Game #18: Denver (10-7, 6-1 WAC) vs. Utah State (14-2, 5-1 WAC)
Saturday, January 19, 2013 • 4:30 p.m. MT
Magness Arena (7,200) • Denver, Colo.
TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: Pioneer Vision (audio)
About Denver: The Pioneers have won six-straight games and nine of the last 11. With a 6-1 WAC record, DU is 0.5 games behind Louisiana Tech (6-0) for first place. The Pioneers lead the WAC in scoring defense (54.6 ppg), free throw percentage (.742), assists/turnover ratio (1.3) and three-pointers made (8.3); are second in scoring margin (+8.5), assists (15.9), three-point percentage (.364) and turnover margin (+3.88); and third in field goal percentage (.464), blocked shots (4.4) and rebounding defense (31.0). Denver, which was ranked eighth in the nation with a 48.8 field goal percentage last season, returns seven players, including four of the top five scorers, from last year's squad that won a team-record 22 Division I games and finished second in the Sun Belt Conference West Division. Denver returns Preseason All-WAC First Team member Chris Udofia, who was voted 2011-12 SBC Defensive Player of the Year and All-SBC First Team last season. In their lone year in the WAC, the Pioneers were picked to finish third in the WAC's Preseason Polls by both the coaches and the media.
About Utah State: The Aggies are 14-2 overall, 5-1 in the WAC and 4-1 on the road this season. A 64-51 loss at New Mexico State on Thursday snapped a 13-game USU winning streak and dropped the Aggies 0.5 games behind Denver into third in the WAC standings. Utah State is No. 4 in this week's Mid-Major Top 25, as well as receiving votes in both the AP and Coaches' Polls. USU is led by Preseason WAC Player of the Year Preston Medlin, who is averaging 16.3 points and 3.2 assists per game. Jarred Shaw (12.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Kyisean Reed (12.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) also provide significant contributions. Utah State leads the WAC in field goal percentage (.489), three-point percentage (.380), assists (15.9), rebounding defense (28.8), rebounding margin (+7.7) and offensive rebounding percentage (.385), and are second in scoring offense (71.2) and assist/turnover ratio (1.3). The Aggies were picked to finish first in the conference by the media and second by the coaches in the WAC preseason polls.
The Matchup: Utah State holds a 53-36 advantage in the all-time series with the Pioneers, but DU gone 24-20 in Denver. Last season, the Pioneers snapped the Aggies' 33-game home winning streak with a 67-54 victory in Logan, a win that also snapped a nine-game winning streak by USU over DU dating back to 1975.
Broadcast Info: Saturday's game against Utah State will be broadcast live on ROOT SPORTS. Marc Stout (play-by-play), Greg Lackey (color) and Jenny Cavnar (sideline) will call the action. ROOT SPORTS is available on Comcast (Ch. 26 or 665HD), DirecTV (Ch. 683) or Dish Network (Ch. 414).
Last Time Out: Junior forward Chris Udofia scored 15 points and blocked four shots, leading the Pioneers to their sixth-straight victory with a 73-37 win over the San Jose State Spartans at Magness Arena on Thursday night. Sophomore Royce O'Neale tied a season high with 10 rebounds, while adding seven points and five assists for Denver. Sophomore guard Brett Olson finished with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, and senior guard Chase Hallam added six rebounds and five assists. The Pioneers shot 56.3 percent (27-for-48) from the field, went a perfect 11-for-11 (46.7 percent) from free throw line and added a season-high eight blocked shots as a team. DU held the Spartans to just 28.0 percent (14-of-50) from the floor and 20.0 percent (2-of-10) from beyond the arc.
Youth Movement: With an average of only 0.85 years of experience per player, Denver has the eighth youngest team in the nation. DU has only one senior and two juniors among their scholarship athletes, while sporting six freshmen.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers have won six-straight home games, improving to 68-15 (.819) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott. The Pioneers went 15-2 at home last year. In February 2012, ESPN.com's Ken Pomeroy wrote that Magness Arena was one of the top two home-court advantages in the nation.
Winning Margin: Denver's 36-point winning margin over San Jose State on Jan. 17 was the team's highest since beating Arkansas State by 38 points in a 74-36 rout on Jan. 20, 2011. During the current six-game home winning streak, DU has outscored opponents by 26.8 points per game and only Texas State scored more than 50 points, when Denver beat the Bobcats 64-53 on Jan. 3.
