NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - University of Denver junior forward Chris Udofia (Irving, Texas) scored 20 points, but the Pioneers could not overcome a first half offensive outburst by Iona, falling 65-58 on Friday night at Hynes Athletic Center.
"It was a tale of two halves. It's disappointing but understandable," head coach Joe Scott said. "We've got one senior and two juniors. When you've got a young team, you need to have a quick learning curve, especially on the road against an NCAA Tournament team. We showed our youth in the first half, and in the second half we showed that we can be a good team. We need to learn from this and move on."
Udofia added six rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots. Senior guard Chase Hallam (Mesquite, Texas) scored nine of his 14 points in the second half and had three steals in the game, while sophomore guard Brett Olson (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and sophomore forward Royce O'Neale (Killeen, Texas) had 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Iona led by as many as 25 points with 19:47 to play in the second half, but Denver ripped into the lead with a 33-17 run over the next 16 minutes to bring the Pioneers back to within six points at 59-53 with 4:44 remaining.
However, Iona's MoMo Jones answered with a three-pointer and a layup off a steal on consecutive plays to stretch the Gaels' lead back to 11 points with 3:27 to go in the game.
Denver responded again with five-straight points, but the comeback bid came up short, going scoreless for the final 1:48.
Denver shot 46.7 percent (21-of-45) from the floor in the game, including a 57.7 percent (15-of-26) in the second half, and the Pioneers went 6-for-14 (42.0 percent) from three-point range in the second half after going 0-for-8 in the first half.
Denver struggled with a stifling Iona defense in the first half, as the Pioneers were just 6-for-19 (31.6 percent) from the field and 0-for-8 from beyond the arc. It was the first time DU went without a three-pointer in a half since the second half of last season's opening game. Iona was 14-of-23 (60.9 percent) from the field and 5-of-6 (83.3 percent) from three-point range, stretching the Gaels' lead to 40-17 at the half.
Iona was led by Jones, who had 20 points and seven assists, and Sean Armand's 19 points.
The Pioneers return to Magness Arena for the home opener against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday at 7 p.m. MT. Fans can watch the game on Pioneer Vision, listen on Mile High Sports Radio AM 1510 or FM
93.7, or follow via LiveStats available at DenverPioneers.com.