Game #29: Denver (20-8, 10-5 SBC) vs. North Texas (16-12, 9-6 SBC)
Sunday, February 26, 2012 • 1 p.m. MT
Magness Arena (7,200) • Denver, Colo.
TV: Pioneer Vision • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: www.DenverPioneers.com
About Denver: DU is 20-8 overall and 10-5 in the Sun Belt Conference, tied for second in the SBC West Division and 1.0 games behind division-leading Arkansas-Little Rock. The Pioneers' 20 wins are tied for the most in the team's 89-year NCAA Division I history. Denver is fifth in the nation field goal percentage (.495), 11th in both three-point field goal percentage (.404) and free throw percentage (.761), 16th in assists (16.1 per game), 18th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.32), and 38th in scoring defense (61.0). The Pioneers were picked to finish fourth in the SBC West Division in the preseason coaches' poll. Junior Chase Hallam was named Preseason All-SBC Second Team, and senior Brian Stafford landed on the third team.
About North Texas: The Mean Green are 16-12 overall and 9-6 in the SBC this season, including 5-7 mark on the road. North Texas sits in fourth place in the Sun Belt West, just one game behind Denver for second. NT is led by former high school All-American Tony Mitchell, who has averaged 15.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots since becoming eligible on Dec. 18. The Mean Green lost their second and third top scorers, Chris Jones and Jordan Williams, who were declared ineligible for the second semester. Alzee Williams is averaging 10.1 points per game. North Texas is averaging 71.0 points per game, second in the SBC, while holding opponents to 64.6 points. NT leads the SBC in rebounding with 39.8 per game. The Mean Green were picked to finish third in the SBC West Division in the preseason coaches' poll, one spot above Denver. Mitchell was selected to the Preseason All-SBC Second Team, and Kedrick Perkins made the third team.
The Match-up: Denver is 9-16 all-time against the Mean Green but 7-5 in Denver. North Texas edged DU 75-74 in overtime at the Super Pit on Jan. 21, when Alzee Williams hit a tip-in at the buzzer. The teams split their meetings last year with each team winning at home.
Winning Ways: The Pioneers' 20 victories this season are tied for the most in DU's 89-year Division I history and the most in Denver's regular season history. The Pioneers also won 20 games in 2004-05.
DU's Sun Belt Scenarios: Denver (10-5) currently is slotted for the No. 3 spot in the SBC Tournament, trailing Middle Tennessee (14-1) and Arkansas-Little Rock (11-4). The Pioneers are tied with Louisiana-Lafayette (10-5), but hold the tiebreaker against the Cajuns, since the teams split their two games and DU beat top-seeded Middle Tennessee, which has already clinched the SBC title. The Pioneers can still win a share of the SBC West Division title, if UALR loses Saturday and DU wins Sunday. However, UALR would still hold the tiebreaker over Denver for the No. 2 seed. If DU loses Sunday, the Pioneers would claim the No. 4 or 5 seed. Because ULM will not participate, this year's SBC Tournament will give byes to the top five seeds.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers are concluding the regular season with three-straight games at home, where DU is 13-2 this season, improving DU's record to 60-13 (.822) at Magness Arena in five years under head coach Joe Scott. During that stretch, the Pioneers are also 36-6 (.857) against Sun Belt opponents at Magness Arena. However, DU has won just one of the past four home finales.
Three's Company: Denver hit 16 three-pointers against ULM on Feb. 18, tying the Magness Arena record first established by the Pioneers against UMKC on Dec. 3, 2002.
U-Tube: Chris Udofia is leading the Sun Belt in scoring with 14.9 points per game, and he is third with 2.4 blocks per game and fourth with a .544 field goal percentage, which rank 24th and 31st in the nation, respectively. The 6-foot-6 forward had four blocks against ULM on Feb. 18, moving him into fourth place on DU's single season list with 68, and his 107 career blocks rank fifth. This season, Udofia also ranks 10th in the SBC in assists (2.9 per game) and 19th in rebounding (5.3 per game).
