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.