Short Handed Denver takes the Big Easy and New Orleans, 77-76

Denver (6-1) went 3-0 in the 2nd Annual Big Easy Classic, finishing off New Orleans (3-3) Friday afternoon without star guard Tevin Smith. It wasn’t easy but this season’s Pioneers do not shy away from solving close games as the Privateers blinked first going down the stretch.

Denver jumped out to a 5-0 lead and a Marko Lukic lay-up put Denver up 9-5 five minutes into the game. A Tommy Bruner three and Touko Tainamo jumper along with a Justin Mullins layup put Denver up 16-5 at the midway point of the first half. With eight minutes to go in the first half, Denver earned their biggest lead of 12 points, 21-9. A pair of K’mani Doughty free throws with two minutes remaining cut the DU lead below double digits, 33-24. New Orleans continued to carve the Pioneer lead to 5 points at the break, 35-30.

Denver started the second half strong, capped by Justin Mullins dunk to take a 39-30 lead. A familiar foe, former DU player Jordan Johnson, brought the Privateers back over the next five minutes with a 3-point play and closed the margin to three, 51-48. DU’s Lukas Kisunas fouled out at 9:35, leaving Touko Tainamo to guard the middle. At 6:31, Justin Mullins scored his 21st point as Denver regained the lead 58-57. Denver held a two-point lead heading into the final five minutes. A layup by UNO’s Tyson Jackson tied the game with a minute to go, 71-71. Six straight free throws by Tommy Bruner and a stingy Pioneer defense held off the Privateers down the stretch. The Pioneers needed every single point as New Orleans’ Khaleb Wilson-Rouse finished with a three-point bucket as time expired, one point short, to secure the  77-76 Denver win.

Denver shot 53.3% for the game to UNO’s 50%. It was Denver’s 19 turnovers that kept the Privateers close but the Pioneers forced 18 miscues. Denver was outrebounded 29-28. Freshman Justin Mullins scored 27 points along with 4 rebounds. Tommy Bruner guided the shorthanded Pioneers down the stretch with 19 points and 5 assists.

Denver has some time now to rest from the three-day, three-game tournament and return to action against Houston Christian Thursday at 7:00 pm MT in Houston. No word yet on Tevin Smith’s injured knee.

7 thoughts on “Short Handed Denver takes the Big Easy and New Orleans, 77-76”

  1. Dunker saw Tevin standing behind the bench in sneakers apparently putting weight on both feet. Crutches on the crowd wall behind him. Crisscross bandage below knee on injured knee. Good sign? Lukic and Mullins stepped up big time. Bruner carried us down the stretch. Hopefully we are crowned tournament champion, but not sure a champion is crowned in a round robin format. Corbett couldn’t get into a smooth rhythm. That often happens after a breakout scoring night. On To Texas and the DG Roundup.

  2. Gutty, character win. Sometimes, you need to grit-out wins on the road, and this DU team is doing just that. Without their two best players, DU did what it needed to win on the final day, dead tired from three games in three days. Shooting 50+ % on the road is no easy task when you are tired, but the Pios are a gritty team that is learning how to win!

    Make no mistake, this was a sloppy game. Giving a team 19 turnovers on the road (as DU did) will usually get you beat. But not today…Because UNO is not a great basketball team…

    What we did see today was freshman Justin Mullins growing up before our eyes — stepping up and playing the game of his young, freshman life with 27 points! That’s important DU for this team, now that it’s missing its two best players in Smith and Porter.

    The reality is that DU may be 6-1, the Pios are playing against some very bad basketball teams so far this season:
    DU WINS:
    IUPUI – #363 in Kenpom (At 1-5, the worst team in the nation right now )
    Idaho – #355 (Terrible team that is 1-5)
    New Orleans – #341 (2-4)
    Idaho State – #328 (1-4)
    Citadel – #271 (3-3)
    Colorado College (A D-III team)

    Our one loss is against Sacramento State (ranked #249) (3-2)

    DU is currently ranked #258 out of 363 teams on Kenpom.

    Long way to go to be ready for league play, but I like what I am seeing so far…

  3. Progress is progress. How about we celebrate the wins and celebrate the achievements of this group. Learning to win is a skill. That is all part of the process. Who cares about KenPom, or Sagarin, or RPI. Let’s celebrate that we have a team that can go into New Orleans, win three games in a row, beat a top Southland Conference team that won 18 games a year ago on their floor, and catch a plane sitting 6-1.It’s hard to win no matter who you play. So why get grumpy now?

  4. Even though they’ve only played weak teams, this is still light years better from where DU basketball was just a short time ago. They seemed like a D-1 squad in name only under Billups. Now there’s nice talent at a variety of positions and the wins are coming.

    Personally I think it’s a good thing that the non-conference schedule is very weak. This team needed the kind of confidence that can only come from actual victories. And they aren’t going to be racking those up against the more competitive schools.

  5. Congrats to Wulbrun and team for this terrific road trip! 6-1 is 6-1. Looking forward to seeing them in person again next Sunday.

  6. 6-1 is a fantastic start and terrific progress from the Billups disaster that frankly didn’t play a tough schedule either. November rankings are meaningless.
    Program still has a ways to go but certainly they should be battling for a top half spot in the summit vs just trying to qualifying for the conference tournament.

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