Game #30: No. W3 Denver (13-16) vs. No. E6 Florida International (10-18)
Saturday, March 5, 2011 • 7:45 p.m. MT
Summit Arena (6,000) • Hot Springs, Arkansas
TV: Sun Belt Extra • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: www.DenverPioneers.com
Fans Going to Hot Springs: The Brick House Grill is the official headquarters for the University of Denver Basketball during the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Located at 801 Central Ave., two blocks west of the Convention Center in Hot Springs, the Brick House promises "black tie quality in a blue jean atmosphere."
Sun Belt Extra: The Sun Belt Conference will webcast every First Round and Quarterfinal game live at 2011 Sun Belt Basketball Championship Central on its website, as well as offering live stats, notes, photos, quotes and recaps. All Semifinal games will be broadcast live on the Sun Belt Network, ESPN+ and ESPN3.com, with Mike Morgan (play-by-play) and Dave Odom (color) calling the action. Tuesday's championship game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and will feature Rob Stone (play-by-play) and Mark Adams (color).About Denver: The Pioneers are the SBC West No. 3 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Sophomore Chase Hallam leads the Pioneers with 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, while adding 2.3 assists per game. Junior Brian Stafford has contributed 12.6 points per game. Junior Travis Hallam leads the team with 79 assists, and freshman Chris Udofia has a team-best 39 blocked shots while adding 4.3 rebounds per game. DU returns nine players from last season's squad, including four starters and seven of their top eight scorers. The Pioneers went 19-13 overall, 10-8 in the SBC and 15-1 at home last season. Denver was picked third in the SBC West Division in the 2010-11 Preseason Coaches' Poll.
About Florida International: FIU finished the season 10-18 overall and 5-11 in the Sun Belt, earning the SBC East No. 6 seed. The Golden Panthers have lost 11 of their last 13 games, but did conclude the regular season with an 83-76 overtime win against Troy on Feb. 26. FIU averages 73.5 points and 8.4 steals per game, which both rank second in the SBC. The Panthers have four players averaging double digits: DeJuan Wright (15.0 ppg), Eric Frederick (13.5), Marvin Roberts (11.2) and Phil Gary (10.1). Wright and Frederick rank eighth and ninth in the SBC with 6.9 and 6.8 rebounds per game, respectively. Wright is second with 1.8 steals per game, and Gary is seventh with 3.3 assists per game. The Golden Panthers were picked to finish fifth in the Sun Belt Conference East Division in the Preseason Coaches' Poll. FIU went 7-25 overall and 4-14 in the Sun Belt last season, finishing last in the SBC East Division and falling to Denver in the SBC Tournament First Round.
The Match-up: Entering a rematch from last year's SBC Tournament First Round, DU holds an 9-6 edge all-time against Florida International and has won three-straight against the Panthers, including a 79-70 overtime win at Magness Arena on Jan. 15. The Pioneers took both games last season, winning 59-53 in Denver on Dec. 17, and 71-64 in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament in Hot Springs, Ark., on March 6.
DU in the SBC Tournament: The Pioneers advanced to the SBC Semifinals last season, improving their all-time mark to 8-10 in the SBC Tournament since joining the conference in the 1999-00 season. Denver is 2-2 in Hot Springs, Ark. Last season, DU beat FIU in the first round and Middle Tennessee (73-58) in the quarterfinals. If Denver beats the Panthers on Saturday, the Pioneers would face a rematch with the Blue Raiders in this year's quarterfinals.
It Is Possible: Two teams have reached the Sun Belt Tournament championship game after playing three times. In 2007, North Texas won the SBC title as the No. 5 seed. A year later, No. 4 seed Middle Tennessee lost to Western Kentucky in the finals after winning three games.
Sun Belt Honors: Denver sophomore guard Chase Hallam was named All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team, becoming just the seventh DU player to earn All-SBC honors. Yemi Nicholson (2005 and 2006) and Nate Rohnert (2009 and 2010) both earned first team honors twice.
Last Time Out: Junior guard Brian Stafford scored 13 points, but the Pioneers fell 63-41 to North Texas at The Super Pit on Feb. 26. Denver shot just 16-of-46 (34.8 percent) from the floor and 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) from three-point range, while North Texas was 19-of-40 (47.5 percent) from the floor and 4-of-8 from three-point range. NT's Tristan Thompson led all players with 16 points, and George Odufuwa had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Chief of Stafford: Junior guard Brian Stafford had 13 points at North Texas on Feb. 26, giving him 1,116 career points and moving him past both Dave Chavlovich (1,110) and Dennis Hodge (1,113) into 20th on DU's all-time scoring list. Stafford also has 185 career three-pointers and is in sixth place on DU's all-time list, six behind Russell Martin (191) in fifth.
