Pioneer Basketball Comeback Falls Just Short as Air Force Beats Denver, 79-75

Murkey
DU senior Ade Murkey (0) had a season high 26 points to lead DU, but it was not enough for a win, as DU fell to Air Force 79-75 at Magness Arena. Photo: Justin Tafoya, Clarkson Creative

DENVER  – Senior Ade Murkey pumped-in a season-high 26 points, and sophomore Jase Townsend added 23 points for the Denver Pioneers, but it wasn’t quite enough for a win, as the Air Force Falcons clipped the Denver Pioneers, 79-75 before 1,170 fans at Magness Arena on Saturday, December 14th. The loss dropped the Pioneers to 4-8 on the year and improved the Falcons to 5-6.

Denver never led in the game after the third minute of play, and were forced to play catchup for the other 37 minutes, as Air Force led a balanced attack from A.J. Walker’s 19 points, Lavelle Scottie’s 17, Ryan Swan’s 16 and Keaton Van Soelen’s 11 point afternoon.

The Pioneers allowed the Falcons to hit a shocking 10 first half three-pointers to explode to a 45-31 AFA halftime lead, but at halftime, DU was able to adjust defensively and then made a terrific 14-point comeback to tie game at 58-58 with 8:19 remaining. But the more experienced Falcons then took over the game again at that point, going on a 9-0 run, and forcing the Pioneers to play catch-up once again in the final minutes, but there just wasn’t enough gas in the Pioneer tank to come all the way back again, as DU got another chance late, cutting the AF lead to two at 77-75 after a Ray Kowalski 3-pointer with six seconds left. Air Force, though, made its two free throws on the ensuing play as Denver was forced to foul, sealing the 79-75 victory.

DU shot pretty well at 49%, with 50% from three, scored a season high 11 three pointers, won the turnover battle at 11 vs 13 for AFA, and played solid in the rebound game, but in the end were done-in by the Falcons’ 16-for-21 free throw shooting, while DU was only able to get to the line 14 total times, making only six free throws. Additionally, DU suffered from another tough night from its two big players, David Nzekwesi and Robert Jones, who could only manage 10 points between them.

Encouraging for the Pioneers beyond Murkey and Townsend’s performance was the season-high 10 points off the bench from Junior transfer Ray Kowalski, who keyed a pair of second half Denver rallies with his strong defensive play and clutch shooting.

The Pioneers return to action on Tuesday night, December 17  in Greeley, Colorado against the University of Northern Colorado at 7 pm..

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