Denver (13-12, 4-8) has waited all season for a game like Thursday night. A bench-emptying, confidence-building 33-point win. The Pioneers hit on all cylinders to race out to a double-digit lead in the first half. Denver kept the pressure on the visitors for the final 20 minutes to earn a dominant 77-44 win over the Western Illinois Leathernecks (14-9, 7-5) at Hamilton Gym.
Said head coach Jeff Wulbrun after the game, “I was able to tell them (the team) they executed the game plan flawlessly. So proud of the defensive effort. Eighteen assists on the offensive end. It speaks volumes about the guys and their resilience. Things haven’t gone our way. They played with an edge for all forty minutes.”
The key was shutting down the Leatherneck tandem of Trenton Massner and Alec Rossner. The pair were held to 13 points on the night. Denver shot a blistering 52.5% from the field to the Leathernecks 27.1%. For once, Denver came out on the better end of three-point shooting going 9-20 from beyond the arc with only 11 turnovers. Denver had eighteen assists which reflected an overall team effort. DU pounded Western Illinois on the boards, 42/34.
The first half was all Denver and ended 41-22. Denver shot 6/10 from three and 59% from the field. The Leathernecks shot a miserly 29% from the field and 1/7 from beyond the arc. The visitors were out-boarded by 8 caroms. Bruner led Denver’s red-hot first half with 11 points. This was, by far the best 20 minutes of basketball this season and halted a three-game slide.
The second half was more the same as Denver piled on the points. The Leathernecks continued their ice-cold shooting. Lukas Kisunis and Touko Tainamo clogged up the middle and made life difficult for Western Illinois. Tommy Bruner ran a nearly flawless offense and finished with 18 points 4 assists. Kisunas and Tainamo finished with a combined 19 points and 20 rebounds to kill any hope of a Leatherneck comeback.
The Pioneers will get to test their new found good fortune Saturday against St, Thomas at 4:00 pm MT.