DENVER, Colo., Dec. 21 - Jackson Stevenett scored 12 points and Jayson Cheesman added 10 and six rebounds but Denver shot 55.3 percent, including .438 from 3-point range as the Pioneers upended Southern Utah 72-47 in a non-conference match-up Friday afternoon.
Royce O'Neale led four Pioneers in double figures with 12 points.
Denver outscored the Thunderbirds 21-7 over the final 10 minutes of the first half, taking advantage of five of SUU's 12 turnovers in the period, to stretch a 19-13 edge with 10:08 to play to 40-20 at the break.
DU went on a 10-1 run - with SUU scoring only on a Cal Hanks free throw - to extend a 19-13 advantage to a 29-14 lead. After SUU got a layup from Jordan Johnson to break the drought the Pioneers got seven points from Nate Engesser to close the half with an 11-4 spurt and take the 20-point lead into the break. The Thunderbirds got just a Stevenett lay-up and two Cheesman free throws in the final 5:11 of the half.
SUU got back within 47-32 on back-to-back Wade Collie 3-pointers early in the second half but the Pioneers answered with five straight points of their own and SUU didn't get within 18 the rest of the way.
"Denver is a good basketball team, they came out and played hard on their home court," SUU Coach Nick Robinson noted. "Offensively they shot the ball well, they executed their offense with precision, and defensively they did a nice job of talking, of doing all the little things that allowed their team to get a lead, sustain the lead and extend the lead.
"I felt like we got decent looks throughout the night. Wade had a nice couple of open shots he made at the beginning of the first half and at the beginning of the second half he made some open jumpers, we had some other open looks in the post, some guys had opportunities and made some plays there, but it was one of those nights where they came out firing on all cylinders and every one of their players was locked in. They shot the ball well and they played hard," Robinson went on to say.
Southern Utah out-rebounded the Pioneers 31-22, giving the T-Birds six straight games in which they have pulled down more boards than their opponents, but they finished with 22 turnovers and shot just .408 from the field, .381 in the first half.
"In the first half we had [too many] turnovers and that helped in their process of making plays," Robinson pointed out. "When we're giving the basketball to the other team versus [playing] half-court defense it's going to be a challenge digging yourself out of that hole. They were able to capitalize with 35 points off of turnovers."
Southern Utah, which dipped to 3-7 with the loss, now takes eight days off before returning to the court and Big Sky competition on Dec. 29 at home against Northern Colorado. Denver improved to 4-6 with the win.
-- SUU --