As is typical and encouraged in 800GP write-ups, it’s a first-person account with a lot of experiential, non-basketball content. It’s also very long. :) But it does go through how Denver came out sluggish, fell behind badly in the first half, fought back to a 7-point deficit at halftime, pulled as close as 3 points early in the second half, fell back behind by 9 (actually 10 at one point), then furiously rallied late. Excerpt:
At the under-8 timeout, with Denver still down 9, I shuffled up to DU’s SID, Mike Kennedy, and reached over his shoulder to put Mile High Bally…on the scorer’s table. “For good luck,” I tweeted. …
There were several moments in the final 5 or 6 minutes of the game where it felt like CSU was about to put Denver away for good, only to have a missed shot, a controversial call, or a good play by the Pioneers keep DU in it. [This photo] is of one such moment: as I snapped it, CSU’s Dorian Green was attempting a three-pointer that would have put the game out of reach, giving the Rams a 77-67 lead with 1:14 left. But the shot rattled out, Denver got the rebound, and ten seconds later, DU freshman Royce O’Neale hit a #superhoop of his own to pull the Pios within 74-70 with 1:04 left. Joe Scott called a quick timeout. We had ourselves a ballgame, ladies and gentlemen. …
The final minute was frenetic… Denver’s full-court press hassled the Rams enough to almost allow for a successful Pioneer comeback. You got the feeling that if the game were 20 or 30 seconds longer, the Pios might have won. But of course, then they probably would have started desperately pressing 20 or 30 seconds later. Oh well. …
"Rams by 5 with 31.9 left," I tweeted at 8:59 PM. “DU needs a turnover.” Well, they got it — amid the frenzy of CSU trying to beat the 10-second clock, somebody knocked the ball away, Brian Stafford grabbed the loose ball, and Wes Eikmeier was called for fouling Stafford with 26 seconds left (the crowd wanted a jump ball, which would have gone to CSU). Stafford hit two free throws and, voila, it was a 3-point game.
At that point, the dream scenario for a team attempting an improbable late comeback — getting the ball back in a one-possession game — almost happened. Denver hassled CSU’s Wes Eikmeier into monetarily losing control of the ball, and he very, VERY nearly lost it out of bounds. If he had, it would have been Denver’s ball under its own basket with 25 seconds left, down 3 points. But Eikmeier saved it just in time, keeping both his feet and the ball inbounds on the sideline by Denver’s bench, and the Pioneers were unable to successfully trap him. The ball ended up in the hands of Jesse Carr, and a foul was called on the Pioneers.
Anyway, Carr hit both free throws for a 78-73 lead with 22 seconds left. A relatively uncontested layup by Brett Olson with 13 seconds to go pulled the Pioneers within 3 again, but the Denver press was unable to force a turnover or near-turnover this time, and after 7 seconds losing a game of keepaway, DU sent Carr back to the line with 6 seconds left.
After Carr drained the first free throw for a 4-point lead, a pair of fans in my section headed for the exits. I overheard one saying to the other, “Unless Tim Tebow is playing out there, this game’s over.”
And indeed it was. Carr appeared to intentionally miss the second free throw, grabbed his own rebound, and held onto the ball to end the game. Colorado State 79, Denver 75, final.
I didn’t include this in the write-up (because I don’t know how to embed video on the Mid-Majority), but here’s a YouTube clip that I took of a portion of that final sequence:
After roller-coaster Sun Belt start, Denver visits CSU with state pride (and RLU status) at stake
After going 10-2 against its tough non-conference schedule and earning itself an unlikely place on the bubble, Denver has been on soemthing of a roller-coaster ride over the last two weeks as it opened Sun Belt play.
On December 29, the Pioneers beat Troy in a perfectly serviceable 79-62 win that was pretty much exactly what you’d want to see against a lowly opponent.
But then, two days later, whether because of a New Year’s Eve funk or whatever else, Denver was stunned at home by Arkansas-Little Rock, 66-59. It was, quite simply, a horrible loss to a team that came into the game 4-10 and ranked #249 in the nation by Ken Pomeroy.
The rare Magness Arena pratfall dropped Denver to 1-1 in conference play. It also caused their Pomeroy rating to plummet from #78 to #97, and their RPI to take a dive, too (knocking them out of SI’s Bubble Watch). And it raised fears of a greater letdown to come, what with 9 of the next 12 games being on the road.
Those worries became borderline #PANIC as Denver visited Pomeroy’s #225 team, Arkansas State, on January 5, and struggled again. The Pios trailed for almost the entire first half, and fought the Red Wolves nip-and-tuck throughout the second half. At the under-4 timeout, Denver was down, 46-45, and with two minutes left, the Pioneers trailed 48-47. But they pulled out the 53-50 win, a huge relief. (The win was unimpressive enough that Pomeroy’s tempo-free robots penalized Denver, dropping them further to #101. Even so, pulling it out on the road had to be a big confidence boost — and it averted disaster, if nothing else.)
Finally, on January 7, the Pioneers dominated South Alabama 67-50 to sweep their first Sun Belt road weekend of the season. Suddenly Denver is 3-1 in league play, and the awful loss to UALR feels like it’s in the rearview mirror. Said head coach Joe Scott: “After Thursday’s win, I was really happy for our guys. Today, I was really impressed by them.”
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Now comes a brief interruption to the Sun Belt schedule, in the form the season’s final regular-season non-conference game — and Denver’s last regular-season chance for a Red Line Upset — with a visit to Colorado State at 7:00 PM tonight.
Denver and CSU appear to be the best two teams in Colorado: they’re ranked #82 and #94, respectively, by Pomeroy. (The rest are #100 Colorado, #166 Air Force and #187 Northern Colorado.) Moreover, between them, the Pios and Rams own an unbroken chain of distributive-property victories over the state’s other teams (CSU beat Colorado, which beat Air Force; both CSU and Denver beat Northern Colorado). So this is a “state championship” of sorts: winner gets Centennial State bragging rights until further notice.
"Denver’s an outstanding team," said CSU coach Tim Miles. “It’s Joe Scott’s best team since he’s been at Denver, and it’s probably Denver’s best team since they went Division I. I view that game as like a top three or four Mountain West team coming into Moby Arena. They’re that good.”
If Denver wins, it will be the Pioneers’ fourth Red Line Upset in five tries, which would put the Pioneers in rarefied air. Only Missouri Valley Conference powers Creighton (6 RLUs) and Northern Iowa (5) have pulled more Red Line Upsets this season. Denver would be tied with Harvard, St. Joe’s, Saint Louis, Dayton, Fresno State and Wichita State with 4 RLUs apiece.
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Last but not least (okay, maybe least), if you missed the 2nd annual Bally Drop on New Year’s Eve at midnight, well, here you go:
The latter video is Part 2 of my livestream; here’s Part 1.