Denver (4-9) returned home to Hamilton Gym after an arduous six-game road swing. The Pioneers downed the UC San Diego Tritons (5-4) by controlling the boards and shutting down UCSD from beyond the arc for a well-earned 64-56 victory.
The first half was tight but a smothering Denver defense held the Tritons to 25% shooting from the field. Denver trailed 8-4 after the first five minutes and trailed 14-13 at the midway point of the first half. Next up, DU’s Tevin Smith made a layup to put the Pioneers in the lead, 15-14. Another layup several minutes later by Payton Moore put DU up, 17-21, with :55 seconds remaining but UCSD responded with a 3-point make by Bryce Pope. The Pioneers gained halftime energy when Payton Moore canned a 3-point fall-away shot from the left corner at the buzzer, 24-20, Denver. Moore’s shot seemed to energize DU as they went into the break.
Denver held a 4-point lead, 30-26, five minutes into the second half. Denver started to dominate the glass, especially DU’s Touko Tainamo who had 9 rebounds for the game, as the Pioneers extended their lead to 38-33 at the midway point of the period. A Touko Tainamo layup at 6:34 gave DU a ten point lead, 48-38. A pair of 3-point shots by the Tritons pulled UCSD within four points, 50-46, with 4:01 remaining. A Coban Porter lay-up and a KJ Hunt lay-up with two minutes to go gave DU some breathing room. At this point in the game, KJ Hunt who was 0-5 from the line earlier, stepped to the charity stripe and nailed 6 straight free throws down the stretch while Tainamo controlled the boards with key rebounds to seal the win, 64-56.
This was a solid victory for Denver who controlled the boards, 44-28, and forced the Tritons into 8-32 from beyond the arc for the win. Hunt had 24 points and 5 rebounds. Tainamo had 12 points inside and 9 rebounds to seal the middle. Caban Porter had 10 points, going 2-5 from beyond the arc. The game was a much-needed confidence builder for head coach Jeff Wulbrun and his team as they conclude non-conference play. The Pioneers face Western Illinois (8-2) Monday at Hamilton Gym to begin Conference play.