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.
You make the call…#GoPios pic.twitter.com/1qjpsSfRpa
— 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.
6 thoughts on “Mullins & Lukic Lead Denver to 85-74 Win Over CCU”
As Al Davis used to say, “Just win baby!” Guys were ready to play. Raced out to a big lead. Then relaxed. Gave CCU hope and they made the most of it. But we never got rattled. Coach Wulbrun was the epitome of calm and cool. Guys made the plays down the stretch. Bruner continues to come up big at the end. Mullins is great. Bigs are just getting better and better. Can’t wait to see how we look against Omaha, Oregon State, KC, and Oral Roberts. It’s gonna be fun. Never seen a coach so in tune with his players. I’m starting to think we have a real chance to have a real basketball power in the Summitt in the next few years. Got the coach. He’s getting players. Fans are starting to come. Now we need everyone to get on board. How much fun could this be in the years to come?
In post game interview, coach said Tevin Smith should return around New Year’s. Most road league games look like they will be televised for free. Hope that’s correct.
DU’s winning basketball this season has created a new culture of optimism and togetherness that just wasn’t there in the Billups era. It’s great to see, and even if the non-league schedule had its share of very well-frosted cupcakes to help it along, winning is still winning.
Given that UCLA just whipped Maryland on the road with a margin larger than the Bruins’ winning margin over DU at home just days before, the transitive property would suggest that the Pios are now ready for league play.
Now, it is time for DU to step-up and take the new culture into the long winter grind of Summit League competition, where the opponents will be tougher, the travel conditions challenging and the officiating tends toward home cookin’…
I’m very hopeful that Wulbrun has created the needed foundation to get DU basketball to next level – from Summit laggard to Summit contender!
Puck- thanks for keeping real, as always!
It will still take a few more years, IMO. If Tev were healthy, and Porter was good to go, then I would be really optimistic. But a Summitt contender cannot be built in two years. We can not go from being one of the two worst college programs in the country to a contender in two years. That is unrealistic. Let’s get to the middle of the pack now. Let’s contend somewhere down the road in the not too distant future. But again it will take fan support. Admin support. and a little bit of luck.
Hopefully, Tevin makes it back after the first one or two conference games. It would be nice to have him at Omaha but the other players are stepping up. Including Tevin, DU has six double-digit scorers which has to be a first for Denver. The defensive end is where he is missed the most but if it turns into a shootout, I like Denver’s chances agaist Omaha.
Who thought two years ago we could talk about competing against the best in the Summit League without getting laughed out of the room. That is progress!