Denver men’s basketball (11-20, 7-11) concluded the regular season by defeating the Western Illinois Leathernecks (16-14, 7-11) on Saturday afternoon, 83-77, at Macomb, Illinois. With the win, Denver has exceeded all reasonable expectations heading into this season. As the Summit League’s 6th seed with the tiebreaker versus WIU, DU will face North Dakota State in the first round of the Summit League Tournament.
Denver trailed 12-7 the first five minutes of the game. A Touko Tainamo bucket and three-point plays by Jordan Johnson and Coban Porter gave DU the lead, 15-14, at 12:43. A Tristan Green dunk at the midway point of the half gave Denver a 24-19 edge. A KJ Hunt scoring spurt gave the Pioneers a 10 point lead, 29-19, with seven minutes remaining in the half. WIU whittled away Denver’s lead but trailed 36-31 at halftime.
Denver held on in the second half, despite giving up the lead. A Tainamo 3-point make, Taelyr Gatlin free throws and a Jordan Johnson layup kept Denver’s lead at five, 53-47, five minutes into the second half. A George Dixon layup at 9:57 pulled WIU within two, 59-57. WIU took the lead with seven minutes to go on a Luke Barisic 3-point shot but Denver came charging back. A Touko Tainamo layup with five minutes remaining put DU back in the lead by one point. A KJ Hunt bucket along with Taelyr Gatlin free throws and three-point dagger in the final minute held off the Leathernecks down the stretch as Denver’s defense held down the Leathernecks, 83-77.
Touko Tainamo nearly had another double-double with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Coban Porter had 18 points and 4 rebounds and KJ Hunt chipped in with 13 points and 3 rebounds in the win. Denver shot 51% from the floor to WIU’s 43%. Denver had a season-low 6 turnovers.
The Pioneers have a solid freshman core, if they stay together, they can do some big things in the future. Touko Tainamo, Coban Porter and Tevin Smith are big adds for the Pioneers and Jordan Johnson, a junior college transfer, make up a solid core of players going forward. Head Coach Jeff Wulbrun and his staff have done an excellent job with a relatively new squad and a tight recruiting window.
— Jeff Culhane (@jeffculhane) February 26, 2022
Next stop, the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota March 5th-8th.