Denver (12-9, 3-5 Summit League) used an explosive second half to down South Dakota (8-11, 3-4 Summit League) Thursday night in Vermillion, South Dakota. The Denver squad used hot shooting, rebounding dominance, team defense and a healthy Tevin Smith to spur the convincing road win. This was the team many fans expected when conference play began. The win marks Denver’s second consecutive conference win, their first on the road this season. Said head coach Jeff Wulbrun after the game, “Anytime you get a road ‘W’, it is a great thing”.
The Coyotes worked out to an early 10-5 lead but a three-point make by Tommy Bruner closed the gap, 10-8. Denver trailed by the same amount with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, 16-14 after a scoreless three minutes. A Pedro Lopez-Sanvicente layup knotted the score 16-16. A slick Justin Mullins steal and flush put DU up 21-18 with under six minutes remaining. The teams were tied at 3:56 when Marco Lukic hit a twisting lay-up and was fouled to put Denver up by three. A Tevin Smith three at 1:25 kept Denver up by three. The Yotes countered with a bucket of their own in the final minute and the first half ended with Denver leading 31-30. Denver held Coyotes to 37% shooting and Tommy Brunner led DU with 10 points. A.J. Plitzuweit led the Yotes with 8 points and SDU’s leading scorer, Kruz Perrott-Hunt was held to three points.
The teams traded buckets to open the half and the teams were knotted 40-40 five minutes into the second half. A Tevin Smith three-point bucket and a pair of free throws gave Denver a 48-42 lead with 13 minutes remaining as Pioneer shooting heated up from the field and behind the arc. Tyree Corbett hit a fall-away to give Denver an 8-point edge. Tevin Smith gave DU a 10-point lead, 52-42, with a double-pump lay-up and USD timeout at 11:27. Denver led by nine at the halfway mark of the half, 55-46. Up to that point, Denver held the Coyotes to 5 of 22 from three-point range as the Coyotes went stone cold and Denver owned the boards. A pair of Touko Tainamo free throws put DU up by 11 with eight minutes remaining. Denver took their lead to 15 points with a pair to free throws by Lukic and an alley-oop layin by Marko. A Tommy Bruner bomb offset a USD three-point make and DU built on the Pioneer lead, 68-51 with under five minutes remaining. Denver played solid defense down the stretch and ran the clock with a final score 75-60, DU.
This was a complete team win with Marko Lukic (15 points), Tommy Bruner (13 points, 7 assists) and Touko Tainamo (8 points, 7 rebounds) all contributing in a big way. Tevin Smith is rounding into form with 20 points and created havoc on the defensive end. Finally, the three-point line was good to Denver (9/16) and bad for the Coyotes (8/29). USD was averaging almost 40% shooting from behind the arc heading into the game. Denver out-rebounded the Coyotes 31 to 20.
“The goal (heading into the game) was to eliminate threes,” said Wulbrun. “I challenged them (his players) on the defensive end. They worked hard this week. Three great days of preparation. I asked them to fight for 40 minutes and fight for every possession.” And the reason for the dominant offensive performance? “A great overall effort. There was an intent to move the ball and hit the open man. They turned down good shots for great shots.”