Denver (15-17, 6-13) lost guard Tevin Smith before the game due to a wrist injury and the short-handed Pioneer bench went scoreless in an 83-68 loss at the Summit League Tournament. The Fighting Hawks canned nine of eighteen 3-point shots (13-36 for the game) in the second half and punished the exhausted Pioneers. The loss ends DU’s season.DU went into halftime, trailing 31-27 to the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. While the teams traded points and lead for much of the half, it was Matt Norman’s 11 points, nine from downtown, and 10 points from Brady Daniels who guided UND to the 4-point halftime advantage.
Denver had eight first-half turnovers and sorely missed the injured Tevin Smith. Lukas Kisunas kept DU in the game with 14 points. The Hawks, employing a new offensive strategy as the season progressed, launched eighteen 3-point shots in the first 20 minutes, making four, while DU scored one of four shots from beyond the arc in the half.
Justin Mullins gave DU their first lead of the half, 38-37, but the Pioneers went into the official timeout trailing, 40-38. It was the Matt Norman show as the Hawks scored 8 straight points to build a 48-40 lead with 13:10 remaining. Denver trailed at the midway point following a Tommy Bruner Layup, 54-49. The Fighting Hawks kept shooting from distance to build a 59-49 lead. DU’s bench had no points at that point and the Pioneers looked spent. UND kept drilling 3-point shots, nine in the second half, to build a 70-55 lead with 6:12 remaining. Justin Mullins got some steals and buckets to pull Denver within 11 points but it was too late for the shorthanded Pioneers.
The game highlighted the shortcomings of this season’s team. Injuries played a major role with the loss of Coban Porter, Tyree Corbett and Tevin Smith. Denver only had four 3-point makes to the Fighting Hawks’s 13, a nearly insurmountable gap. Lukas Kisunas had a career game with 27 points but that was not nearly enough Friday evening. Ultimately, it was injuries and a lack of depth that spelled defeat and, yet, another post-season without DU men’s basketball.