Denver men’s basketball (12-9, 3-5) traveled to Brookings, S.D. to take on perennial Summit League power South Dakota State Jackrabbits (10-9, 5-2). Going into the game, Denver had to hold down the Jacks star guard Zeke Mayo, the Jackrabbits leading scorer and rebounder. Mayo torched DU in the first half but it was a poor final ten minutes that doomed the Pioneers, 76-61. Following the loss, Coach Jeff Wulbrun said, “We didn’t perform the way we wanted to. The last minutes we didn’t execute well.”
SDSU started with the first six points but Denver countered with an 8-point run. The Jax made it 24-16 with 5 out of 6 from three-point range by Zeke Mayo who had 17 points in the first dozen minutes. A Justin Mullins three-point splash pulled DU within six, 26-20. A Mullins steal and Kisunus dunk pulled Denver within four. Mullins again with a bucket-and-one kept DU within a single possession. With under three minutes remaining, Tommy Bruner gave Denver a 30-28 lead. Mayo countered with yet another three-point make to give SDSU the lead again but Tevin Smith tied the game at 34. Mayo’s seventh three-point make gave the halftime lead to the Jacks, 37-34, with thirty seconds left remaining, Twenty-three points from Mayo in the half was the difference. Lukas Kisunas led DU with 12 points in the first 20 minutes.
Denver got first blood, 37-36, after the break and the Pioneers took the lead 38-37 early in the second half. Touko Tainamo made it 40-37 with an offensive rebound and putback. DU led 42-41 at the first official timeout. SDSU went on a run to lead by three but Marko Lukic tied the game. A Touko Tainamo 3-point at 13:42 gave DU the lead by three. The game was tied with 12 minutes remaining. Bruner gave DU the lead 52-50 at 10:10 but SDSU countered to match DU with nine minutes remaining and then, went on a five-point run, 57-52, with 8:11 remaining. Kisunas scored a contested bucket to pull within three at 7:33 but SDSU went on a run and stretched the lead to seven with 4:50 remaining. Down the stretch, Denver could only score 5 points to the Jacks 13 points as SDSU ran away with the game. Final score, 76-61.
“I’ve got a resilient bunch,” said Wulbrun. “We’ll come to practice Monday ready to make more improvements.”
2 thoughts on “South Dakota State Dominates Down the Stretch, 76-61”
At this point in the season, the Pios are what their record says they are — a mediocre mid-major basketball team. With a few exceptions, they have beaten the sub-250 Ken-Pom teams they are supposed to beat. And as mediocrity expects, they have also typically lost to those better programs above 250.
All in all, this is a big upgrade for Denver from the horrendously bad team they were when Billups left a couple of years ago. There is a still a chance this DU team can get hot still and make some Summit tourney noise, which we all hope for, but my expectations are tempered — I think they will finish about .500 on the year, which is progress.
PROS: They play hard and they play for each other. There is good speed on the floor, and more size, which helps. They can get to the paint which Billups’ teams struggled to do, and the current team typically shoots pretty well from the field at 50% or so, and they usually rebound well, too. Tevin Smith, Tyree Corbett, Justin Mullins, Lukas Kasunis, Marko Luckic Tommy Bruner and Tuoko Tainamo are all legit D-I basketball players.
CONS: While there is certainly some talent at DU, there but the depth falls off fairly quick after spot 7. Without Porter this year, they really don’t have reliable three-point shooting and it’s very hard to be a winning program today without it. Turnovers, defensive intensity and free throws are still an adventure, too. I think the coaches have some work to do to get all four of those areas up to D-I standards.
Given the reality of the portal today, DU ‘s challenge will be to mitigate transfer losses and continue to bring in experienced guys to fill the holes and coach them up, blending in some HS recruits and hoping they stay here long enough to develop.
Swami, I don’t like your analysis at all.You say they are a “mediocre Mid Major” team, but then say they have all this work to do to get up to D-1 standards. You also say they’re a team that “shoots pretty well from the field at 50% or so.” Well I will tell you that they rank 7th in the country in Division 1 in field goal percentage. And only 7 teams shoot above 50%. 345 Division 1 teams shoot worse!! That is remarkable period, and even more so given that this is Coach W/s second year. You talk about tempering expectations?? What the heck were your expectations? This program sucked less than two years ago. They were the worst of the worst. This coaching staff came in and brought in players who have taken us to a mid major level that is competitive. Why in heaven’s name would anyone expect more than that in the competitive world of college basketball? This has been a GREAT season. We have a chance to finish .500 or higher. We have a chance to make some noise in the conference torumanamet. How could any reasonable person associated with University of Denver men’s basketball expect any more?