Limiting Turnovers: The Pioneers turned the ball over only five times against San Jose State on Jan. 17, the team's lowest total since Jan. 23, 2010, when DU turned the ball over four times against South Alabama in a 71-48 win. DU is second in the WAC this season with a +3.88 turnover margin, the 21st best mark in the nation.
D-nial: The Pioneers are No. 7 in the NCAA in scoring defense, holding opponents to 54.6 points per game. According to KenPom.com, the Pioneers are also ranked seventh in the nation in turnover percentage, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 26.0 percent of their possessions.
Been Caught Stealing: Denver also ranks 12th in steal percentage, recording a steal on 13.6 percent of opponents' possessions.
3-D: The Pioneers held San Jose State to a pair of three-pointers on Jan. 17. In the last four games, DU has limited opponents to a combined 7-of-41 (17.1 percent) from three-point range, improving Denver's three-point field goal percentage defense to .307 this season. The Pioneers have held WAC opponents to just 26.6 percent from beyond the arch, the second-best mark in the conference.
Playing the Percentages: After making just 38.1 percent from the floor in the first six games, the Pioneers have raised their season average to 46.4 percent, third-best in the WAC. According to KenPom.com DU is ranked 12th in the nation in two-point percentage (55.1 percent) and 16th in effective field goal percentage (54.9 percent), which gives added weight to three-pointers to determine overall offensive effectiveness. Last season, DU was tied for eighth in the nation with a .478 field goal percentage. KenPom.com had Denver ranked third in the nation last season in both effective field goal percentage (57.3) and two-point field goals (55.3 percent).
Feeling Charitable: Denver hit all 11 free throw attempts against San Jose State on Jan. 17, marking the first time the Pioneers were perfect from the free throw line with at least 10 attempts since going 14-of-14 against Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 30, 2010. The Pioneers are leading the WAC with a 74.2 free throw percentage, the 38th best mark in the nation. Denver was tied for 12th in the nation last season, hitting 76.2 percent from the charity stripe.
The Long Ranger: The Pioneers hit nine of their 12 three-pointers at Seattle on Jan. 12 in the first half, paving the way to a 64-51 win. The Pioneers have taken 46.7 percent of their field goal attempts this season from beyond the three-point arc, the highest rate in the nation, according to KenPom.com. The Pioneers are first in the WAC and 25th in the nation with 8.3 three-pointers made per game and second in the WAC with a .364 three-point percentage. Last season, Denver was ranked No. 8 in the nation in three-point shooting at 39.8 percent (255-of-641), which was also the best mark in the Sun Belt Conference. Denver is 5-0 in 2012-13 and a combined 15-1 over the past two seasons when hitting 10 or more three-pointers. The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 209-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
Cut to the Chase: Denver's lone senior, Chase Hallam, hit a career-high five three-pointers as part of his game-high 17 points in a win at Seattle on Jan. 12. Two days earlier, Hallam scored eight of his team-high 14 points at Idaho on Jan. 10 in the game's final 3:20. Hallam, who was named College Sports Madness WAC Player of the Week for Jan. 7-13, moved past Doug Wilson (1980-83) into second on DU's all-time career steals list with 168 and into ninth on the all-time three-pointers made list with 142. Hallam joined Denver's top 25 all-time scoring list with 1,073 career points. Hallam is ranked fifth in the WAC this season in steals (2.0), seventh in three-point percentage (.408), 10th in both field goal percentage (.476) and three-pointers made (1.7), and 15th in blocked shots (0.6). Hallam returned to the starting lineup after missing the final three games of the 2011-12 season due to a back injury. Aside from those three games, Hallam has started all 107 games during his DU career. A 2010-11 All-Sun Belt Second Team selection, Hallam averaged 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals in his first three seasons.
Royce Rolls: For the second-straight game and fourth time this season, sophomore guard Royce O'Neale pulled down 10 rebounds against San Jose State on Jan. 17. O'Neale, who earned WAC Player of the Week honors for Dec. 10-16, recorded double-doubles against Nebraska Omaha (Dec. 15) and UTSA (Jan. 6). O'Neale is first in the WAC in free throw percentage (.820); second in minutes played (34.9); sixth in assists (3.4) and steals (1.6); seventh in defensive rebounds (4.9); eighth in assist/turnover ratio (1.4); 12th in scoring (12.4); and 13th in rebounding (5.9), three-point percentage (.365) and three-pointers per game (1.6).
