Second Half Surge Pushes NDSU Past DU in Summit League Tournament

Back in October, DU’s senior transfer KJ Hunt talked to the Denver Post about winning an NCAA bid for DU. “It’s not impossible. At all.” A 30-10 outburst by the NDSU Bison broke a tie in the final ten minutes of the Summit League quarterfinal game and ended those dreams. Denver led at halftime 35-32 but the Bison depth finished off the pesky Pioneers, 82-62. While the game was much closer than the final score would indicate, NDSU clearly had the better, deeper team. Denver still has much work to do before they can take the next step in their evolution under head coach Jeff Wulbrun, associate head coach Brandon Dunston and assistant coach Rob Zewe.

Underdog #7 Denver men’s basketball  (11-21, 7-12) faced #2 North Dakota State University (22-9, 14-5) in the first round of the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota Saturday night. Heading into the game, the Pioneers had dropped six straight to the Bison, dating back to Denver’s last win on 2/10/18 and were 8.5 point underdogs on the night.

Denver shot 51.7% in the first half and was led by Hunt’s 13 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists as Denver went into the break leading by 3. The teams were even on turnovers with five in the first 20 minutes. NDSU’s Rocky Kreuser was the only double-digit scorer for NDSU with 12 points to keep pace with the Pioneers. Denver led in rebounds, 16-13.

KJ Hunt did his part with this monster slam:

Denver held the lead through the second half until the Bison tied the score with 9:53 remaining, 52-52, as part of a 22-0 unanswered run. From that point forward, the Bison finished on a 30-10 run against DU to build a final score of 82-62. Ultimately, NDSU used its depth to take over the game. The statistics said it all as Denver went cold at the free-throw line going 2-10 as fatigue set in and the Bison took over the boards by +7. The Bison canned 15 of 17 charity attempts as they built an insurmountable lead over the final ten minutes and coasted to the win.

Denver men’s basketball certainly surprised skeptics in many ways this season but their lack of depth and experience against a veteran team like NDSU left Denver exposed down the stretch. In order to take the next step, Denver must build more team depth and add more size – both under the basket and on the perimeter. DU could also use a deadly three-point shooter to open up the floor. Next season, DU will be without seniors Mickey Henn, Taelyr Gatlin, Tristan Green, and floor leader KJ Hunt. A solid core of young players are expected to return to include Jordan Johnson and freshmen Coban Porter, Tevin Smith and Touko Tainamo. Denver must add an equally strong class next year in both transfers and high school prospects to take the program to the next level.


Photo: Courtesy The Summit League

4 thoughts on “Second Half Surge Pushes NDSU Past DU in Summit League Tournament”

  1. Definitely bummed that the season is over, but I’m really proud of this team. The difference between last year’s trainwreck and this year’s squad is remarkable. These guys fought hard all year, were fun to watch, clearly had solid leadership and chemistry, starting with Wulbrun, and gave DU hoops fans reason for optimism. A foundation has been laid, and that’s exciting. The next step is to keep building on that, bring in some impact newcomers, and continue this upward trend. Go Pios!

  2. What a difference a year makes! Wulbrun and his staff have done a terrific job and should be able to grow from here.

  3. Made the trip to Sioux Falls to watch the game and the way DU played in the first 30 minutes proved they can compete with anyone in the Summit League. They ran out of gas in the final 10 minutes and had a hard time getting a stop and a basket when they really needed one. I’m impressed by what this group did and hope that in 5 years we’re looking back at this group as the one that changed the course of the program. This season and this game, are big steps forward towards competing at a high level.

    After seeing both games last night, DU was the only team without cheerleaders or a band. This tournament is very Dakotas-centric, but I hope Coach Wulbrun continues to push the school to set this program up to be successful.

  4. There is no DU pep band anymore, in any sport.

    DU killed it due to the expense.

    DU used to send the cheerleaders and band (by van) to Sioux Falls every year for the Summit hoops tourney, but there were often more of them there (30?) than there were were DU fans in the stands…

    This makes me sad.

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