In a season of hope, Denver men’s basketball (9-19, 5-10) delivered a clunker in Hamilton Gym Saturday afternoon. Denver never could stop the University of South Dakota (15-10, 8-6) on the offensive end and they were unable to make timely baskets as the Coyotes cruised to the win on DU’s Senior Day. The only positive was the effort put out by senior Taelyr Gatlin in place of Jordan Johnson (COVID protocol) who left every ounce of effort on the court in the exasperating home finale.
The teams traded points the first five minutes highlighted by a Tristan Green dunk, a Mikey Henn long-range three, and a Taelyr Gatlin layup in traffic, 7-7. Denver went on a little run capped by a KJ Hunt bucket to go up 16-11 but USD tied it up, 16-16 before a Payton Moore stuff at 10:00 minutes put DU up 18-16. Over the next five minutes, Denver went cold from the field and trailed 30-25 at the 4:24 timeout. A Coban Porter bucket and three-point make, a Mikey Henn field goal and a KJ Hunt layup pulled Denver within two, 39-37, at the halftime break. Mason Archambault kept the Yotes in the lead with 12 points. Denver shot a sizzling 68% from the field to USD’s 50%. Eight turnovers hurt the Pioneers who also gave up 16 points in the paint.
USD pulled ahead the second half early, 47-39, before a Mikey Henn bucket stopped the bleeding, 47-41. Several minutes later, a Mikey Henn three pulled Denver within four, 50-46, but a Yotes three-point play by Damani Hayes at 14:17 made it 53-46. KJ Hunt hit two free throws with ten minutes remaining to halt a Yotes run, 62-53, as they started to pull away, especially from long range. Denver made a final run at USD with a pair of Tevin Smith’s free throws to draw DU within six, 70-64, at the five-minute mark. The Coyotes responded quickly with an easy layup by Boogie Anderson. Unfortunately, just like the rest of the game to that point, DU could never get key defensive stops down the stretch. Senior Taelyr Gatlin, playing the last home game of his career, stood out with his effort in the waning minutes but it was not enough, 84-76 USD.
— Denver Men's Basketball (@DU_MensHoops) February 13, 2022
Denver fans hoped to see more from this Denver team in their final home game of the season and, perhaps, it was the COVID protocol loss of Jordan Johnson that hurt Denver on both ends of the floor. KJ Hunt returned from COVID protocol and delivered a team-leading 19 points and 6 rebounds. Coban Porters scored 15 points and secured 3 rebounds in the losing effort. Both Mikey Henn and Tevin Smith finished with double figures on the score sheet. Touko Tainamo had another tough outing as the physical Summit League front lines are taking a toll later in the season.
The winning formula of the top teams in the Summit League is clear. Develop a roster with two big men who can bull their way to the basket and either kick the ball out to their three-point shooters or score at the iron. This formula has been particularly effective against Denver this season and Saturday was no different. Now, Denver is left with three road opportunities to secure one more regular-season win to achieve double-digit wins and qualify for the Summit League Tournament.
Next up for Denver is a trip to Omaha Thursday evening at 6:00 pm MT to play the Omaha Mavericks.