Denver men’s basketball (13-15, 4-11) traveled to Fargo, North Dakota (11-15, 8-6) Saturday afternoon to take on the Bison. Just like many other games this season, the Pioneers led at halftime but faded down the stretch. DU held Bison star Grant Nelson to 13 points and 11 rebounds but it was Boden Skunberg who sealed the Pioneers fate with 30 points – 18 from downtown. Denver showed improved defense in this game and only had 7 turnovers. However, NDSU hit 10 threes to 5 from DU and shot 52.7% from the floor compared to 47.4% for Denver. That was the difference on the afternoon.
Tommy Bruner opened the scoring for Denver with a make from beyond the arc. The teams were even over the first five minutes until Tevin Smith hit a jumper to put DU up by three, 10-7, five minutes into the game. A jumper by Javonni Bickham and a layup but Justin Mullen gave DU a 7-point lead with nine minutes remaining in the half. Three minutes later, Boden Skunberg sunk a three-point shot to knot the game 20-20. A jumper from Lukas Kisunas put DU in the lead with two minutes to go, 26-24. Denver held the lead until halftime and finished 30-28 at the break, advantage Denver.
Denver had a solid start to the second half, maintaining the lead in the early going. A layup by Touko Tainamo gave DU a five-point lead at 15:49, 41-36. NDSU took a narrow lead over the next five minutes and led by two at the halfway point. Three-pointers by Skunberg and Nelson allowed the Bison to pull away. A Dumar Thomas-Wheeler layup capped the Bison run and gave NDSU a 7-point lead with five minutes remaining. Denver could never close the gap and the game ended, 78-70, Bison.
While the game was an improvement over the North Dakota result on Thursday, DU still struggles to finish off teams in the second half. Tommy Bruner finished with 18 points, Lukas Kisunas with 15 points, and Touko Tainamo with 12 points. The Pioneers showed a much better effort than the prior two losses by Denver on both ends of the floor. Only three games remain at Hamilton Gym before the end of the conference regular season.