Denver Falls in Disappointing Loss to South Dakota

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 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.

6 thoughts on “Denver Falls in Disappointing Loss to South Dakota”

  1. Taelyr thanks for your efforts! You could’ve left after Billups but stayed a Pio! All the best to you & your bright future Tay!

  2. Thank you for your efforts Tay! You could’ve left after Billups but stayed a Pio. All the best in your bright guture young man!

  3. Very disappointing loss. I really had hoped DU could find a way to win this one, the last home game of the regular season, and get to double-digit wins. Pios just didn’t do enough late in the game to get the job done.

    Once again, they played a very competitive first half. It was 39-37 at the half. DU did some good things in the second half as well, but as the game wore one, they had trouble creating space and getting open shots. Especially late in the game, it seemed most of DU’s shots were contested, at least the ones on the perimeter. Conversely, SD did a good job getting open shots and making them when they needed to. I also thought SD did a better job getting to the paint most of the game. And they made their FTs down the stretch when it mattered. Overall, they are a solid team, a bit more athletic than DU, and they seemed to have more jump late. Archambault, in particular, played very well for SD. Still, that’s a game DU could have won.

    KJ played his tail off. He really tried to make some things happen late, but again, SD did a good job defending and forcing DU to take some tough shots. And I certainly agree with the previous poster–thank you, Taelyr Gatlin, for sticking around and being a leader for this team!!

    Pios sit in 7th place currently in the Summit. Is there a scenario in which they wouldn’t qualify for the conference tournament? They need to win one more game?

  4. Omaha is two games back and St Thomas and North Dakota are three back with three games to go for DU. It would be hard for DU to miss out on the tournament but they do not want to fall to 8th and face SDSU in the first round at Sioux Falls. Denver has played 9 conference games, Omaha 8, St Thomas 7 and North Dakota 6. Not sure if they will make-up games but this could be problematic for DU if they schedule make-up games and DU does not get a win or two over Omaha and/or St Thomas.

  5. Earlier in the season KJ Hunt was listed as a Junior in the program. Did he reclassify? Regardless, he’s been huge for DU this season.

    I have been so impressed with Taelyr Gatlin this season. He could have easily checked out, but he’s been a leader in many aspects. Very impressed by the character he’s shown.

    The same can be said for Tristan Green, who has seen his playing time go up and down all year, but I’m impressed by his willingness to stick with it through the hard times.

    Michael Henn seems like the kind of guy who can impact a program’s culture. Let’s hope he left a lasting imprint on DU in his time here.

    This last loss was a disappointing one, for sure, but the overall improvement has been big this season. I think, given the right matchup and if the Pios have a full roster they could surprise someone in the first roung. So much so that I took a flyer on the Pios and booked a flight to SD to catch them in the Summit League Tournament. Sioux Falls, here I come!

  6. Gsmith, looking to your tournament comments. If we had defeated Omaha tonight, we probably finish 7th. Now that is iffy. We can’t compete against SDSU.

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