Eight Feels Great – Denver Uses Second Half Surge for Win

Denver men’s basketball (8-1) continues to make history while showing that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Absent two of their best players, Coban Porter (season-ending) and Tevon Smith (unclear), the talent on this season’s squad was on full display Sunday afternoon. Denver needed their deep roster at Hamilton gym and delivered a thrilling  84-75 victory against Texas A&M Commerce (4-5). The score was much closer than the final score indicated and coach Jeff Wulbrun acknowledged his team “gutted out a win in (what felt like) a one-possession game”.

The game went back and forth in the first half and ended, 39-35, with The ‘Merce in the lead. Denver had trouble against the swarming ‘Merce defense and allowed some easy buckets in the paint. Denver was outshot 55% to 42% but stayed close with a 13 rebound advantage. Justin Mullins led the DU scoring with 11 points and Touko Tainamo tallied 8 in the half.  Denver’s leaky defense needed to be shored up at halftime. “It was a grind for 40 minutes. Never at any point did our guys look discouraged, especially on defense, after the first half. We’re not losing our poise”, stated Wulbrun

The game went from fast-pace to electric in the second half as each team was putting out maximum effort. And yes, Hamilton Gym is drawing good crowds that helped to bolster the Pioneers second-half surge.

An excellent Sunday afternoon crowd witnessed the Denver victory.

The second half was all about improved Pioneer defense, especially in the paint. Veterans Tommy Bruner and Tyree Corbett stood tall and faced down the scrappy and aggressive ‘Merce. Marko Lucic came up big in place of the injured Tevin Smith with 14 points and freshman Justin Mullins scored 16 in the physical contest. DU’s big men both were in double figures in scoring but it was their 15 rebounds along with 27 others by their teammates that led Denver, especially in the second half. Texas A&M Commerce kept in the game with 35 bench points to Denver’s 12. Ultimately, it was a thunder dunk with a minute to go from Tyree Corbett that gave Denver some breathing room with a 9-point margin. Then, veteran Tommy Bruner hit free-throw-after-three-throw, eight in a row down the stretch, guiding Denver to their eighth win in nine games.  “Tommy continues to improve. His poise and composure – every game we play is close”, said Wulbrun. “He’s so good late in games. We’re lucky to have him.”

Sunday was the launching pad for what should be an intriguing week where we will learn even more about this team. A unique non-conference home-and-home rematch on the road will give the Pioneers a chance at redemption against Sacramento State (73-69 loss) Wednesday. A road tilt Saturday against UCLA at historic Pauley Pavillion will be another test. DU’s last game against a nationally ranked team, Gonzaga, ended up in a humiliating 101-40 drubbing. Can DU play a competitive game against the PAC-12 powerhouse – not win, mind you. Just compete. That will be another show of progress.

A great crowd. An exciting win. Yes, eight feels great!

6 thoughts on “Eight Feels Great – Denver Uses Second Half Surge for Win”

    1. Dislocated knee. Hopefully out 3-4 weeks only which is great news. Marko Lukic can pick up some of the scoring but we will miss Tevin’s defense.

  1. Tevin Smith injured his knee, but the injury did not require major surgery, as far as I know. I don’t believe it was season- ending like Porter’s ACL, but at least week-to-week. I expect him to get back sometime in the league season?

    This DU team is winning close games down the stretch against other teams around their level, which is around #245-250 in the KenPom. Sac State is about their level but playing at home should make them the favorite vs DU. UCLA is a top 10 team, and playing at home at Pauley Pavillion will almost certainly be well beyond DU capabilities, especially without Smith and Porter.

    If DU can keep the losing margin under 30 points vs UCLA, I’d be very pleased…

    By the way, the post-game video of the little boys skipping down the hall behind the DU team after today’s win bought a nice lump into this old Pio’s throat…


    There is real joy in this program now, and let’s hope this winning continues! This is what college sports is all about!

  2. Wow wow wow! It doesn’t matter that these teams aren’t world-beaters. We lose most of these (and possibly badly) just a couple of years ago. Being able to close the win is super important for the psyche of the team heading into conference play and for the overall culture of the program. I’m very impressed.

    Real test is not UCLA but rather if they can compete in the conference. I think .500 is a possibility and a great goal. Hopefully they are fired up to get revenge on Sac St too.

  3. WooHoo!! Commerce was a very respectable team. They are athletic and well coached. This was a huge win for us. I am really interested in Sac State. They were very competitive against a solid Santa Clara (WCC team) that is 7-2. Santa Clara has wins over Wyoming, Iona, DePaul. And Sac State lost by 7. That will be a very tough game. As for UCLA. Who cares. What will intrigue me is how Bruner holds up against Tiger Campbell. How our bigs rebound against their bigs. Whether anyone can step up and guard Jaime Jacquez, one of the best scorers in the country. Can we guard him at all? Those will be clues to our potential in the Summitt. But boy am I fired up. The crowd was decent. We have to get better and louder. And Puck. Thanks for sharing the video. It was awesome, and you’re right. I brings a lump to the throat.

    1. Aaron, great summary. I just wish we had Tevin Smith for Jaime Jacquez, that would be a war. Hopefully, the rest of the guys can each pick up a little bit of slack.

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