We rarely call a home loss a moral victory but Saturday afternoon gave Pioneer fans a glimpse of the future and what lies ahead looks pretty bright. Both teams delivered haymakers (26 three-point shots) and DU (8-16, 4-7) countered numerous Oral Roberts University (15-7, 9-2) runs but in the end it was not enough. DU’s freshman stars of Coban Porter and Tevin Smith delivered 46 points while ORU star Max Abmas (28 points) delivered down the stretch along with Trey Phipps off the bench, who scored some clutch points to allow the visitors to pull away late, 89-80.
The ORU (14-7, 8-2) versus Denver (8-15, 4-6) basketball game was a measuring stick game for DU. The Golden Eagles are loaded with talent, coming off a 2020-21 NCAA tournament sweet-16 run, and sitting solidly in second place in the Summit League. In the end, Denver showed that they are only a few pieces away from challenging the top of the Summit League.
Denver started in the hole 5-0 but Jordan Johnson got DU on the board with a three-point make. ORU started to rain threes, four in the first five minutes, to go up 16-7. Johnson countered with another tray to pull within six, 16-10, at 14:27. ORU went on a 7-0 run, 23-10. A pair of Coban Porter three-point makes pulled DU within seven points, 27-20, at 8:37. The teams exchanged points until another Coban Porter three-point shot with five minutes remaining in the half narrowed the margin to five, 32-27. Denver used Tevin Smith’s free throws, a dunk by Smith and a KJ Hunt breakaway field goal at 2:11 to pull DU within two, 35-33, forcing the Eagles to call timeout. Another Coban Porter three-point make and foul shot pulled Denver within one and a KJ Hunt layup and foul shot made the score 40-40 with 37 seconds remaining. A bucket by Francis Lacis with ten seconds left gave ORU the lead 42-40 with ten seconds and a called timeout by Coach Wulbrun. In the waning seconds of the first half, Hunt drove and was fouled, making a single free throw, 42-41 ORU.
At 18:39, Tevin Smith hit two free throws to give Denver their first lead of the half, 46-45. ORU regained the lead but a Tevin Smith jumper put DU up once again 53-51. Hard-charging ORU countered yet again, 59-53, capped by an Issac McBride layup with 15 minutes remaining. DU came storming back, topped by a Jordan Johnson twisting layup which pulled Denver within two, 59-57. ORU went on another scoring burst and led by nine, 71-62. Two Coban Porter three’s and a Jordan Johnson three collapsed the lead to two, 76-74 at 2:31. A four-point play by Trey Phipps put ORU up by 6 and a DeShang Weaver three-point shot gave the visitors a 9 point lead with 1:36 remaining. ORU spent the rest of the game at the free-throw line and held on to the final margin of victory. Final score, 89-80, ORU.
Denver played a clean game with only 8 turnovers. ORU led on the boards 38-31 and outshot DU from the field 50.0% to 45.6%. ORU nailed two more trays than Denver. DU’s three freshmen stole the spotlight. Coban Porter had 26 points and 3 rebounds while Tevin Smith delivered 20 points and 3 rebounds. Touko Tainamo had 4 points and 9 rebounds against a solid ORU front line. Sophomore Jordan Johnson finished with 18 points in the loss. All things considered, the Pioneers are playing some of their best basketball now, especially their young core but Denver is currently not up to Oral Roberts level of play yet.
Next up for Denver is a two-game swing to play North Dakota and Noth Dakota state Thursday and Saturday respectively.