RECAP: Denver Pioneers Hold Off San Jose State Spartans for First Win of Season, 74-69

Joe Rosga (2) scored a game-high 15 points, and Denver had three players score in double-figures as they edged San Jose State for their first win of the 2016-17 season, 74-69. (Source: Western Courier)
Joe Rosga (2) scored a game-high 15 points, and Denver had three players score in double-figures as they edged San Jose State for their first win of the 2016-17 season, 74-69. (Source: Western Courier)

Over the first two games of the 2016-17 season, sophomore guard Joe Rosga has proven why he is one of the top players in the Summit League, and has shown everyone why we picked him as a First Team All-Summit League member before the season kicked off.

In the season opener for the Denver Pioneers, Rosga put up 30 points in their 92-84 loss to the Jacksonville Dolphins.

On Thursday, he was looking to follow that up with another big performance as the Pioneers searched for their first win of the 2016-17 season. They went on the road to take on the San Jose State Spartans, who split their first two games, but entered Thursday night’s tilt coming off a loss to the Portland Pilots.

It was a quieter night on the scoreboard for Rosga, as he recorded 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the floor. But, it was a well-balanced attack for Denver as a whole.

Three players scored in double-figures, including Rosga, and Thomas Neff hit a pair of free throws late in the game to seal the deal for the Pioneers.

The Denver Pioneers came away with their first win of the season, a 74-69 decision on the road over the San Jose State Spartans.

Early on, it looked as though the Spartans would run away with the game.

San Jose State scored the first five points of the game, and held the Pioneers off the scoreboard for almost two minutes to open up the night. A three pointer from Ryan Welage at the 12:53 mark of the first half gave the Spartans an eight point lead, their biggest lead in the opening 20 minutes, at 18-10.

Denver kept chipping away at the lead, and would eventually take a lead of their own.

A jumper from Rosga with just over three minutes on the clock in the first half gave Denver its first lead of the game, at 31-30. Over the final three minutes, the teams would trade leads, with Denver taking a slim 38-37 lead into the locker room thanks to a layup from Abiola Akintoia.

The second half started the same way the first half ended, with the Pioneers and Spartans taking turns with the lead. San Jose State managed to open up a five-point lead of their own, but Denver continued to chip away.

With 8:17 left to play in the game, Christian Mackey got a layup to fall that gave the Pioneers a 60-59 lead over the Spartans.

Denver wouldn’t relinquish the lead again.

They were able to stretch their lead to as many as seven points in the closing minutes, but the Spartans made it close in the final minute. Two free throws from Neff with two seconds on the clock sealed the deal for the Pioneers.

In a back-and-forth affair, the Denver Pioneers edged the San Jose State Spartans for their first win of the season, a 74-69 win on the road.

The win was also the first head coaching win for Rodney Billups.


To go with his game-high 15 points, Joe Rosga also added 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 31 minutes of floor time. Duke Douglas (12 points) and Jake Pemberton (10 points) both came off the bench to score in double-figures on the night.

Pemberton chipped in 7 assists, and was 3-of-4 from the field.

For the Spartans, Brandon Clarke and Jalen James scored 13 points apiece to pace the team on offense. Clarke also added 10 rebounds for his second-straight double-double.


The road to March doesn’t get any easier for the San Jose State Spartans (1-2, 0-0), as they get set to embark on a three-game road swing. Their next game is against the 17th-ranked Saint Mary’s Gaels on Tuesday night.

With their first win out of the way, the Denver Pioneers (1-1, 0-0) can breathe a little easier. They will go for their second straight win on Wednesday night when they return home to take on the Utah Valley Wolverines.

– T. Bennett