U-Tube: Preseason All-WAC First Teamer Chris Udofia scored 15 points and matched his season high with four blocks against San Jose State on Jan. 17. The 6-foot-6 Udofia, who is second on DU's all-time career blocked shots list with 149, is fourth in the WAC this season in blocked shots (2.2). Udofia also ranks fourth in the WAC in assists (3.5); fifth in assist/turnover ratio (1.6); sixth in free throw percentage (.768); seventh in field goal percentage (.485); 12th in steals (1.4); and 13th in scoring (12.3). Udofia was selected as the 2012 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and an All-SBC First Team member last season.
A Little Help from Their Friends: During DU's six-game winning streak, the Pioneers have recorded assists on 83.5 percent of their field goals (112-of-134). Denver had 22 assists on 27 field goals against San Jose State on Jan. 17. Overall, DU has dished out 270 assists on 384 field goals (70.3 percent) this season, the third-highest mark in the nation, according to KenPom.com. Chris Udofia and Royce O'Neale are fourth and sixth in the WAC with 3.5 and 3.4 assists per game, respectively. The Pioneers recorded an assist on 66.5 percent of their field goals (484 assists on 728 field goals) last season, the highest mark in the NCAA. In Joe Scott's first five seasons at DU, the Pioneers recorded an assist on 65.7 percent of their field goals (2,120 assists on 3,228 field goals made), ranking among the top six highest percentages in the nation every year. Only Northwestern - coached by Bill Carmody, who Joe Scott served as assistant coach for at Princeton - has a longer such streak.
Half & Half: At Idaho on Jan. 10, the Pioneers won their first game this season when they have trailed at the half. Denver is a perfect 9-0 this season when leading at the half and 1-7 when trailing at the break. Since Joe Scott took over as head coach, the Pioneers are 77-25 (.755) when leading at half, and 12-53 (.185) when heading into the break with a deficit.
Reaching the Summit: The University of Denver has accepted an invitation to join The Summit League, moving all athletics programs currently participating in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) after completion of the 2012-13 season. Denver plans to participate in 11-of-the-19 championship sports The Summit League currently offers. Denver teams scheduled to compete for conference championships include men's and women's basketball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, and volleyball. The Pioneers will officially begin league play during the 2013-14 school year. The University of Denver becomes the 10th member of The Summit League, joining IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne), University of Missouri-Kansas City (Kansas City), North Dakota State University, Oakland University, University of Nebraska-Omaha (Omaha), University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University. The conference, in existence since 1982, changed its name to The Summit League in 2007 from the Mid-Continent Conference. The University's remaining sports - hockey, gymnastics, men's and women's lacrosse, and men's and women's skiing - will continue in their respective conferences.
Road Show: The Pioneers have won their last three road games, giving DU a 3-5 mark on the road this season. If Denver wins at New Mexico State on Jan. 23, it will match DU's longest road winning streak since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998, which was set last season. DU was 7-6 on the road last year, marking the team's first Division I winning road record since 1970-71 and only the ninth time in Denver's 89-year Division I history. In the previous five years, Denver had a combined six road victories.
Out of the Gate: Seven of Denver's first nine opponents played in the postseason last year, including Iona, California, Colorado State and Southern Miss, which were in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Stanford (NIT) and Mercer (CIT) both won their respective tournaments, while Wyoming reached the CBI quarterfinals. Those seven teams won an average of 24 games last season. Additionally, DU will play twice against three WAC teams that played in the postseason - New Mexico State played in the NCAA Tournament, UT-Arlington was in the NIT, and Utah State was the CIT runner-up.
This One Goes to 11: Denver's 55-49 victory over Idaho on Jan. 10 marked the team's only win by less than 11 points this season. DU's 10 wins have come by an average margin of 21.2 points.
What's the Point?: Denver's 50-35 victory at UT-Arlington on Dec. 31 marked the lowest DU point total and lowest opponent's point total in a Pioneers' win since Denver beat Southern Mississippi 44-30 at the BP Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Nov. 19, 2005.
Preseason Honors: Junior forward Chris Udofia was voted to the 2012-13 Preseason All-WAC First Team by both the league coaches and media.
National Letter of Intent: Denver signed Drick Bernstine to a National Letter of Intent to join the Pioneers in 2013-14. A 6-foot-6 forward from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, Colo., Bernstine averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds as a junior, earning All-League First Team honors. Bernstine also played AAU basketball for the Colorado Miners.