#19 UCLA Dumps Denver, 87-64

Well at least DU beat the spread…

The Denver Pioneers (8-3) were huge 26-point underdogs going to Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles to play the #19th ranked UCLA Bruins (8-2).  

And DU lost by only 23, as UCLA romped in the second half to an easy 87-64 victory over Denver.

The Pioneers, without their two best players (Tevin Smith and Coban Porter) due to injuries, had a game plan to slow down UCLA, and for a while, it semi-worked.  DU tried to get the ball into the paint, and if nothing materialized, they would only shoot three-pointers on kick-outs.  DU was able to hang with the Bruins by outshooting the Bruins 57% to 49%, and out-rebounding the Bruins, 17-12 in the first half, with the Bruins leading by just nine at the break, 44-35. And for the Pioneer fans watching, there was a small hope that Denver could make a closer game of it in the second half.

Alas, it was not to be…

In the second half, the bigger, deeper and far more athletic Bruins buckled down and turned up the defensive pressure by pressing the Pioneers. This forced Denver to go pointless for the first six minutes of the second half, and the UCLA rout was on, blowing the game open and pushing the Bruin lead to as high as 32 points, as they led 74-42 with eight minutes to go. It was showtime in LA, and Pioneer fans could only look away.

Denver had no real answers to defend UCLA’s Jalen Clark (who shot 10-14 with 24 points) and Jai Jacquez (18 points) who led all scorers in the contest.

The Pioneers can hang their heads high, though.  Besides beating the spread,  the Pioneers actually shot a game-high 50% from the field – better than UCLA’s 48%, with Tuoko Tainamo’s 16 points, Justin Mullins’ 14 points and Tommy Bruner’s 10 points leading the way for the Pioneers. DU also outshot UCLA in three point FG percentage, going 42% to just 24%.  DU also won the free throw battle, 13-5.

But the big, hairy, audacious stat of the day was turnovers, with Denver committing a season-high 24 turnovers, largely as a result of the quick-handed Bruins, who registered 11 steals.  As a result, UCLA scored 31 points off those turnovers to blow the game wide open and the result was never in doubt.

Denver fell to 8-3 on the season and will return to Denver’s Hamilton Gym to take out their frustrations on Colorado Christian, an NCAA Division II school on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

5 thoughts on “#19 UCLA Dumps Denver, 87-64”

  1. Pios battled in this one. UCLA is really good, a legit top-20 team, but DU put forth a valiant effort and was not embarrassed out there. Proud of this team. It’s impossible to overstate the strides Wulburn and this program have made and will continue to make. It’s really impressive and very exciting.

  2. Some random thoughts:

    1) Very glad DU played this game – we learned a lot. It’s a great yardstick to measure where the DU program is relative to a true national contender. DU is #245 in KenPom and UCLA is #7. A 23-point game score difference is solid reality. DU is already 115 spots higher nationally that they were when Wulbrun took over the program, and I believe there is potential to grow at least another 150-180 spots. DU’s highest Ken Pom ranking was #65 back in 2012-2013 (the rankings began in 2000).

    2) Great move by Coach Wulbrun to get every Pio on the trip into the game near the end so they all can all show their grandkids the boxscore. There is a very small list of people who can say they played UCLA at Pauley Pavillion.

    3) The hand speed of the UCLA players to create turnovers was beyond the Pios ability to control for it. It’s a key difference between the four-star recruits UCLA gets and the two star guys that the Pios get. UCLA clearly knew the Pios were susceptible to turnovers, and they pressed to create them — DU just could not really adjust to it.

    4) UCLA also often doubled on Bruner and the Pios’ offensive plans were often stymied.

    5) Good to see DU rallying LA area alums to attend the game.

  3. That was a heck of an effort. I too am glad they played this game. Let’s not kid ourselves. We are not a national level program yet, and we won’t be unless some things change for the better. The admin will have to get totally behind this program and fund it properly. We will also need to create a real home court advantage with real marketing. We will also need to get into the NIL game. Its going to cost money, but if we want to move up with the big guys, we will have to make the commitment. This UCLA game showed our bigs are solid. Bruner was good. UCLA turned us over a ton, but that is partly due to our first exposure to that kind of quickness. We would do much better a second time around. The game was a bit too fast for us, but that is expected. On a neutral floor can we play with UCLA? Perhaps. We can rebound with them. We can defend them. Those are all good signs for Summitt play. Last year the physical nature of the Summitt hurt us. It appears we have solved that. We can defend anyone in the Summitt. Offensively, we can win in low scoring games and score enough for high scoring games. I’m excited about our prospects. WE need Tevin back, obviously. We can all play “what it” with Porter. But the bottom line is things are looking up. We will still have our ups and downs obviously. But the future looks bright.

  4. UCLA really did their scouting. They doubled up Bruner and put on a full-court press to disrupt DU, force turnovers and put DU on their back foot. Great experience for the team. I was in LA and it was great to see alums and student families at the game. Big-time game day environment. Loved Wulbrun’s postgame interview- always teaching and and not looking for ‘moral victories”.

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