Denver men’s basketball (9-17, 5-8) had a matinee appointment with North Dakota State (16-8, 8-4) in Fargo, North Dakota Saturday. The Pioneers were coming off a win but a tough North Dakota State team gave the Pioneers fits with their perimeter size in their first meeting at Hamilton Gym – an 87-69 beating.
DU stayed close the first five minutes, trailing 10-8. The Bison pulled away at the midway point of the first half, 23-14. Touko Tainamo scored 5 points and a Mikey Henn bucket helped DU narrow the gap 28-21 with 5:10 remaining in the half. Henn and Jordan Johnson field goals kept the contest close but the Bisons’ Grant Nelson scored the final points with :09 to go into the break, 37-30, NDSU.
The Bison moved to a 13 point lead early in the second half but Denver came storming back behind Coban Ported. DU took the lead at 11:56 as a Porter bucket gave Denver the lead, 47-46. At 10:08 Rocky Kreuser gave NDSU the lead for good on a pair of free throws, 51-49. Hunt and Porter kept the game close ending with a pair of Hunt free throws, pulling DU within two, 59-57, with five minutes remaining. Cold shooting Denver could never close the gap down the stretch, outscored 14 to 7. Final score, NDSU 73, DU 65.
Denver held their own against NDSU despite the absence of Tevin Smith. Porter led DU with 15 points and Hunt, Henn and Johnson wound up in double figures. Rocky Kreuser ended with 23 points and 8 rebounds to lead the Bison.
It won’t get easier from here. Denver hosts South Dakota State and South Dakota at Hamilton Gym this upcoming Thursday and Saturday. SDSU is undefeated in Summit League Play (13-0).