Denver men’s basketball (7-14, 3-5) erased four seasons of bad road memories Monday night. The win occured at Swinney Center in Kansas City where the Pioneers defeated the UMKC Kangaroos (8-8, 2-3) and halted a 42-game road losing streak. It took sharp shooting from the free-throw line (30 of 36), dominant rebounding (35 vs. 18) and 51.7% shooting from the field to earn the final margin.
A UMKC fan blog took the visiting Pioneers lightly and the Roos may have done the same as the Roos fell 63-55 to the visiting Pioneers.
Somehow, Denver went into the halftime break with a 7-point lead, 30-23, after a whopping 14 turnovers. The Pioneers used a nine-rebound edge and outshot the Roos 60% to 33% to earn the unlikely scoring advantage. Freshman Tevin Smith led the Pioneers in the first 20 minutes with 11 points and 5 rebounds. Denver held UMKC’s leading scorer Evan Gilyard to 3 points in the half on 1 of 6 shooting from the field.
DU’s Tevin Smith started out with the first bucket in the second half. At 17:49, following a 6-0 UMKC run, the Roos’ Evan Gilyard nailed a three-point shot to draw even, 32-32, on a 9-2 Roos run. Another 3-point shot by Anderson Kopp gave the Roos a 35-32 lead. But Denver bounced back to lead, 36-35, on a Javonni Bickham bucket with 15 minutes remaining. A pair of free throws by Taelyr Gatlin put Denver up 38-35 as both teams went cold for three minutes. Denver committed seven additional turnovers in the first ten minutes of the second half but Denver still went on a scoring run of their own as a Taelyr Gatlin jumper put Denver up by six points, 42-36, with 10:36 remaining.
A pair of free throws by Jordan Johnson and a layup by Mikey Henn capped another Pioneer run, 50-41, with six minutes remaining. A Jordan Johnson layup with 4:30 remaining put DU up 53-42. A pair of free throws by Jordan Johnson gave Denver an eight point edge, 55-47, with 2:44 remaining. At 2:32, Tevin Smith nailed two more free throws to put Denver up, 57-47. UMKC pulled within six points in the final minute but Jordan Johnson went to the line and hit two more free throws to put the game out of reach with 17 seconds remaining, 63-55. Final score 63-55. Finally, a ROAD WIN.
A pair of freshmen led the charge for Denver. Tevin Smith had a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Johnson hit some big free throws down the stretch (10 of12 on the night) and scored 17 points. Senior Taelyr Gatlin came into the game and provided energy and leadership down the stretch with 8 points, and 4 rebounds. Denver overcame a season-high 26 turnovers.
Next up for Denver is a return home and the Omaha Mavericks on Saturday at Hamilton Gym at 2:00 pm MT.