Denver Basketball (9-4, 0-1) traveled to Omaha (5-8, 1-0) to start the Summit League conference regular season. The teams were tied at the half but the Mavericks thoroughly outplayed Denver on both ends of the floor the final 20 minutes. Omaha nailed 6 of 10 three’s in the half, outscored DU 46-29, outrebounded Denver by five and the Pioneers committed 9 turnovers in the second half. The reason for the loss? “A lack of toughness if I’m being honest,” stated a disappointed Jeff Wulbrun.
DU raced out to a 13-4 lead when UNO’s coach Chris Crutchfield called a timeout to regroup. A Justin Mullins dunk and layups by Tommy Bruner and Touko Tainamo led to the early lead. A pair of 3’s by Justin Mullin highlighted another DU run and gave Denver a 25-15 lead at 11:01. Shortly thereafter, Tevin Smith checked in for his first playing minutes after a six-game absence from injury. A Bruner lob to a racing Tyree Corbett and dunk stopped an Omaha run, 33-28, Denver. A Frankie Fiddler 3-point shot drew the Mavs even with Denver for the first time with 14 seconds remaining, 37-37. Following a DU timeout, a Ben Bowen shot missed the mark with time running out in the first half.
DU shot 55.2% for the half to Omaha’s 45.2%. Denver was 4-8 from downtown but was outrebounded by two. Denver only had one free throw in the half, an unusual statistic for a team that relies on interior penetration and scoring in the paint.
The teams traded buckets to open the second half, 43-43. A Justin Mullins three gave Denver a four-point lead, 48-44. UNO’s Luke Jungers back-to-back threes gave Omaha the lead, 52-50, with 11:36 remaining and the Mavs would never relinquish the lead. Omaha went on another run, 57-50, at 9:16 to cap their 11-0 run. Denver trailed by five, 59-54, with a timeout at 7:08. Denver chipped away at the lead and a Bruner jumper reeled the Mavs back within two, 61-59. Then, Omaha went on a run, capped by a JJ White bucket which pushed the Omaha advantage back to 7-points with 4:54 remaining. Junger’s hot hand continued to burn Denver with three-point makes down the stretch as the Mavs built a 12-point lead with 1:45 remaining. DU started to foul at that point and the game was, essentially, over – 83-66 final.
Mullins and Bruner led the Pioneers with 15 points each. The game once again proved that conference road wins will require a full 40 minutes of solid play. Wulbrun identified the major deficiencies after the game, “There are two things. The lack of valuing the basketball – we’re too damn careless. The second is toughness in one-on-one defending.” Tevin Smith returned from injury and saw limited action, 15 minutes, in one of the few bright spots on the night.
Next up Oregon State Wednesday at 8:00 pm MT before the Christmas break.