Denver (10-20, 6-11) backed into the Summit League playoffs before Thursday night’s game at St Thomas (9-20, 3-14). The Tommies had already exited stage left along with North Dakota, both missing out on the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls. But the Pioneers desperately needed to stop an end-of-season swoon, losers of 6 of their last 7. The Pioneers looked lethargic the first half, trailing 31-29. But Denver caught fire in the final twenty minutes with 81% shooting from the field and 8 of 9 from beyond the arc as Denver scorched the nets for 62 second-half points in the 91-80 road trip win.
Both teams started slowly with only ten total points in the first five minutes, 6-4, St Thomas. Denver took the lead before the media timeout, 11-9, on a Coban Porter bucket. DU’s Tevin Smith tied the game at the ten-minute mark 14-14. Layups by Brooks Allen and Parker Bjorklund led a Tommies run to a five-point edge, 19-14. A Burt Hedstrom layup kept the margin at five, 21-16, with five minutes remaining. A Coban Porter 3-point make knotted the score 23-23 with 3:06 remaining. The Tommies took the lead again as the teams traded points. A Payton Moore layup with ten seconds remaining pulled Denver within two points, 31-29, as the scoring ended for the half. Denver outshot the Tommies from the field 50% to 38.5% but the undersized Tommies got five more boards than Denver, 16-11, for the difference. Coban Porter paced DU with 8 points and Touko Tainamo secured 6 rebounds in the half.
Denver started the second half on fire, outscoring St Thomas 15-5 during the first five-minute stretch and led 44-36. A Coban Porter layup capped the DU run before the commercial timeout. A Jordan Johnson layup gave DU a nine-point edge, 46-39, with 14 minutes remaining. Brooks Allen and Jordan Johnson traded scoring opportunities until the ten-minute commercial timeout with the Pioneers leading, 54-49. Tevin Smith extended the lead to nine points again at 10:12, 58-49. Both teams continued with red hot shooting as they exchanged points until Coban Porter nailed a 3-point make to take the lead to eleven, 71-59, with under seven minutes to go in the game. Jordan Johnson and Taelyr Gatlin nailed back-to-back threes for a 77-63 lead with five minutes remaining. St Thomas shooting went cold over the next three minutes and a KJ Hunt three-point play with 1:21 remaining iced the game, 87-75. Final score, 91-80.
Denver shot 80.6% from the field in the second half and went 8 of 9 from downtown the final 20 minutes. Denver had five players in double figures. Jordan Johnson and Coban Porter led DU with 18 points each. Touko Tainamo had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. This was a big win for Denver as they stopped a four-game losing streak and head into the final game of the season Saturday afternoon against Western Illinois with a confidence-building road win. Denver now has double-digit wins, their first such season since the 2017-18 campaign.