This game looked nearly identical to every game this season for Denver men’s basketball. A slow start, a comeback and a collapse in the final minutes in what has become a brutal season. That is exactly what happened Friday afternoon at Hamilton Gym as Denver fell, 80-76, to Omaha (4-19, 2-11). Along with the loss, Denver falls to 9th place in the Summit League standings and misses the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
As is their custom, Denver (2-18, 1-12) started slowly, trailing Omaha 9-2, 16-4 and 32-19 before finding their footing. And, as usual, Denver chiseled away at the deficit but could draw no closer than 51-44 by half. UNO’s Ayo Akinwole and La’Mel Robinson smoked the Pioners with 21 and 16 points respectively as DU allowed 56% shooting by the visitors in the half. Jase Townsend and Sam Hines, Jr. kept DU within reach with 14 and 9 points respectively but the Pioneers leaky defense could not find the necessary stops needed to erase the gap.
DU started out the second half on fire with a 15-0 run and at 15:27, Taelyr Gatlin canned a 3-point shot for a DU lead, 57-55. Denver continued to build their lead extending to 64-55, a nine-point edge, capped by a Javonni Bickham layup at 12:53. But Omaha came charging back from the nine-point hole by taking the lead, 67-66, with eight minutes to go. Omaha’s center Matt Pyle fouled out with 5:30 remaining and gave Denver some hope but timely buckets by UNO kept DU chasing the Mavs. DU took a final lead, 72-71, on a Sam Hines, Jr. layup with three minutes to go but Denver could not hold on to the lead. A three-point shot by UNO’s Ayo Akinwole, free throws and timely rebounds sealed the game for the Mavericks. Trailing by two points with only 23 seconds left, DU’s Kobey Lam threw up an ill-advised, rushed 3-point shot that missed the mark and the rebound went to Omaha. That, essentially, ended any chance Denver had to win the game.
Omaha entered the contest with two of their top scorers out – Marlon Ruffin (13.1 ppg.) and Wanjang Tut (8.8 ppg.). But shoddy defense by Denver allowed 50% shooting for the game and DU was beaten on the defensive boards, 32-20. Jase Townsend had 18 points for DU and emerging freshman Sam Hines, Jr. had 15 points in the loss.
DU concludes their season against these same Mavericks Saturday afternoon at 4:00 pm MT.