There’s a reason games aren’t played on paper.
Despite what looked to be a mismatch Wednesday night, the Denver men’s basketball team pulled off a big upset, beating rival CSU 80-70 at Moby Arena. While the Rams held a size advantage at almost every position and were expected to dominate the Pioneers, CSU was outrebounded for only the second time all season. For junior guard Daniel Bejarano, it all came down to a lack of effort.
“We didn’t block out, we didn’t have any effort, we got our asses kicked,” Bejarano said. “It comes down to effort, that’s all there is to it.”
In a first half that saw only seven fouls between both teams, CSU shot 56 percent from the field but trailed 31-29 in large part to its lack of offensive rebounding. For a team that has dominated the offensive glass this season, their lack of it tonight proved to be their Achilles heel.
But after giving up an 8-2 run to start the half, CSU seemed to find a bit of rhythm, especially junior forward JJ Avila who scored the Rams’ first six points of the half and helped cut the deficit to two points with 14:20 left. From there however, it was the Brett Olson Show. The DU junior from Highlands Ranch scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the final 11 minutes to lead the Pioneers to their first victory at Moby Arena since 1973.
Even with the scoring barrage in the second half, CSU head coach Larry Eustachy lamented the lack of effort his team showed, something the longtime head coach hasn’t seen very often throughout his career.
“I thought their effort was better than ours from start to finish, which is a new concept to me,” Eustachy said. “I’d really have to think back to when one of my teams got beat to so many loose balls and offensive rebounds. We just couldn’t match their intensity, their tenacity, whatever you want to call it; we couldn’t match their effort.”
After losing only one home game in the last two seasons, CSU has dropped two out of three after losing to rival Colorado last Tuesday. For a team with such an imposing home atmosphere, losses like these especially sting.
“They came in here ready to play, and they just got us,” Bejarano said. “We lost one home game last season and we’ve lost two this year already. It just comes down to effort.”
As the Rams head into a twelve day holiday break until their next game, CSU is likely to feel the lingering effects of this loss. However, they will try not to let the defeat hang around too long as they face a talented University Illinois-Chicago team that surprised them last year on the road.
“It’s like a football team on a bye week, waiting around to play again just isn’t any fun,” Eustachy said. “It comes with the territory and I know this team will respond but we can’t just absorb what just happened to us and expect to have any chance at all. We have a small margin for error with this group and we’ve got a tough team coming in here next.”
Men’s Basketball Beat Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kpopecollegian.