Two desperate teams met on Tuesday afternoon at Hamilton Gym. A combined 1-10 going into the game, the University of Denver Pioneers (1-6) played the (1-5) Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Absent two front-line starters for the game, DU dropped the game 68-65 as Denver could not make critical stops or baskets down the stretch.
Drake Muller started in place of the injured Tristan Green. Center Robert Jones, Denver’s second-leading scorer, injured his right leg on the opening jump ball and Northern Arizona ran out to a quick 7-0 lead. Denver made a run of their own and knotted the game, 11-11, at 11:51. The teams traded buckets until a Sam Hines, Jr. short jumper gave Denver the lead, 23-21, with 5:56 left in the half. Later, Javonni Bickham made a finger roll layup to put the pioneers up by 4 with 1:30 to play until half. Several buckets by NAU narrowed the score at the break to 31-30, Denver. Jase Townsend scored only two points for the Pioneers in the half and back-up center Frank Ryder paced Denver with 9 points. Cameron Shelton had 10 points for the visitors.
DU freshman Drake Muller opened the second half with two three-point shots to put Denver up, 37-30. Five quick fouls by DU in the second half put the Lumberjacks in the bonus at 12:32 and NAU extended their lead, 47-44. A Cameron Shelton layup extended the Lumberjacks lead, 51-46. A Sam Hines, Jr. driving bucket and one, pulled Denver within three, 55-52 with 6:58 to go. Jase Townsend pulled DU within one, 62-61 with 2:02 to play. Two free throws by DU’s Jase Townsend narrowed the score to 64-63 with 1:02 remaining. Northern Arizona countered by setting ball screens for their star Cameron Shelton to control the outcome of the game. Four made free throws by Shelton down the stretch kept the Lumberjacks in front by 3-points going down to the wire. A desperation 3-point shot by Sam Hines, Jr. from the right corner missed the mark as time expired. Final score, Northern Arizona University 68, Denver 65.
DU outshot NAU 50.2% to 40.4% but was pounded on the defensive glass where the Lumberjacks outrebounded DU 11-2. Denver had 12 turnovers to 8 for Northern Arizona. Shelton scored 27 points for the Lumberjacks and Jase Townsend finished with 16 points, 14 in the second half. Freshman Sam Hines Jr. continues to impress with 7 points and 13 rebounds. No doubt, DU struggled with the loss of their front line of Tristan Green and Robert Jones. Also, Frank Ryder missed time down the stretch when he reinjured his shoulder in the waning minutes of the game when his size and point production was most needed.