then-#16 RPI Lamar and the latest win, a 29-point win over Loyola Marymount, a top 100 team who had already beaten UCLA and Arizona this year.  Moreover, the Pioneers are a very high-scoring bunch, averaging a stunning 90 points per game to date this season, and sport a victory margin of 16 points per game.

And Turgeon, who came to DU from CSU-Pueblo in NCAA Division II two years ago, is doing all this with many of former DU coach Kerry Cremeans’ recruits, who knew only college basketball failure before Turgeon’s arrival. Moreover, he’s done it with a wholly different philosophy of team speed, running the floor at altitude and sharing the ball, instead of Cremeans’ over-reliance on feeding key players, a coaching practice that reportedly lost the locker room and brought an end to her losing tenure at DU. This year, DU has five players averaging double-digit scoring per game, a depth which makes it harder for opponents to key on any one player, and also makes for a much happier DU locker room.

DU’s high scoring attack has been led by Lauren Loven, a junior holdover recruit from Cremeans, who is now flourishing in the ball-sharing Turgeon era, leading the entire nation in made three-pointers (30 in six games through Nov. 30), and is averaging 21 points per game overall to lead the Pioneers in scoring. Additionally, fellow Junior Madison Nelson has exploded recently, with a 20-rebound performance against Lamar and pumping in 28 points in the win over Loyola Marymount. But it’s not just upperclassmen.

Hard-working associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Kayla Ard and the rest of Turgeon’s Denver staff have also brought in some freshmen who are stepping up right away, including Sydney Mech, a local swing player out of Cherry Creek High School who can play either forward or guard, and who is shooting a scorching 50% from the field, averaging 10 points per game. Additionally, talented freshman guard Tsimba Malonga from the Chicago area, who has averaged over 20 minutes per game in the last two games, is being rewarded with more playing time as her contributions increase.

While the 6-1 early record is outstanding, it has been created with a lot of home games, and we’ll soon see what the Pioneers are really made of in the coming weeks. DU is preparing to go on the road for seven of its next eight games, including visits to Wyoming, the University of Nebraska and Colorado State, before heading into the teeth of Summit League play, where top level programs South Dakota and South Dakota State are projected to lead the Summit League.

 

Pios push #11th ranked K-State into last minute, falling 64-56 in gutty road effort

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Denver gave #11th ranked K-State all they wanted in Manhattan, Kansas. Photo: Tim Thompson

The Denver Pioneers, going in as 19-point underdogs, played their hearts out in 64-56 road loss at 11th-ranked Kansas State before 9,412 fans at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas. Denver held the Wildcats to only 38% shooting, but could not contain KSU senior guard Barry Brown, whose 25 points led all scorers.

Video highlights here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCSach7GrHA

The Pioneers had cut KSU’s lead to just four points, 60-56, with 1:21 to play on a pair of free throws by DU junior Ade Murkey, but the Wildcats made some key plays down the stretch, including a Kamau Stokes steal and a Xavier Sneed dunk to escape the upset bid by the Pioneers. K-State was an NCAA final eight team last season, with all of the Cats’ key players returning for this season.

The Pioneers were led by senior Joe Rosga’s 18 points, while senior Ronnie Harrell, Jr. and Murkey both chipped in with 14 points apiece. The Pioneers last led the game 38-37 with 13 minutes to go, and with the Wildcats shooting just 12-27 at the free throw line, DU was able to keep the game close down the stretch, out-rebounding KSU on the defensive glass, 30-29, although DU did give up 17 turnovers in the game.

The Pioneers are now 1-1 on the young season, and will face Abilene Christian on Thursday.

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Puck Swami’s Guide to 2018-2019 DU Sports Fan Road Trips

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Traveling to watch Pioneer Sports is one of the great joys of life.  Photo: Aviation Stackexchange

While not all of DU’s teams have announced their 2018-2019 schedules yet, we know just enough to start planning potential road trips to see our beloved Pioneers play in some of America’s most iconic destinations. If you’ve never travelled to see the Pioneers play, you are missing out on some amazing experiences.  There is a special “us against the world” feeling that comes from watching DU on the road as Pio fan, and when the team gets a road win, it can feel even more special than a home win, because the team just needs you more on the road. Here are some possibilities to help get you started, with DU men’s  hockey, basketball, soccer and lacrosse road trips, in alphabetical order by area:

Continue reading Puck Swami’s Guide to 2018-2019 DU Sports Fan Road Trips

Puck Swami: DU and the Elusive Art of Sports Scheduling in Denver

desk calendar with days and dates in July 2016, flip the calendar page

Sports scheduling for the Denver Pioneers, in all sports, is often an elusive and frustrating exercise.

