Denver men’s basketball (9-16, 5-7) traveled to frigid Grand Forks Thursday to play the North Dakota Fighting Hawks (4-20, 0-11) Grand Forks had heated up from -25 to a balmy -5 at tipoff. The Hawks resided in the cellar of the Summit League and Denver had a chance to secure a conference sweep. DU’s Tevin Smith was out of the game under the Covid protocol and UND was on an eleven game losing skid. Something had to give and it was the late charging Pioneers who took the game in OT, 81-79 in an unlikely comeback win.
Cold shooting in the first half hurt the Pioneers who trailed 18-13 midway through the half. Denver fell behind by 11 but came back on the Fighting Hawks with nine straight points to capped by a Mikey Henn layup, 30-28, with 1:29 remaining. UND’s Paul Brun finished the half with a three-point make, 36-30, Fighting Hawks. Denver shot 38% and UND canned seven three-point makes to build a six-point margin at half.
Two quick buckets by UND gave the Fighting Hawks a ten-point lead to start the second half before KJ Hunt stopped the run. Five more threes ballooned the UND lead to 59-40 at 12:15 as the Fighting Hawks took full control of the game. UND held a comfortable 15 point margin with 8 minutes to go while Denver was unable to make a scoring run. Then, suddenly, the Pioneers came alive. A Jordan Johnson bucket with 5 minutes remaining closed the margin to 12 points. A Tristan Green layup with four minutes to go pulled DU within 8 points, 66-58. A Coban Porter three pulled DU within 6 at 2:50. A Tristan Green Free throw and KJ Hunt layup made it 69-67, Fighting Hawks. Denver got the ball with 31 seconds remaining, 70-68, with a chance to tie or win. KJ Hunt tied the game with 14 seconds left with his 30th point of the game. Denver got the ball back but Hunt missed the three-point attempt as time expired, 70-70.
In OT Denver scored five straight points but UND tied it up 75-75. A Coban Porter bucket put DU up by 2. Four free throw makes by JJ Hunt and Jordan Johnson sealed the game as UND’s Paul Bruns attempted three-point shot missed the mark. Final score – DU 81, UND 79.
DU overcame 15 UND threes and shot 47% for the game. KJ Hunt finished with 32 points.
Next up for Denver, a trip to Fargo to play North Dakota State on Saturday at 12:00 pm MT.