Denver hasn’t beaten a division 1 opponent this season and the last time they played in Summit League action they were beaten soundly by the South Dakota Coyotes. It didn’t seem promising that Oral Roberts was arriving in Denver 3-1 in conference play and with one of the league’s highest-powered offenses. Add in that the Pioneers averaged 55.5 points per game in their first two games in Summit League play, and it seemed like a recipe for disaster.
Yet disaster never came and unlike many games when Denver fell down double digits late in the game earlier this season, the Pioneers fought back and closed the gap. All that said it was still a loss for Denver and I am sure Coach Billups is not interested in moral victories at this point in the season. However, there were some things for Denver to build on going forward this season.
- 1. Jase Townsend asserting himself. Townsend is the player that makes the Denver’s offense tick and needs to be heavily involed. Certainly not asking him to put up 30 shots like his counterpart Max Abmas did today, but there was a concerning trend of Townsend not taking many shots in recent Pioneer games. In his last 3 games Townsend took 11, 5, and 11 shots. Just not enough shots from the Pioneers star. That changed Friday afternoon. Townsend scored 27 points on 20 field goal attempts and maybe more importantly 10 free throw attempts. The change in aggressiveness seemed to boost the rest of the team to being more aggessive. Look for more of this as the season goes on.
- 2. Freshmen Sam Hines Jr’s emergence: Hines scored 14 points in the Pioneers last Summit League game and carried that over to a very efficient 14 points on 10 shots Friday night. Add in Hines’ 10 rebounds and Hines records his first ever double-double in his college career and only the second time Hines has recorded double digits in rebounds in his young college career. Hines was aided by ORU’s lack of interest in challenging on the block. However, Hines was aggressive and decisive going to the basket all night. DU has been looking for a consistent number 2 scorer all season, maybe Hines is starting to show he could be that guy
- 3. 10 Denver turnovers: Coming into this series Denver has averaged 16 turnovers per game. Given the other issues the Pioneers have dealt with this season they just need to take care of the ball. Yesterdays low turnover total and close loss showed that Denver can be far more dangerous if they take care of the ball
- 4. 84 points. ORU’s defense has been a topic of concern often on the podcast, so certainly a team that can allow a team to look better offensively. However the 84 points scored Friday can help a team low on confidence feel better about themselves and find an offensive rhythm. Add in the first time a team is playing on the road in the Denver elevation for the second night on the road, the offensive confidence and back to back home games may mean a prime opportunity for the Pioneers to grab their first Summit League win of the season.
What happens tomorrow is anybody’s guess. It certainly possible that ORU puts their foot on the gas and plays inspired basketball and it gets away from Denver. Or the confidence of today’s game starts moving Denver in the right direction. Either way, this feels like a small step forward for the Pioneeers.