Being located in Denver is the largest problem, as playing here requires plane rides and hotel stays for all but a handful of DU’s D-I opponents, which is tough for non-revenue sports. We don’t have the exact figures, but it’s probably a safe bet that about 85% of DU’s opponents must fly here to play us, and likewise, DU needs to fly its own mostly non-revenue sports teams to 85% of its opponents — a dynamic that puts a lot of pressure on athletic budgets and eliminates many opponents for cost reasons.

Then there is the mile-high altitude here, a factor that still scares a number of opposing coaches from flatter places. For example, in 2004, the University of Virginia men’s lacrosse team, ranked #1 nationally at the time, came out here to play both DU and Air Force, and lost both games. The Cavaliers’ coach publicly blamed the altitude for their stumbles, and the Cavaliers have not appeared on the DU home schedule since then. Who knows how many other opposing coaches privately loathe our altitude? Continue reading Puck Swami: DU and the Elusive Art of Sports Scheduling in Denver

Puck Swami’s Rapid Reaction: DU’s Choice of Maine AD Karlton Creech is a “Safe Hire”

The hiring of University of Maine Athletic Director Karlton Creech as DU’s new Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Recreation looks to be a ‘safe’ hire for the University of Denver, likely to build incrementally on the legacy of the retiring Peg Bradley-Doppes, who spent the last 13 years in the position. Creech begins at DU on May 1, 2018.

DU wanted to hire a “sitting” AD and did just that. Creech will inherit a DU athletic program that is flying high as the best non-football athletic department in the country, but still faces many challenges going forward. Continue reading Puck Swami’s Rapid Reaction: DU’s Choice of Maine AD Karlton Creech is a “Safe Hire”

Puck Swami: DU Athletic leadership change offers new Vice Chancellor possibilities

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.01.04 PM(Photo Credits: University of Denver (Grahame, Peck), Swarthmore College (Akotaobi), Tulane University (Macneill), St. Cloud St. University (Weems), Blacktop Colorado (Willis)

We’ve now had a few days to process the major change in athletic leadership coming our way as DU fans: DU Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Recreation Peg Bradley-Doppes announced her retirement at the end of the 2017/18 school year.  While longtime DU Deputy Athletic Director Ron Grahame is taking over the athletic director’s day-to-day responsibilities immediately, DU also announced that a nationwide search would take place this year to ultimately fill the vice-chancellor’s position that Peg has filled so well for the last nearly 15 years. Continue reading Puck Swami: DU Athletic leadership change offers new Vice Chancellor possibilities

Crimson & Gold touch propels Denver to national powerhouse status

Photo Courtesy University of Denver Magazine

LetsGoDU friend CD Dunks reminds us that there is no need to use the term ‘mid-major’. And the same goes for ‘secondary sport’ – i.e. any sport that is not called football or Power-Five conference basketball. The big question is: Has Peg Bradley-Doppes simply built one of the finest athletic department in the land?  Continue reading Crimson & Gold touch propels Denver to national powerhouse status

Omaha’s near miss validates Denver’s course

Photo courtesy of omaha.com. Omaha’s Tre-Deon Hollins missed the potential game-winning shot. 

They came within a single last minute shot of defeating South Dakota State University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Omaha native Tre-Deon Hollins hoisted a 3-point shot that was off the mark and the Omaha Mavericks fell 79-77. The Summit League auto-bid went to South Dakota State University – again. Continue reading Omaha’s near miss validates Denver’s course

Against the odds – Denver to face Jackrabbits in Sioux Falls again

Illustration: We used this same illustration last year and it still applies.

The DU men’s basketball team (16-13, 8-8 Summit) are facing an uphill battle in Sioux Falls, South Dakota when they face the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits (16-18, 8-8 Summit) on March 5th at 5:00 pm MT. While Team Rankings is giving DU an 11.13%  statistical chance of winning three games and the championship, most prognosticators would say that is optimistic for Denver’s youthful squad. Few expect them to make it out of the first round.

So far, the Pioneers are 0-for-59 when it comes to Division I league championships.

There are, however, five reasons for hope: Continue reading Against the odds – Denver to face Jackrabbits in Sioux Falls again

Omaha Wins Possession Battle to Defeat Pioneers 84-83

Speed kills.

Omaha used their quickness and speed to create turnovers (20 to 11) and steals (14 to 7) to defeat the Denver Pioneers at Magness Arena, 84-83, Wednesday night. Omaha’s Mitch Han scored with .7/10’s of a second left in the contest. Denver was fortunate to take the lead on a C.J. Bobbitt layup with .12 seconds remaining but the Mavericks responded by working the ball inside to Han as the clock ran down. With Daniel Amigo out of the game with five fouls, Denver could not stop the 6’8″ Han from delivering the knockout blow.

Turnovers and steals gave the Mavericks an incredible 16 possession advantage – too much of hurdle for almost any team to overcome.   Continue reading Omaha Wins Possession Battle to Defeat Pioneers 84-83