Denver Hangs on for 68-65 Win Over Regis University in Season Opener

Denver (1-0, 0-0) looked to be coasting against Regis (D2, RMAC Conference) in the second half with a 15 point advantage but the Rangers came storming back. After Regis closed the gap, it took two Payton Moore free throws with four seconds left to give DU a three-point lead and a desperation three-point heave from Ilisia Washington clanked off the rim for a 68-65 Denver win.

Denver had to overcome a 25 point barrage from Regis’ Brian Dawson, 16 total turnovers and an inexperienced lineup that had never played a regular-season game together along with a number of new teammates and new coaching staff. The win marked head coach Jeff Wulbrun’s first win as a college head coach.

Considering the changes on the floor and to the basketball staff for the Pioneers, it was easy to predict an uneven performance in DU’s  first game together. The players faced a lively Hamilton Gym crowd, a raucous DU student section and a lively contingent of fans from Regis University who cheered on the visiting Rangers.

Denver started the first half with a 9-0 run leading to a Regis timeout. Denver looked athletic and quick in the half but could never pull away from the Rangers. Juco transfer Jordan Johnson’s 8 points led Denver to a 34-27 halftime advantage.

In the second half, Brian Dawson led the comeback for the Rangers and kept Regis in the game along with teammate Kevin Ebiriekwe’s 10 rebounds and 10 points. K.J. Hunt’s 17 points led Denver along with 6 defensive rebounds and 2 steals to keep the visitors at bay until the final moments of the contest. Hunt’s stat line was spoiled with 7 turnovers which allowed the Rangers to stay close to the Pioneers in the second half but Denver never relinquished the lead.

Denver’s scoring, a concern heading into the season, may not be a major issue with K.J. Hunt, Jordan Johnson, Tevin Smith and Payton Moore looking like legitimate scoring threats. The Pioneers still must clean up their team defense which allowed some easy drives to the baskets and unnecessary reach-in fouls. While Denver had nice size up-front in Mikey Henn, Touko Tainamo and Pedro Lopez-Sanvicente, the trio could only manufacture 12 points while Tristan Green went scoreless. In order to open up the perimeter on offense during the season, this group must increase their offensive production.

The LetsGoDU  season preview made it clear that better days are ahead for Denver basketball but it will take time and patience. That being said, tonight was an important first step for Denver men’s basketball to enjoy a win in their first game together.


5 thoughts on “Denver Hangs on for 68-65 Win Over Regis University in Season Opener”

  1. Ouch, Indeed. Regis is the eighth-ranked team in the 16-team RMAC this year, — a D-II conference — so hardly world-beaters.

    Given these guys from DU had never played a game together, I’ll take the win, move on, and hope for rather dramatic improvements as the season goes on. Struggling to beat average D-II teams on your home court is not a great place for a D-I program to be, but that’s where DU is after our best players left school…

    Schematically, I don’t know if the four guard + one forward offense will hold up very long or over the course of a whole season. You can get away with it against a D-II team, because they aren’t typically as big or quick as D-I players. Perhaps it’s just a function of being blessed by having 4-5 guards who can play at this level and not being very confident in the forwards that that DU has right now. Certainly Smith, Porter, Moore are all D-I level players who will improve with more playing time, albeit young and developing. Hunt is talented, too, but needs to take care of the ball – 7 TOs (mostly in the second half) will erase much of the good stuff we saw from him (17 points, etc.). Guard wise, I think DU matches up pretty well with anyone in the conference.

    BUT (and it’s a big BUT) — Forward-wise, I saw little to make me a believer right now. Mikey Henn is average at best player (he’s on his fourth NCAA team, so perhaps that tells you all you need to know), and Tristan Greene looks like the same player he was a year ago (a marginal D-I player). Sanvincente and Tainamo showed flashes of talent but are not yet finished players as freshmen, and Motta did not play at all. I worry that DU will not be able to rebound well against D-I teams nor be effective down low. That will make DU reliant on either slashing, driving guard play or outside shooting, which will make the Pioneers easier to defense without effective post or inside forwards.

    This season is a work in progress for sure, but there seems to be little chance for double digit wins this year. Just focus on being more competitive…

  2. I didn’t get a chance to make it over to the game last night. When I read the game recap, I had conflicting feelings: on the one hand, squeaking out a W against D-II Regis is not exactly a resounding momentum-builder. On the other hand, any win is a good win for this team. I did feel oddly relieved that DU didn’t lose this game.

    Given the abyss that the program is in, I feel like these guys are on a long slog up a tall mountain pulling 100-lb sleds. Perhaps this win is a small step in the right direction.

  3. We beat Regis by 16 to open last year, so this doesn’t really seem to be an encouraging result. But we’re so unbelievably bad, any win is forward progress. The next team looks to be an NAIA school? Had never heard of the program before. So hopefully we can have a good showing against them and build a little more confidence, but I don’t think there’s such a thing as a guaranteed win this year, irrespective of the division level of the opponent.

  4. No column on losing to an NAIA school? We thought we had seen rock bottom, but I guess never say never, right? I’m happy they can post hype videos (not sure what there is to be hyped about) and talk about how energetic and enthusiastic they are, but it all appears to be a smokescreen at this point. I really want to be able to support the program, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard to do so. It is just getting embarrassing at this point and you almost have to feel badly when considering the state of the program.

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