The Long Rangers: The Pioneers are fifth in the nation and first in the SBC from beyond the arc, hitting 40.9 percent (226-of-553). Of the top five three-point shooters in the SBC, three are Pioneers: Brian Stafford (second, .443), Chase Hallam (third, .440) and Travis Hallam (fifth, .438). The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 150-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006. The Pioneers were 23rd in the NCAA last year in three-point percentage at 39.5 percent, improving from 39th (37.7 percent) in 2008-09 and 174th (34.8 percent) in 2007-08.
Percentage Game: The Pioneers are tied for 66th in the nation with a .459 field goal percentage this season. According to ESPN.com, DU is tied for 10th in the nation with a 54.8 adjusted field goal percentage, which weights three-pointers at 1.5 times. Last season, DU led in the nation in adjusted field goal percentage (57.9 percent).
U Tube: With five blocks last week, freshman forward Chris Udofia now has 39 blocked shots this season, the eighth highest single-season mark in team history. Udofia is seven blocks shy of Dwayne Russell, who sits in seventh (52 in 1981-82) and eighth place (46 in 1980-81). Udofia is second in the Sun Belt during conference games in blocked shots (1.9 per game), 10th in field goal percentage (.522), 12th in defensive rebounds (4.3 per game) and 17th in rebounding (5.3 per game).
He's Got Games: Senior guard Kyle Lewis has played in 119 career game at Denver, and his next game will tie Nate Rohnert (2007-10), who holds the team record for games played with 120.
To the Point: The Pioneers are 12-2 when scoring at least 65 points this season. DU is 8-3 when holding opponents to 59 points or fewer; however, two of those losses have come in the past three games. In the past three seasons, Denver is 31-6 (.838) when scoring at least 65 points and 31-9 (.775) when holding opponents to 59 points or less.
Iron Men: Three Pioneers rank in the top seven Sun Belt players in minutes played: Travis Hallam (second, 35.6 minutes per game), Chase Hallam (fourth, 34.2) and Brian Stafford (seventh, 33.5). Stafford and Chase Hallam played 44 and 43 minutes, respectively, during DU's previous meeting with FIU this year on Jan. 15, while Travis Hallam played all 45 minutes of an overtime game at Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 24.
Injury Report: Senior forward Rob Lewis missed the 2010-11 season due to a back injury. Redshirt junior Andrew Hooper did not play DU's last nine regular season games will miss the remainder of the season with a concussion sustained at Middle Tennessee on Jan. 22.
Magness Magic: Denver was 11-4 at Magness Arena in 2010-11. However, a 48-47 loss to South Alabama on Feb. 20, 2011, snapped a nine-game winning streak and a stretch of 17 games against Sun Belt Conference teams, dating back to a 73-59 loss to North Texas to end the 2008-09 regular season.
Scott Signs Three Student-Athletes: Denver signed Brett Olson, Marcus Byrd and Jake Logan to National Letters of Intent to join the Pioneers in 2011-12. Teammates at Highlands Ranch High School in the suburbs just south of Denver, Olson is a 6-foot-4 guard and Byrd is a 6-foot-7 forward. Logan is a 6-foot-8 center from Norwalk High School, just south of Des Moines, Iowa.
Welcome to the WAC: On Nov. 11, 2010, the University of Denver has 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 claimed 29 Sun Belt Conference championships since 1999. Denver has enjoyed its 11-year partnership with the SBC. The WAC also added Texas-San Antonio and Texas State to its nine-member league for 2012, which also includes Utah State, New Mexico State, Idaho, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech. 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 27 seasons.
Pioneers en España: Denver posted an impressive 4-2 record during a tour of Spain between Aug. 24 - Sept. 5. The Pioneers beat a Second Division team (Lobe Huesca), a pair of Third Division teams (C.B. Illescas and Caja de Avila), and a Fourth Division team (Real Canoe N.C.). DU's only defeats came to Cajasol Sevilla and Lagun Aro GBC, which both play in the ACB - Spain's top professional division. Guard Brian Stafford led the Pioneers during the six games in scoring, averaging 13.5 points per game and recording a tour-high 25 points in a win over Lobe Huesca. Guard Chase Hallam averaged 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Guard Kyle Lewis showed tremendous leadership during all six games while adding seven points per outing. Center Trevor Noonan played his first games as a Pioneer. After sitting out the first two games of the trip, freshman forward Chris Udofia made an impact in his first games with the Pioneers. In the final game, Udofia single-handedly prevented Caja de Avila from scoring in three-straight possessions by forcing an altered shot, stealing a pass and blocking a shot. Junior guard Travis Hallam showed improved confidence and maturity, averaging 7.8 points per game and scoring in double digits three times. For more information, blogs, videos and photos, visit www.DenverPioneers.com.