DENVER, CO. — After an 87-83 loss on the road at the hands of the Fort Wayne Mastodons in their last outing. the Denver Pioneers were happy to be back on their home court on Wednesday night.
The loss against the Mastodons was their second straight defeat, and it put them at 1-2 in Summit League play, and in the bottom half of the standings for the time being. A win on Wednesday would build some positive momentum as they head into a stretch of tough games.
Denver’s tough stretch began on Wednesday, as they welcomed the upstart Western Illinois Leathernecks to town to open up a two-game homestand. Despite a loss in their last outing, the Leathernecks came into Wednesday’s tilt at 3-1 in conference play, and were looking to keep pace atop the standings.
While Denver would take a six-point lead at halftime, the Leathernecks continued to fight in the second.
With 12:57 to play in the game, Garret Covington completed a three-point play to give the Leathernecks a 51-49 lead. Joe Rosga responded with a three pointer to give Denver the lead right back, and the lead for good.
The Pioneers pulled away down the stretch, and came away with the 84-70 victory over the Leathernecks.
After Covington completed a three-point play to give the Leathernecks the 51-59 lead, Rosga wasted little time in giving Denver the lead right back.
Just 18 seconds later, on the next possession for the Pioneers, Rosga connected on one of his 4 three pointers on the night to give Denver the lead for good, at 52-51.
Mike Miklusak hit a three pointer of his own to bring Western Illinois back to within a single point, at 55-54. Thomas Neff responded with a three for the Pioneers, kicking off a 10-0 run that pushed their lead into double-figures, at 65-54.
The Leathernecks would cut the lead down to single digits momentarily, but Denver pulled away in the closing minutes. Timely free throw shooting from Rosga, Neff, and C.J. Bobbitt sealed the deal for the Pioneers.
When the dust settled, Denver came away with the 84-70 victory.
For the first time this season, all five starters for Denver scored in double-figures. Joe Rosga led the way once again, scoring a game-high 25 points, on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor.
Big man Daniel Amigo added 13 points and 7 rebounds, while Jake Pemberton chipped in with 12 points in the win.
Garret Covington led the way for the Leathernecks, scoring a team-high 17 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Jeremiah Usiosefe chipped in with 12 points off the bench.
With the win, the Denver Pioneers (10-7, 2-2) are back to .500 in conference play, and have built some positive momentum as their tough stretch of games continues. They will close out their homestand on Saturday with a date against the North Dakota State Bison.
After opening conference play with three straight wins, the Western Illinois Leathernecks (6-10, 3-2) have lost back-to-back games. They will look to get back to their winning ways on Saturday, when they close out a two-game road swing against the Omaha Mavericks.
– T. Bennett