DU fell into a first-half hole but battled back in the second half to make it a game. The Golden Eagles responded when the Pioneers pulled even midway through the second half, 56 all. ORU outscored Denver, 27-10, down the stretch to earn the conference victory.
Denver (5-11, 1-2 Summit League) traveled to Tulsa Thursday evening to take on the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (8-6, 2-1) at the Maybee Center. ORU was off to a relatively slow start to this season after reaching the Sweet Sixteen last season. Both teams were coming off an eight-day layoff and Denver was short Coban Porter and Payton Moore on the night. Unfortunately, it was DU that looked rusty after the eight-day holiday break.
At the 3:05 media break in the first half, ORU led 9-5 behind solid defense and cold shooting by DU. Denver trailed 19-11 after ten minutes on ice-cold shooting (25%) and four turnovers. ORU star Max Abmas nailed some long-distance threes and then, a rebound and putback by DeShang Weaver along with a 3-point make, gave ORU their biggest lead to that point, 29-14 with 7:32 minutes remaining. Denver trailed 35-18 with five minutes remaining in the half as DU continued to struggle from the field (27%) to ORU’s 48% shooting. In the waning minutes, Denver moved to a zone defense and began to chip away at ORU’s lead but it was too little, too late. The half ended 43-27. Freshman Tevin Smith led DU scoring at the break with 10 points and ORU’s Max Abmas had 12 points, half from long-distance. Denver never led.
The Pioneers found their shooting touch in the second half. Denver went 6 of 9 from the field to open the half to slice ORU’s lead in the opening five minutes. A Touko Tainamo layup pulled Denver within ten, 50-40. At 12:52, a Pedro Lopez Sanvincente three-point make pulled Denver within four points, 53-49. A Taeylr Gatlin jumper pulled Denver within 2. A Tevin Smith Layup-and-one pulled the teams even, 56 all, with ten minutes to go.
A Mikey Henn 3-point make at 6:51 pulled Denver back within one point, 61-60, but Golden Eagle scoring runs, featuring 3-point makes, started to wear down the Pioneers. The Golden Eagles went on another run at 5:17, capped by several three-point makes and transition buckets, to quickly extend ORU’s lead to ten points, 74-64, with 3:31 to play. A pair of Max Abmas free throws and a DeShang Weaver jumper gave the home team a 14 point lead as Denver faded down the stretch. As time wound down, Max Abmas canned a short-range jumper to put the finishing touches on Denver, final score 83-66.
Denver was shorthanded without two starters, Payton Moore and Coban Porter, but still battled back from the large first-half deficit. Unfortunately, Denver continues to put themselves in first-half holes, a trend they need to reverse in conference play. Freshman Tevin Smith had 17 points and Mikey Henn had 15 points. Touko Tainamo had 10 points and 9 rebounds, one short of a double-double. Max Abmas led ORU with 24 points and DeShang Weaver and Isaac McBride accounted for 15 each. The Golden Eagles outshot DU from the field 39% to 49% and canned 12 three-point makes to Denver’s 7. Ultimately, it was an ice-cold first half that gave DU little margin for error in their frantic comeback bid.
Denver’s scheduled game against UMKC Saturday has been canceled and will not be made up. With the loss, Denver ties their prior team-record streak of 43 consecutive road losses. Their next game is on January 6th at North Dakota State.