Denver (4-10, 0-1) played the Western Illinois Leathernecks (10-2, 1-0) even-up for 40 minutes but faded in overtime at Hamilton Gym. Two missed free throws by Payton Moore would have put the Pioneers up by 4 points with 10 seconds left. Instead, Western’s Trenton Massner drove the length of the court and evened the score 71-71 with 3 seconds remaining to go into a 5-minute overtime.
Massner dominated in overtime as Denver stayed in man-to-man and he drove to the hoop to earn seven made free throws and dished the ball to teammates for clean shots. Denver finally took Jordan Johnson off Massner on the defensive end with KJ Hunt but to no avail. Massner ended up with 31 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals in 45 minutes in the Western Illinois win.
DU had three players light up the scoreboard. KJ Hunt scored 22 points, Jordan Johnson scored 21 and Touko Tainamo had his second consecutive strong game with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Mikey Henn was called for early fouls and was not a factor with 2 points before fouling out.
Denver never trailed in the first half, leading 33-32 at the break. Denver shot 50% in the first half to the Leathernecks 37.9%. The Leathernecks shot 58.3% in the second half to Denver’s 45.8% but Denver rebounding (40 vs. 32) kept them in the game. Both teams shot 28% in OT but fouls were the difference. Denver was called for 4 personal fouls in OT and 30 total for the game. Also contributing to the loss were 18 Pioneers turnovers to the Leathernecks 13.
Denver had several chances to seal the win in regulation but the game switched to Western Illinois favor in overtime as they imposed their will. Massner took over in the later minutes of regulation scoring 9 of WIU’s last 11 points and Western Illinois rode Massner’s isolation plays and free throws throughout overtime to earn the tight road win.