Denver (8-2) went to Sacramento (4-5) with revenge on their minds following a 73-69 defeat at Hamilton Gym several weeks earlier to the same team. The Hornets 7’1″ Callum McRae had a field day with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and a block in Denver. While Wednesday night’s game could have gone either way, it was Sac State’s Zach Chappel who nailed 24 points, hit a jumper with 5 seconds left to send the game to overtime and scored the driving layup dagger with 1.6 seconds left in OT to cement the win for the Hornets.
Denver started the game with an 8-0 run in The Nest before the media timeout. At 6 minutes into the first half, the Hornets got their first points, 10-2. A Touko Tainamo bucket put Denver up 20-11 at the midway mark. The Hornets came back, capped by a Hunter Marks jam, narrowing the spread to two, 20-18. Denver had a spurt and led 27-20 with five minutes remaining in the half following a Tyree Corbett putback. The Hornets got their first lead, 28-27, as DU went ice cold from the field with a pair of turnovers. Akol Mawein three-point make, 15 points in the half, gave Sac State a 33-31 lead with 16 seconds left. Tommy Bruner knotted the game with a drive down the lane as time expired, 33-33. Denver shot 1-7 from long range but held a 7 rebound advantage on the Hornets. Lukas Kisunas led DU with 8 points and 4 rebounds in the half.
The teams traded buckets at the start of the second half. A Kisunas basket in the paint five minutes in gave DU the lead, 45-44. Denver trailed 50-47 at the media timeout at 11:49. Denver went ice cold from the field again and went down by ten, 57-47. Kisunas stopped the bleeding with a 3-point play followed by a Justin Mullens putback with 8 minutes to go to trail by five points. Two Bruner free throws took the lead down to four at 4:29. Bruner took over the game with a 3-point shot and tied the game, 67 all, with 2:09 left. An alley-oop from Bruner to Mullens gave DU the lead 69-67 with 1:32 remaining. Tyree Corbett went to the line with 28 seconds left and put DU up by four. A Mullen foul resulted in two free throw makes by the Hornets. Marko Lukic missed a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left and Sac State’s Zach Chappel tied the score to send the game to OT, 71-71.
The teams exchanged leads and were tied at 2:40 when Tyree Corbett countered with a hook to give Denver the lead. Sac State’s Hunter Markes hit a three from the corner and was fouled and hit one for a four-point play. Bruner was fouled on a 3-point shot attempt and went to the line for three charity tosses to pull Denver within one with 1:04. Tainamo tied the game at 85-85 with a three-point make from the corner. Sac State ran the clock for the final shot and a Zach Chappel lay-up with 1.6 seconds left gave the Hornets the lead for good. . A mid-court shot by Lukic caromed off the rim, 87-85 Hornets.
Following the game, head coach Jeff Wulbrun said, “I was proud of their effort. I liked our fire and intent. We kept competing. We (need to) stay together.” However, there were takeaways as well from the two-game sweep at the hands of Sacramento State, “We lost our identity a little bit. We made some mistakes. We’ve prided ourselves on being efficient. We forced some shots. We’ll use it and grow from it (the loss).”