Chief of Stafford: Senior guard and team co-captain Brian Stafford scored a game-high 25 points against ULM on Feb. 18, increasing his career total to 1,538 points, the fourth-most in Denver history. Stafford also played his 121st career game, all starts, setting the DU record. Stafford also hit six three-pointers against the Warhawks, increasing his career total to 257 and moving into third in DU history and fifth on the Sun Belt Conference all-time three-pointers made list. This season, Stafford is second in the SBC in three-point percentage (.469), which would rank fifth in the nation but he is two makes shy of the minimum. Stafford also is first in the SBC in three-pointers made (2.4 per game), third in minutes played (33.1 per game), fourth in scoring (14.3 per game), sixth in free throw percentage (.800), and eighth in field goal percentage (.512). Stafford is eighth on DU's all-time list with 311 free throws made.
Academic All-American: Senior Brian Stafford was among the 15 student-athletes named CoSIDA Academic All-American, earning a spot on the third team. Stafford is a finance major with a 3.7 cumulative grade-point average. Both Stafford and Chase Hallam were named CoSIDA Academic All-District 7. As a team, the Pioneers compiled a 3.4 combined GPA in 2010-11.
The Long Rangers: Senior Brian Stafford went 6-for-9 from beyond the arc and freshman Brett Olson hit 5-of-9, as Denver tied a Magness Arena record with 16 three-pointers against ULM on Feb. 18, matching DU's effort against UMKC on Dec. 3, 2002. It also was just two makes shy of DU's all-time record of 18 three-pointers set at Southern Utah on Jan. 4, 2004. The Pioneers are ranked No. 11 in the nation in three-point shooting at 40.4 percent (237-of-586), which is also the best mark in the Sun Belt. DU is averaging 8.5 three-pointers made per game, second most in the SBC and 18th in the NCAA. The Pioneers are 10-1 this season when hitting 10 or more three-pointers with the only loss coming after hitting 11 three-pointers at North Texas on Jan. 21. Denver is just 14 three-pointers shy of the team's single season record, 251 set in 2009-10. DU ranked sixth in the nation and first in the SBC from three-point range last season, hitting 40.1 percent (232-of-578). The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 177-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006. Behind the arc, Denver has improved from 23rd in the NCAA in 2009-10 (39.5 percent), 39th (37.7 percent) in 2008-09 and 174th (34.8 percent) in 2007-08.
Better Than Half Full: Denver shot 55.3 percent (26-of-47) from the field against Louisiana-Monroe on Feb. 18, marking the fifth-straight game since Feb. 4 that DU has hit at least half of its field goal attempts. During that stretch, the Pioneers have shot a combined 55.0 percent (132-of-240) from the field and 41.1 percent (46-of-112) from three-point range. Denver has shot 50 percent or better 14 times this seasons and 59 percent or better five times. Strangely, DU is 10-0 this season when shooting between 48 and 59 percent, and just 2-3 when shooting better than 59 percent.
Royce Rolls: Freshman forward Royce O'Neale is 33rd in the nation in free throw percentage (.862), which also leads the Sun Belt. O'Neale scored a career-high 21 points at North Texas on Jan. 21, when he also had five steals, the most by a DU player since Chase Hallam had five steals at Wyoming on Dec. 14, 2010. During conference play, O'Neale is first in the SBC in free throw percentage (.902); fifth in field goal percentage (.529) and defensive rebounds (5.1 per game); seventh in steals (1.5 per game); 10th in rebounding (6.2 per game); 14th in three-point percentage (.390); 15th in assists (2.3 per game); and 18th in scoring (11.5 per game).
Playing the Percentages: The Pioneers are fifth in the nation with a .493 field goal percentage. According to ESPN.com, DU is second in the nation in adjusted field goal percentage (58.3 percent), which gives added weight to three-pointers to determine overall offensive effectiveness. Likewise, KenPom.com has Denver ranked second in the nation in effective field goal percentage at 58.3 percent and second in two-point field goals at 56.4 percent.
A Little Help from Their Friends: The Pioneers registered 22 assists on 26 field goals (84.6 percent) against Louisiana-Monroe on Feb. 18, raising DU's average to 68.0 percent (450 assists on 662 field goals) this season, the highest percentage in the nation, according to KenPom.com. DU has seven players averaging 1.65 assists per game or better, including Chris Udofia who is 10th in the SBC with 2.9 assists per game. The Pioneers recorded an assist on 66.1 percent of their field goals last season (371 assists on 601 field goals made), ranking sixth highest in the nation.
