Denver (8-15, 4-6) defeated UMKC ten days ago in Kansas City (12-8, 5-3) but could they sweep a regular-season opponent in conference play? The Pioneers gave it the old college try Thursday night but UMKC’s leading scorer, Evan Gilyard, kept DU at bay in the second half and ice-cold three-point shooting (4 of17) and turnovers (17 vs. 6) doomed the Pioneers, 72-61.
Denver fell behind early 14-4 in the first five minutes with UMKC’s Marvin Nesbit, Jr scoring the Roos first 7 points. Denver capitalized over the next five minutes scoring inside and pulled within four points midway through the half, 19-15, UMKC. A pair of Coban Porter threes kept DU within shouting distance but the UMKC advantage grew to nine points, 29-20. A Tevin Smith bucket at 2:20 closed the gap to seven, 32-25. Denver blocked three UMKC shots in the half to thwart the Roos interior offense. As time ran down, a pair of KJ Hunt free throws pulled DU within five, 32-27, at intermission. Denver led on the boards (16-13) but only shot 25% from downtown while UMKC shot 45%, scoring nine more points than DU from beyond the arc. Touko Tainamo had 7 points and 4 rebounds in the first half.
Jordan Johnson knotted the score, 34-34, two minutes into the second half. Tevin Smith briefly put DU up, 36-34, for a two-point lead a minute later. After UMKC regained the lead, a Michael Henn block led to a Roos timeout at 15:38 and the Roos regrouped. UMKC went on a 6 point run to lead 44-38 with 14:00 minutes remaining. Two Coban Porter back-to-back threes cut the deficit to two, 46-44. A Touko Tainamo bunny at 9:00 minutes narrowed the deficit to two, 51-49, UMKC. Once again, Denver went cold and the Roos went on a 7-2 run, forcing DU to call a timeout trailing, 58-51, with 6:34 remaining. Over the next four minutes, UMKC extended their lead to ten, 69-59. DU tried to close the gap with threes but missed and UMKC made their free throws down the stretch as DU struggled to close the gap. Final score 72-61, UMKC.
Evan Gilyard turned up the burners in the second half and finished with 23 points to lead the Roos. The teams were even in most statistical categories except for three-point shooting and turnovers. DU was 4 of 17 from downtown while UMKC went 7 of 21 beyond the arc. DU had 17 turnovers to UMKC’s 8. Denver only held the lead for 50 seconds on the night as the visitors responded to every Pioneer run. Denver finished with eight blocks, some spectacular. Touko Tainamo led Denver with a double-double, 15 points and 15 rebounds. Two other freshmen came up big. Tevin Smith scored 13 points and Coban Porter added 12 on the night.
Next up for DU, a matinee game against Oral Roberts Saturday at 2:00 pm MT at Hamilton Gym.
Photo: Courtesy of Denver Athletics