Indianapolis, IN – Leading Denver by 15 points with 15 minutes to go Thursday night, IUPUI seemed poised to take their fifth straight win and sweep Denver. They scored just 11 points the rest of the way though and Denver stormed back to steal the win.
IUPUI shot just 37 percent from the floor and had only two players finish in double figures. Marcellus Barksdale finished with 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals and Jordan Pickett scored 11 off the bench. Most notable among IUPUI players was Darell Combs who went scoreless for the first time for IUPUI. Combs has led IUPUI in scoring 16 times in IUPUI’s 25 games and averaged 16 points per game coming into Thursday night’s game, but took just four shots and missed all of them. Denver wasn’t much better than IUPUI at 42 percent and was led by Joe Rosga with 16 points.
It shouldn’t be a surprise given the close finishes of the previous three games that this one came down to the wire, but it was given IUPUI’s defense throughout the game and their late lead. That also makes this the most disappointing loss of the conference season.
In the first half, IUPUI held Denver to 21 points on 35 percent shooting including 0-for-7 shooting from three-point range. After C.J. Bobbitt scored on Denver’s first possession of the second half, IUPUI used a 10-2 run to extend their 30-21 halftime lead to 40-25 with 16:08 left. Barksdale scored IUPUI’s final eight points during that stretch. Matt O’Leary found Nick Osborne for a dunk a couple minutes later to put IUPUI up 42-30, but Denver went on an 11-2 run that included a near five-minute scoreless stretch from IUPUI. Osborne ended the drought with a layup with 5:44 left in the game to put IUPUI up 46-41, but Rosga immediately answered with a 3-pointer to bring Denver within two points. Three minutes later, Rosga scored again to tie the game at 48 with 2:20 left. A Thomas Neff 3-pointer for Denver a minute later gave Denver the lead for good.
There’s not much room to complain about IUPUI’s defense. They held Denver to 2-for-16 shooting from three-point range, they gave up only 11 points off turnovers and only two fast break points, and they forced 16 turnovers themselves. On the other end though, they had one of their worst performances of the season. IUPUI’s 51 points is their lowest total since their 84-48 loss to Memphis in December and their lowest in Summit League play.
The loss moves IUPUI a game back from IPFW in Summit League play and a half game behind South Dakota State. IUPUI will play their final two games against those teams, but first will travel to take on South Dakota State Saturday at 8:00 p.m.