Game #13: Denver (10-2, 0-0 SBC) vs. Troy (5-6, 0-0 SBC)
Thursday, December 29, 2011 • 7 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 10-2 for the first time since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998-99. DU is leading the nation in free throw percentage (.815), ninth in three-point field goal percentage (.417) and 22nd in field goal percentage (.488). The Pioneers return nine players, including four starters from last year's squad that finished third in the Sun Belt Conference West Division with a 13-17 overall record. Additionally, Rob Lewis, who missed last season due to injury, returns for his final season with a 9.9 career points per game average. Denver welcomes five freshmen, including 2011 Colorado Player of the Year Brett Olson. 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 Troy: The Trojans are 5-6 with their lone road win coming at Southern Utah. Troy fell 76-70 to Texas-San Antonio in its last game on Dec. 22. The Trojans are led by Will Weathers' 13.4 points per game, while Alan Jones and Justin Wright also are averaging double-digits with 11.9 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. Ray Chambers is adding a team-best 6.0 rebounds per game. The Trojans are first in the Sun Belt in turnover margin (+3.55) and offensive rebounds (16.5 per game), and second in scoring (76.0 points per game), but last in scoring defense (76.7 points per game) and field goal percentage defense(.469). Troy is also averaging 10.6 three-pointers made per game, second most in the nation. Troy was picked to finish last in the SBC East Division in the preseason coaches' poll. Junior guard Will Weathers was selected to the Preseason All-SBC Second Team.
The Match-up: Troy holds a 5-2 advantage over DU in the all-time series, although the home team has won every game. The Trojans have not traveled to Denver since an 80-66 DU win on Feb. 7, 2008.
Getting Started: Denver is 10-2 for the first time since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998-99. Excluding DU's time in NAIA and Division II from 1979-98, the Pioneers have won at least nine of their first 11 games only twice (see chart), the last of which was 1942-43.
Tightening the Belt: The Pioneers are 4-0 in Sun Belt Conference openers under fifth-year head coach Joe Scott. Overall, Denver is 7-5 in SBC opening games. DU is in its final year in the Sun Belt, and will move to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) next season.
Getting Even: With the 70-58 win over The Citadel on Dec. 22, head coach Joe Scott's record at DU is 68-67 (.504). Scott, who took over a team in 2007-08 that had gone 4-25 the previous season, was last over .500 on Nov. 13, 2007, his third game with the Pioneers.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers are 7-1 at home this season, improving DU's record to 54-12 (.818) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott. The Pioneers were 11-4 at Magness Arena in 2010-11, including a nine-game home winning streak.
Chief of Stafford: Senior guard and team co-captain Brian Stafford scored his 1,307th career point against The Citadel on Dec. 19, passing Nate Rohnert (2006-10) for ninth place on DU's all-time scoring list. Stafford also has 219 career three-pointers, fourth on DU's all-time list. Stafford is second in the SBC in three-point percentage (.492), third in three-pointers made (2.5 per game), fifth in scoring (14.1), seventh in free throw percentage (.833), eighth in minutes played (31.4 per game) and ninth in field goal percentage (.509).
Captain Comeback: Senior forward and team co-captain Rob Lewis needs just 14 points to become the 31st player in Denver's 1,000-point club. Lewis missed last season with an injury. Lewis also has a 54.1 career field goal percentage, eighth best in DU history.
Cut to the Chase: College Sports Madness and StatSheet.com both named Chase Hallam Sun Belt Player of the Week for his performances in wins over Wyoming and The Citadel last week. Hallam, who was voted preseason All-SBC Second Team, is first on the team and fourth in the conference with 1.9 steals per game, and he is 11th in the SBC in three-point field goal percentage (.410). Hallam is averaging 8.0 points per game.
The Long Rangers: The Pioneers hit a season-high 12 three-pointers against The Citadel on Dec. 22. Denver has made 41.7 percent (103-of-247) of its three-pointers this season, the ninth-best mark in the nation. Denver is averaging 8.6 three-pointers made per game, second most in the SBC behind Troy. 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 161-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.
U-Tube: Sophomore forward Chris Udofia had 19 points, seven rebounds and tied a career high with six assists against The Citadel on Dec. 22. Udofia is tied for 18th in the nation with 2.75 blocked shots per game this season and is ninth on DU's career list with 72 blocks. This season, Udofia is ranked second in the SBC in blocked shots; fifth in free throw percentage (.846); sixth in both scoring (13.9 points per game) and assist/turnover ratio (1.3); eighth in assists (3.4 per game); and 12th in field goal percentage (.500).
A Little Help from Their Friends: The Pioneers recorded 18 assists on their 21 field goals (85.7 percent) against The Citadel on Dec. 22. Denver has 193 assists on 275 field goals (70.2 percent) this season, the second highest total in the NCAA, according to KenPom.com. 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.
Playing the Percentages: Denver is tied with BYU and Syracuse for 22nd in the nation with a .488 field goal percentage. According to ESPN.com, DU is fourth in the nation in adjusted field goal percentage (58.0 percent), which gives added weight to three-pointers to determine overall offensive effectiveness. Likewise, KenPom.com has Denver ranked fifth in the nation in effective field goal percentage at 57.8 percent.
Mid-Major Rankings: The Pioneers moved up to No. 17 in the Mid-Major Top 25. Three of DU's opponents (No. 4 Iona, No. 10 Saint Mary's, No. 11 Middle Tennessee) are also on the list.
Foul Ball: DU was called for just nine personal fouls against The Citadel on Dec. 22, sending the Bulldogs to the free throw line only three times. It marked the fewest fouls by Denver and free throw attempts by an opponent since Feb. 25, 2006, when the Pioneers fouled Troy seven times, as the Trojans went 2-for-3 from the charity stripe.
Toeing the Line: Denver is leading the nation in free throw shooting at 81.4 percent. The Pioneers have shot at least 73.3 percent in each of their 12 games, five percent higher than the national average (68.3 percent). DU is 8-0 this season when making at least 12 free throws.
Nonconference: Heading into the Sun Belt schedule, seven of DU's nonconference opponents have at least eight wins, and five have 10 or more victories. Overall, Denver's nonconference opponents are 72-60 (.545).
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.
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 Sun Belt Conference 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.
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.
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.
For Starters: Denver's 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.