Denver men’s basketball took the court in Magness Arena for their home opener Wednesday, Nov. 18 against Utah Valley University where the Pios secured the 75-62 win over the Wolverines.
The match marked the first meeting between the two teams. The Pios came into the match 2-1 returning from Santa Clara where the team competed in the 49th annual Cable Car Classic Tournament. The Pios lost their opener against Milwakee 71-58, but won the following two contests against Santa Clara with a 55-33 win and a victory over Lipscomb 82-69. Denver tallied a total of 36 three-pointers throughout the tournament, 16 of which were scored during the game against Lipscomb.
Tonight’s game opened with a strong start from the Pios who lost the tip-off, but quickly recovered. Redshirt senior forward, Marcus Byrd of Highlands Ranch scored 7 points within the first six minutes of the game. Denver shot 55.2% (16-of-29) on the court and 45.5% (5-of-11) shots taken outside the arc during the first in comparison to Utah Valley who shot 33.3% (7-of-21) and 60.0% (3-of-5) three-point attempts.
The redshirt sophomore, Duke Douglas (New Orleans, Louisiana) who set a career high with 11 points said, “[We’ve] been playing teams with really good transition offenses and that was [our] goal to try and stop those.” The Pio defense forced 11 turnovers during the first half.
Throughout the first half Denver rotated ten players onto the court and each contributed greatly to the 45-33 halftime lead. Head coach Joe Scott said, “It’s really a team effort and when [you] get ten guys playing double-digit minutes, if [we] can maintain that throughout the year its going to really be a big plus for [us].”
Denver’s defense prevented Utah Valley from converting their shots and, in turn, forced them to attempt field goals. 16, almost half of the Wolverines 33 points were scored from the free-throw line where the Wolverines received a 88.9% (16-of-18), Denver was sent to the stripe 11 times where they converted eight of their attempts to earn a 72.7%.
During the second half Denver dominated the scoreboard maintaining a double-digit lead for the entire final twenty minutes of play. The Pios were able to drain crucial three-pointers from freshman guard Joe Rosga (St. Paul, Minnesota) and sophomore center, Christian Mackey (Kirkland, New Mexico) that aided in the team’s continuous momentum.
In addition to Douglas’ 11 points, Denver generated four players who tallied double digits including; Byrd who led the night with 14 points, senior guard, Nate Engesser (Colorado Springs, Colorado) who came up with 11 points, and freshman forward C.J. Bobbitt (Harker Heights, Texas) who scored ten points and grabbed six rebounds.
By the end of the night, both teams were sending each other to the free-throw line but luckily, Denver had secured a large enough lead that Utah Valley was unable to catch up.
This year’s roster consists of 13 out of 17 players classified as freshmen or sophomores. Coach Scott explained, “[We’ll] have [our] ups and downs, [we’re] young, but [we’ll] keep getting better and [our] guys will stay focused on the prize of getting better game to game, week to week, month to month. There’s no question [we’ve] improved immensely in just the past two weeks thus far.”
Denver returns to Magness Nov. 25 to play Idaho State at 4 p.m. to continue their five game home court streak.