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.