Can't Drive 65: The Pioneers are 20-1 when holding opponents to 65 or fewer points and 0-7 when the opponent scored more than 65 points.
OhSoClose: Denver has lost in the final 1.1 seconds of four games this season, including a 75-74 overtime loss on a buzzer beater at North Texas on Jan. 21. The Pioneers lost on free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining in overtime at ULL on Feb. 2 and with 1.1 seconds left at Florida Atlantic on Feb. 9, as well as on another buzzer beater in overtime against Iona on Dec. 7. DU is 4-19 in overtime games since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998-99. Denver's last seven losses have come by an average of 2.9 points and none by more than seven points.
Sun Belt Celebration: The Pioneers invited all of the former men's and women's basketball players who played in the Sun Belt Conference back to Magness Arena for Denver's final regular season game in the conference on Sunday. DU enjoyed its time in the SBC for the past 13 years but will move to the WAC beginning July 1.
Frequent Flyers: In the first 43 days of 2012, Denver played just three home games, while traveling to nine on the road. During that stretch, the Pioneers traveled 12,032 miles by plane and bus.
Welcome to the WAC: On Nov. 11, 2010, the University of Denver accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), effective for the 2012-13 athletic season. The Pioneers will move from the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) to the WAC for 10 of their NCAA Division I sports programs. The Pioneers will join the WAC for men's and women's basketball, women's soccer, gymnastics, men's and women's golf, men's and women's tennis, volleyball, and women's swimming & diving. The Pioneers returned to NCAA Division I in all 17 sports in 1999-2000, when they joined the SBC. Denver has claimed 33 SBC championships since 1999. Denver has enjoyed its 12-year partnership with the SBC. The WAC also added Texas-San Antonio, Texas-Arlington, Seattle and Texas State to its league for 2012, which also includes Utah State, New Mexico State, Idaho, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech. Boise State will join the WAC in all sports other than football in the 2013-14 season. The WAC is nearly 50 years old and is the sixth-oldest conference in the country. In men's basketball, the WAC has sent at least two teams to the NCAA Tournament in 24 of the last 28 seasons.
Road Show: The Pioneers went 7-6 on the road this season, marking DU's first Division I winning road record since 1970-71 and only the ninth time in Denver's 89-year Division I history (see chart). In the previous five years, Denver had a combined six road victories.
Scott Signs Four Student-Athletes: Denver signed Nate Engesser (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Jalen Love (Wichita, Kan.), Bryant Rucker (Frisco, Texas) and Dom Samac (Zagreb, Croatia) to National Letters of Intent to join the Pioneers in 2012-13. Engesser, a 6-foot-3 guard, was the Colorado Class-3A Player of the Year and All-State selection last season at Colorado Springs Christian School. Love is a 6-foot-2 guard from Wichita (Kan.) East High School. Rucker is a 6-foot point guard from Frisco Centennial High School. Originally from Zagreb, Croatia, Samac is a 6-8 forward/center, who plays for North Broward Prep in Florida.
For Starters: Denver's primary starting lineup this season includes players from five different classes: freshman Brett Olson, sophomore Chris Udofia, junior Chase Hallam, senior Brian Stafford and graduate student Rob Lewis. Additionally, all five started games during their freshmen seasons, including Hallam and Stafford who have started every game during their careers.
Six Returning Starters?: Denver returns five players who started at least 15 games last season: Brian Stafford (30), Chase Hallam (30), Travis Hallam (29), Tyler Thalken (18) and Justin Coughlin (15). Additionally Rob Lewis, who has started 48 games in his career, returns to DU's lineup after missing last season due to injury. Stafford and Chase Hallam have both started every game since arriving at Denver.
Rising Stars: The Pioneers will honor exemplary elementary school students for excellence in academic, aptitude and character at DU basketball games this season. Public Service Credit Union purchased tickets to provide to the Rising Stars, their families and friends for the game in which they will be honored.