Denver Fades in Overtime Loss to Utah Valley, 77-68

Denver men’s basketball (3-5, 0-0) traveled to Orem, Utah to face Utah Valley (6-1) in an afternoon tilt. Denver held the lead for 27:32 (vs 10:27) minutes but the Pioneers could not close out the game in regulation. Utah Valley dominated the five-minute overtime period, outscoring Denver 14 to 5, to shut the door,  77-68.

The first 10 minutes of the game were a back and forth affair and ended, 17-15, DU. Both teams shot over 60%  from the field and the Pioneers were 3 out of 5 from downtown. JaVonni Bickham, a junior forward, had his first action of the season and ignited a Pioneers run with a big 3-point make and a bucket as Denver extended their lead over the Wolverines, 26-23, with five minutes remaining in the first half. A  KJ Hunt jumper with 4:27 remaining gave Denver a 7-point lead, equalling their largest advantage of the half.  Utah valley whittled away at DU’s lead behind big man Fardaws Aimaq with 8 boards The half ended 30-27, Denver. KJ Hunt and Mikey Henn accounted for half of Denver’s points in the first 20 minutes.

A Touko Tainamo tray and two free throws by KJ Hunt put Denver up 37-33 early in the second half. A layup by JaVonni Bickham at 15:07 put Denver up by seven, 41-34. Utah Valley began to narrow DU’s lead but five minutes later, a steal and a layup by Taelyr Gatlin pushed DU’s lead back to seven with 11:53 remaining, 46-39.  An 8-0 Wolverine scoring run gave Utah Valley their first lead in the second half on a Connor Harding hook-shot with 6:39 remaining. The game stayed tight within the final four minutes as the teams traded leads. The teams were knotted at 55 and 57 with two minutes remaining. Inside a minute to go, a Tevin Smith 3-point make gave Denver the lead, 60-59. A Jordan Johnson tray put Denver up by 2 with 25 seconds left but Utah raced downcourt and was fouled with 19 seconds remaining and made two free throws to knot the score, 63-63. Denver could not score in the final 19 seconds and the game went to OT.

In overtime, cold shooting and four turnovers by Denver combined with Utah Valley’s eight made free throws and three layups eliminated the Pioneers, 77-68. KJ Hunt finished with 22 points and Mikey Henn chipped in with 15 points. Payton Moore had 7 rebounds.

DU faces Wyoming on Thursday, December 2nd at 7:00 pm MT. Denver has not won a road game since December 11th, 2018 when this writer witnessed DU’s last road win in Laramie, Wyoming. This marks yet another close loss for Denver. As we have seen in the recent past, this can become a habit for a losing team. Will this year’s squad have the mental toughness to rebound from tight losses and reverse this troublesome trend? Time will tell.



6 thoughts on “Denver Fades in Overtime Loss to Utah Valley, 77-68”

  1. After last year’s 2-19 squad, I am frankly amazed that DU is now competitive enough to now be shooting last-second shots to try to win these games against winning programs (AFA was 5-1, UVU was 6-1) on the road.

    That means there is some progress being made – be it coaching, talent, skills and heart for DU to be be pushing these good teams, toe-to-toe, but obviously the winning experience is not there yet to beat these good teams…

    What to do to get it now? Given that the closeness of the most of the scores indicates physical similarity and talent levels are already at relative near-parity, winning will come down to DU’s ability to focus, relax and deliver under pressure – a by-product of intense preparation, self-confidence and execution.

    For example, DU gave up four turnovers in the OT tonight, and those were really the key difference in the game. I would focus on turnover mitigation, shot selection and defensive intensity. Get those three things right, and DU will win more than it loses…

  2. DU is actually showing signs that they can be competitive against solid teams. That is progress! I’m confident they will win several conference games this year, which would be a huge step up.

  3. It’s comforting that the games are close. You can play the “there are no moral victories” card if you just want to bitch about their historical fecklessness, but there’s no rationality to that. They are literally starting from scratch and its unreasonable to expect them to instantly right the ship.

    If we hadn’t dropped to that NAIA team we would be 4-4 entering conference play and it would be hard to be anything other than delighted.

    What i would love more than anything is to just hit a home run with a recruit. I know its too much to expect a three star to wind up here, but let’s go out and poach a quality 2 star player who has offers from the Big Sky, Big West, WCC, etc.

  4. The fact that someone is here to troll the DU basketball team after the kind of season they had last year indeed suggests they are improving.

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