Coming into Thursday night’s game against the UC Riverside Highlanders, the Denver Pioneers were on quite the roll.
Over the last two weeks, the Pioneers had reeled off four straight wins, pushing their record above .500. Three of their four wins had been by double figures, and the last two wins came on their home floor.
Against the Highlanders, the Pioneers were looking to extend their overall winning streak to five games, while also extending their winning streak inside Magness Arena to three games.
Both teams went back and forth to start the game, but Jake Krafka hit a three point jumper with 10:57 to play in the first half that gave Denver the lead for good.
From there, the Pioneers cruised to the 73-55 victory over the Highlanders, extending their winning streak to five games.
After their back-and-forth start, Krafka’s jumper gave the Pioneers an 18-15 lead with just under 11 minutes to play in the contest. They would continue to build on the lead as the first half ticked away, extending it to as many as 12 points on three occasions over the first 20 minutes.
Denver took a 35-23 advantage into the locker room.
Midway through the second half, the Highlanders looked to make a bit of a run to cut into the deficit. A three ball from Chance Murray cut the lead down to 49-41 for Denver with 11:33 still to play in the game.
That was as close as UC Riverside would get, as Denver reeled off a 17-7 run to lead by 18 points with under six minutes to play in the game.
Down the stretch, Denver had things on cruise control, and they rolled to the 73-55 win over the Highlanders.
It was a strong shooting night for the Pioneers, as they went a combined 23-of-43 (53.5%) from the floor. Joe Rosga led the way, scoring a game-high 18 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Jake Krafka came off the bench to score 12 points, and he finished the night shooting 5-of-6 from the floor. Daniel Amigo added 12 points and tied his career-high with 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
For the Highlanders, Secean Johnson did the bulk of his damage from the free throw line on the night. He was 11-of-14 from the charity stripe, and finished the game with a team-high 15 points.
Chance Murray chipped in with 10 points in the loss.
The game saw both teams continue in the direction they have been going over the past couple of weeks. The Denver Pioneers (8-5, 0-0) won their fifth straight game, while the UC Riverside Highlanders (1-8, 0-0) lost their sixth straight contest.
UC Riverside also falls to 0-7 on the road in 2016-17.
Both teams have a well-deserved break for Christmas, and return to the court on December 28th. Both teams will play at home on Wednesday night, with the Highlanders welcoming the Utah Valley Wolverines to town, while the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles head to Denver.
– T. Bennett