Denver men’s basketball (3-1) traveled to Pocatello, Idaho to face the Idaho State Bengals (1-3). Poor three-point shooting haunted the Pioneers early this season. The same held true Friday night as Denver went 3 of 16 from behind the arc but only trailed Idaho State by 2 points with six seconds left. Instead of a tie, Denver went for the win from distance. The game-winner was generated from an assist by Tevin Smith to wide-open Tommy Bruner for the win in regulation.
After the game, Coach Jeff Wulbrun said, “I’m proud of my guys. All week long we talked about our will to win. We came back from a deficit. I told the team there was never a time I looked in their eyes and thought they were giving in. We battled – its got to be our DNA. What a springboard. I am happy for our guys. ”
— Denver Men's Basketball (@DU_MensHoops) November 19, 2022
In the first half, the Bengals jumped in front of DU by five points in the first ten minutes as Idaho State’s Jared Rodriquez had a quick 12 points for the home team. Denver clawed back over the next ten minutes. A Lukas Kisunas hook pulled Denver within 1 point at 3:49. Less than a minute later, Tommy Bruner put Denver up 26-24 with Denver’s first make (1-7) from behind the arc. The teams traded buckets the rest of the half with the Pioneers up, 30-28, at the break. Touko Tainamo led the scoring for Denver with 8 points and DU shot 44.4% vs the Bengals 41.7%. Denver forced 9 turnovers leading to 17 of their 30 first-half points.
The second half was a struggle for Denver as the Bengals responded to nearly every Denver surge. Idaho State started the half with a 10-0 run before Justin Mullins put out the fire, 38-32. A Kisunas layup cut the deficit to 4 points as DU started to narrow the Bengal’s lead. Denver kept battling from behind until a Marco Lukic three and Ben Bowen bucket gave DU the lead, 47-46. The teams went ice cold at 53-50 before Tommy Bruner stopped a 4-minute Denver scoring drought. It was rugged road defense that kept the Pioneers within reach of the Bengals. Each team continued to trade points as the clock wound down but Denver could never regain the lead heading into the final minute.
The Denver defense, trailing by 2 points, forced a miss by Idaho State’s Brayden Parker with 8 seconds remaining and Touko Tainamo gathered in the rebound. That is when head coach Jeff Wulbrun called a timeout and went into his Rolodex for a play originally designed for injured Coban Porter. Said Wulbrun, “(On the winning play) Tevin was doubled and made a great read and Tommy was wide open.” The ball left Bruner’s hands from distance before time expired and found net, giving DU a big road win, 70-69. Without a doubt, this is the type of win that should buoy the Pioneers as they are sure to face other late road deficits later in the season.
Next up for Denver is a trip to New Orleans and the MTE Tournament against IUPUI on Wednesday (1:00 pm MT), Thursday The Citadel (1:00 pm MT), and Friday, host New Orleans (1:00 pm MT)