Bad First Half Dooms Pioneers in 81-71 Loss at St. Thomas

After a poor first half showing, the Pios men’s basketball team made a gallant second half run, but the hole was just too big and DU ultimately fell, 81—71 to St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minn., in a game where the Pioneers never led after the first minute.

The win dropped the Pioneers to 10-7 on the season and to 1-3 in Summit League Play, while the Tommies ran their overall record to 11-6 on the season.

The Pioneers fell behind early due to poor shooting (just 38%) in the first half and played some porous defense, allowing the Tommies to shoot nearly 60% in the first half. The Tommies’ lead grew to 22 at halftime and as high as 26 points in the early second half (55-29 with 17:10 left), as DU had no defensive answers for St. Thomas’ crisp ball movement and dead-eye shooting.

However, as the second half moved along, Denver dug-in on defense and the Tommies’ shooting went cold for a while, allowing DU to make a second half run. The Pioneers shot 58% in the second half to cut the Tommies’ lead to just eight points, 76-68 with 1:12 left, but the cushion was too big and DU could just not get any closer, falling by 10 in the end, 81-71.

STU’s Parker Bjorklund led all scorers with 26 points, and adding four rebounds and two blocked shots as STU’s top performer, assisted by a pair of 16-point Tommie shooting performances from Andrew Rohde and Riley Miller in the home victory.

With St. Thomas doubling up defensively DU’s leading scorer Tommy Bruner early, Tyree Corbett took up the slack and led the Pioneers with a terrific double-double performance of 19 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, including six  rebounds on the offensive glass.  Bruner finished hard with 18 points, and Lukas Kisunas chipped-in with 10 points for Denver.

DU’s Tevin Smith continues to struggle post injury, and scored only five points, but it should also be noted that Pedro Lopez Sanvincente scored a season-high five points in a season-high 13 minutes of playing time, a good sign for Denver. Finally, seldom-used senior Javonni Bickham was able to hit his only shot attempt in front of family and friends from Minnesota, which was a nice moment for him.

DU won the field goal shooting battle 48% to 46%, and the rebounding battle 33-29, but the Tommies hit eight three pointers, to DU’s three, and won the free throw battle, making 19-of-22, with DU making 16-of -20.  St. Thomas also turned the Pioneers over 14 times to just nine TOs for Denver.  The game marked the first-ever men’s basketball loss by the Pioneers to St. Thomas.

DU now travels to Macomb, Ill. to face Western Illinois on Jan. 7 at 1 pm MT.

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