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Pioneers Down Southern Utah in First Road Win

 

December 11, 2018

CEDAR CITY – The University of Denver women's basketball team won 71-70 in a back-and-forth game against Southern Utah on Saturday afternoon. With the win, Denver improves to 7-2 on the season.

Denver led by as many as 14 points with just under three minutes to play in the game but Southern Utah ripped off a 14-3 run to take a one-point lead with 28 seconds to play. On the ensuing possession Grace White was fouled and got sent to the line where she hit on both attempts to put Denver up 71-70. Southern Utah had one last chance but solid defense from the Pioneers forced a wild attempt from Breanu Reid that bounded over the backboard to seal the win.

Madison Nelson led the team with 20 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block. The double-double is Nelson's fourth of the season and fifth in her career. Claire Gritt finished with 11 points, five boards and two assists. The sophomore guard also went 2-of-2 from the charity stripe.

Southern Utah opened the game with a 4-0 stretch while forcing two Denver turnovers in the first three minutes of the game. DU got on the board at the 6:58 mark of the first quarter after Courtney Smith's layup, making the score 4-2. The squads traded buckets over the next two minutes but a three-pointer from Gritt gave the Pioneers their first lead at 9-8 with just under four minutes to go in the first.

Over the final few minutes of the quarter the teams traded baskets and DU was able to dodge a last-second jumper to hold the two-point lead after ten minutes of play.

The Pioneers' sloppy play continued in the early going of the second quarter, committing three turnovers in the first five minutes. Southern Utah took full advantage of the opportunity, ripping off a 7-5 run to tie the game at 26 with 4:26 to play in the half.

Out of the media timeout the Thunderbirds converted on three-straight possessions to regain a three-point lead. Denver answered with a pair of jumpers from Smith and Samantha Romanowski on back-to-back possessions to regain a two-point lead but four free throws from Southern Utah sent the Thunderbirds to the locker room with a two-point lead. Denver turned it over 12 times in the first half while shooting just 13-of-34 from the floor.

The chaotic play lasted into the beginning of the second half with Denver hitting just two of its first 10 attempts in the quarter. The teams continued to struggle from the floor, combining for only 11 points prior to the media break.

Following the break the Pioneers ripped off a 5-0 run to regain the lead for the first time since the 5:25 mark of the second quarter, forcing a Southern Utah timeout. DU and the Thunderbirds traded baskets over the final three minutes of the quarter as Denver held a three-point lead after three periods.

The Crimson and Gold exploded out of the break, going on a 6-2 run to push the lead to seven, their largest of the contest. After an offensive foul on Southern Utah, Nelson nailed a three to give Denver a double-digit lead with 6:42 to play.

Following a Jim Turgeon timeout the Thunderbirds cut the deficit to seven thanks to a three-point basket from Harley Hansen with 6:10 remaining. DU responded with a 7-2 run to make it a 12-point game with just under four minutes to play. Trailing by 12 with 2:30 to play, Southern Utah ripped off a 14-2 run, cutting the Denver lead to one with just over a minute left in the game. During the stretch Rebecca Cardenas hit four straight baskets, including two from downtown.

On the ensuing possession Nelson hit one-of-two from the line to make it 69-67 with 35 seconds to play. After a timeout by SUU head coach Tracy Sanders, Cardenas hit from distance yet again to thrust the Thunderbirds into the lead.

Denver had the ball with 35 seconds to play and went to White who was fouled and hit both free throws to regain the one-point lead for DU. With 17 seconds left on the clock, Southern Utah turned to Cardenas who lost control of the ball. Reid corralled the lose ball and forced up the potential game-winner with Denver defenders draped all over her.

Next up: Denver will return to the court on Tuesday when the team travels to New Mexico State to take on the Aggies at 6:00 pm.

 

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