Denver (9-20, 5-11) traveled to Omaha Thursday night to take on the Mavericks (5-22, 4-12). Denver sat in 7th and Omaha in 8th in the Summit League standings. After a poor shooting first half, Denver shot 58% in the second half but collapsed in the waning minutes, allowing Frankie Fidler to score all 11 Mavs points in the final 1:29 at Baxter Arena. Denver has dropped six of their last seven games.
Both teams started with miserable shooting with the first three points by Omaha. Denver went 1-10 from the field with Touko Tainamo finally finding the net, 8-3 Omaha. It took until 13:30 before Tevin Smith added to the Denver scoreline with DU trailing Omaha 10-5. A Jordan Johnson tray at 10:46 left DU trailing by four, 16-12. Led by Darius Hughes, the Mavs started to build on their lead and led at the next media timeout, 22-14, at 8:16. A KJ Hunt jumper at 4:51 pulled DU closer, 22-16. A three-pointer by Touko Tainamo, a KJ Hunt bucket and a Coban Porter layup gave Denver a 6-point run to pull within two points with 2:39 remaining in the half, 25-23. Cold Denver shooting down the stretch left DU trailing at the break, 29-23. Tainamo had a solid first half with 6 points and 7 rebounds for Denver but his output could not overcome miserable team shooting of 30% from the field and 3 of 12 from downtown.
Coban Porter and KJ Hunt threes pulled the game even, 29-29, and a Mikley Henn layup gave DU their first lead on an 8-0 run in the first 90 seconds of the second half. Denver had a five-point lead five minutes into the second half but Omaha countered with a six-point run of their own to take the lead, 45-44, at the media break. With ten minutes to go, a pair of Frankie Fidler free throws gave Omaha a 47-44 lead. Taelyr Gatlin took over with a basket, a steal and two free throws to trigger a short Pioneer scoring run but back-to-back threes by Nick Ferrarini and Felix Lemetti pulled the Mavs ahead by two. The teams traded buckets until Derrin Hansen, Omaha’s head coach, was called for a technical on a three-point attempt and foul on Coban Porter which resulted in a 60-56 Pioneer lead. Denver took a 64-61 lead under five minutes and a Coban Porter three-point shot gave DU a 67-61 lead at 4:18. A Tainamo bucket gave DU an 8-point lead with 1:43 remaining and a media timeout. The collapse began over the final 1:29 of the game. Two Fidler layups and a three-point make pulled Omaha even, 69-69. Following a KJ Hunt layup miss with 12 seconds remaining, Fidler fired home a 3-point make at the buzzer, 72-69, Omaha.
Fidler finished with 21 points. Hunt and Porter finished with 16 points each for Denver. The Pioneers must live with this result for a week when they travel to St Paul to play St Thomas. Denver fans have witnessed all varieties of losses over the last several seasons but this loss adds one more heartbreaking defeat to the ever-expanding list. Ultimately, this was a blown opportunity to seal a tournament berth and avoid a possible eight-seed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where they would be pitted against the undefeated (in conference) Jackrabbits.