It wasn’t an easy win for the Denver Pioneers (9-3) at Hamilton Gym in a trap game sandwiched between UCLA and their first conference test coming up against Omaha on the road. Denver was knotted with Colorado Christian, 38-38, at halftime. In the final 20 minutes, the Pioneers were led by Marko Lukic and freshman Justin Mullins for the win. Mullins finished with 23 points and 4 steals while Lukic finished with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Coach Jeff Wulbrun was relieved and frustrated with parts of the game, especially defense. “We didn’t play our best but a win is a win.”
Denver raced out to a 29-10 lead as the Pioneers hammered Colorado Christian inside and out. But the Cougars were led by Jason Gallant who kept CCU in the game with 20 points in 16 minutes in the first half and never reentered the game. A Gallant 3-point make finished his damage on the night and a DJ McDonald field goal with :01 remaining in the first half pulled the visitors even. The Hamiton Gym crowd was stunned after CCU erased the 19-point lead.
Denver got to the free throw line early and often in the second half, but went 9-17, allowing the Cougars to maintain contact. Tommy Bruner hit a 3-point shot four minutes into the final 20 minutes to put DU up 52-45. The Cougars would not fold. Finally, a Marko Lukic layup and Tommy Bruner 3-point make gave Denver more breathing room, 64-57, as Denver started to wear down the Cougars with ten minutes remaining. A three-pointer by CCU’s Shaylan Woodberry kept the margin at 7 points with five minutes to go. Over the next several minutes, a Mullins dunk and a Lukic 3-point make gave DU a nine-point lead, 81-72, and the Pioneers were coasting. A Marko Lukic steal and dunk capped the night with one minute remaining and the final points of the game, 85-74.
Tommy Bruner played his typical floor general game with 23 points, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 rebounds. Bruner has the ability to keep the offense under control, especially when games get tight late. Lukas Kisunas also ended up in double figures with 13 points and 4 rebounds. The best play of the night did not count as Tyree Corbett posterized CCU on an end-to-end monster dunk and was ticketed with a charge.
— Denver Men's Basketball (@DU_MensHoops) December 15, 2022
On Lukic’s game, coach Wulbrun said, “I just asked him to compete before the game. When you compete, the ball finds you.” However, the Denver defense was leaky and allowed CCU to hang close. “I love our offense (66% FG) but our defense needs some work.”
Next up for DU is the first conference game of the season at Omaha on Monday, December 19th at 6:00 pm MT.