Denver Prevails in Scrappy Win, 69-63 – Earns Tournament Trip

There are two things you can say about this year’s DU men’s basketball team (7-23, 3-13 Summit League). First, they don’t make things easy. Second, they never give up. That was the case Saturday afternoon at Hamilton Gym against Western Illinois. The Pioneers built a 17 point lead and let it slip away in the second half. But, DU’s team and senior Ade Murkey refused to give up. Murkey scored 33 points, secured 7 rebounds and tipped away a missed Robert Jones free throw with :19 seconds remaining to keep possession in the waning seconds to nail down the win for Denver.

The first half was all Crimson & Gold. Denver held a 36-25 advantage at the half. The Pioneers outscored the Leathernecks 13-0 off turnovers and 20-8 in the paint. But Western Illinois used 3-point shots to claw their way back into the contest. For the game, Western Illinois nailed 11 3-point shots to Denver’s 3 3-point makes. A Zion Young 3-point shot with 6:52 remaining in the game gave the Leathernecks their first lead, 53-52. Then, it was senior Ade Murkey’s time to put the Pioneers on his back. Murkey struck with 12 points in the final six-and-a-half minutes along with buckets from Jase Townsend and Robert Jones and a pair of free throws from Taelyr Gaitlin to seal the win.

With DU leading. 64-68 and 19 seconds remaining, DU’s Robert Jones went to the line and missed the second half of a one-and-one free throw attempt. Murkey tipped the errant free throw over his head to Robert Jones and that possession essentially sealed the win for Denver. It was only appropriate on this afternoon that senior Ade Murkey played one of his best games in front of his family on Senior Night.

Sophomore Jase Townsend, playing through painful plantar fasciitis, scored 9 points along with 4 rebounds and freshman Freshman Robert Jones had 8 points and 5 rebounds. Taelyr Gaitlin, playing with a lower-body injury during the last several games, gutted his way to 5 points and 7 rebounds.

Make no mistake, this was a big win for a squad that earned a regular season-ending win as a reward for their season-long efforts. And a loud Hamilton Gym crowd got rewarded as well.

The Pioneers will be playing in the Summit League Quarterfinals of the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls South Dakota next Saturday. Never has a late winter trip to South Dakota sounded so good.


2 thoughts on “Denver Prevails in Scrappy Win, 69-63 – Earns Tournament Trip”

  1. Great to see Ade smiling ear-to-ear after his last college win in Denver.`He gave it every ounce of his effort in his four years as a Pio, and this last year was his best by far, even if the team struggled. I think he has to have opened some eyes of pro scouts this year, too.

    As for the Pios, I think Billups is going have one final year to make more progress.

    DU can go to Sioux Falls and play with nothing to lose…

  2. Huge sigh of relief. Honestly, based on how the season has gone, when DU’s lead evaporated and WIU took the lead late, I expected the worst. But led by Murkey, DU found a way to live to fight another day. I’m really happy for the team, especially Murkey, the coaches, and the program to earn a spot in the conference tournament. It wasn’t easy, but they showed plenty of moxie to beat a pesky WIU team.

    As for Murkey, there’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been said–he’s a hell of a player, a great athlete, and a real lead-by-example guy. I certainly wish DU had him for a couple more years so he could lead the team through whatever rebuild is coming. He’ll be greatly missed.

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