DENVER, Col. – There’s not really anything that we can say for certain about this IUPUI team. No one is more inconsistent or unpredictable. Sunday afternoon though, that unpredictability played out in their favor. After a lackluster first half that found the Jaguars trailing while scoring just 31 points, they exploded in the second half. Aided by a season-high 21 free throws, IUPUI scored 52 in the second half to beat Denver 83-72.
Darell Combs had his most complete game of the season scoring a team-high 18 points on just 10 shots while adding six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Matt O’Leary and Kellon Thomas each scored 12 points for the Jaguars while Ron Patterson and T.J. Henderson came off the bench to score 11 and 10 points respectively.
In their previous game against Denver, IUPUI was able to get Denver’s center Daniel Amigo into foul trouble leading to him playing just 23 minutes. This time around they weren’t so lucky. Amigo went off for 24 points on 11 shots and seven rebounds. Jake Pemberton played all but two minutes and was Denver’s only other double-figure scorer with 16 points.
It very quickly looked like IUPUI was headed for their third straight lost. They didn’t make a field goal until over four minutes in and trailed by 10 just past the 15 minute mark. Patterson got them settled down though with a three-point play and Henderson buried a three-point basket two possessions later to pull IUPUI within five points. They came within one point later in the half before going into the break down 35-31.
The second half was another story though. As quickly as Denver started the first half, IUPUI took control in the second even quicker. Combs hit a 3-pointer on IUPUI’s third possession and tied the game a minute later with a pair of free throws. Each team turned the ball over on their next possession, then Henderson hit a jumper to put IUPUI up 40-38 for their first lead. 27 seconds later, O’Leary dunked to put IUPUI up four and force a Denver timeout. O’Leary stole the ball out of the timeout leading to a fast break and dunk from Combs putting IUPUI up six. IUPUI stretched their lead to 11 points by the 11-minute mark and it grew to as much as 16 points down the stretch.
When it was all said and done, IUPUI scored 52 second-half points while shooting 57 percent from the floor and hitting all but one of their 17 free-throw attempts. IUPUI has had 50 point halves before this season, but none was as needed as this one. It was IUPUI’s final road game of the regular season, their final chance to prove to themselves they can win on the road before heading to the Summit League tournament, and without their second-half explosion they were staring down their third three-game losing streak of the season.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier. IUPUI will finish out the regular season with two home games, but they’re against South Dakota, who’s tied for the best record in conference, and Fort Wayne, who handed IUPUI their worst loss of the season back in January. Still, the Jaguars are 7-3 at home on the season and have a shot to end the regular season a three-game winning streak.