Denver men’s basketball (6-14, 2-5) continued their South Dakota swing Saturday afternoon against Summit League blue blood South Dakota State University (15-4, 6-0). The game was held in conjunction with the 30th annual Lamb Bonanza where sheep are auctioned off at halftime. Before tipoff, spectators were served lamb sliders and lamb spread crackers by the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. The Pioneers were carved up and served as the main course, falling 80-62 to the Jackrabbits.
As is their custom, DU fell behind early 6-0 and trailed at the five-minute mark 10-4 behind three 3-point makes by SDSU. Over the next five minutes, the Jacks nailed two more 3’s to build a lead of 23-8 at the midway point of the half. A Taelyr Gatlin 3-point make finally put Denver in double figures with 8:30 remaining, 29-11. A three-point Coban Porter make with 5 minutes to go left DU trailing, 33-14. KJ Hunt accounted for Denver’s final seven points in the half on a jumper, a dunk and a 3-point shot, 44-23.
The Jackrabbits torched Denver from beyond the arc on 9 of 17 shooting and 53% shooting from the field. Denver shot a tepid 28% from the field in the first half. As with the prior two games, the Pioneers continue to struggle in the low block with a lack of size and depth.
Denver responded in the second half with a more consistent effort as freshman forward Touko Tainamo came alive in the low post but it was too little, too late.
Hunt continued his scoring streak from the first half by opening the second half with a jumper and a 3-point shot, 49-28. A jumper and a layup by Touko Tainamo left Denver down by 20 points five minutes into the half. A Coban Porter 3-point shot pulled DU within 16 with ten minutes remaining, 61-45. A Coban Porter 3-point play at 6:33 and a lay-up with 4:00 minutes remaining kept the margin at 14 points. A half-minute later, a Tevin Smith 3-point make pulled Denver within13 points. A free throw and a miss by Jordan Johnson pulled Denver within 12 points at 1:54. Denver could get no closer the rest of the game with the contest ending in a final score of 80-62.
Denver played a solid second half after a weak first-half effort. Freshmen Touko Tainamo and Tevin Smith had excellent second halves and the pair ended up the game with a combined 20 points and 9 rebounds. KJ Hunt had 18 points and 5 rebounds. Freshman Coban Porter finished with 16 points and 3 rebounds. Denver was outshot from the field 48% to 39% and was outrebounded by 6 boards. Baylor Scheierman had 11 points and 11 rebounds for SDSU and Alex Arians led the Jacks with 19 points and 4 rebounds.
Next up for Denver is a Monday game in Kansas City starting at 6 pm MT.