Game #19: Denver (14-4, 4-1 SBC) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (2-17, 1-5 SBC)
Thursday, January 19, 2012 • 6:30 p.m. MT
Fant-Ewing Coliseum (7,000) • Monroe, La.
TV: Pioneer Vision • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: www.DenverPioneers.com
About Denver: DU is 14-4, marking the best NCAA Division I start in team history. Denver is third in the nation in free throw percentage (.798), eighth in three-point field goal percentage (.413), 14th in field goal percentage (.493), 24th in assists (16.1 per game) and 25th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.27). 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 Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks are 2-17 overall and 1-5 in the SBC this season, including an 0-9 mark at home. Prior to losing the last two games, ULM beat FIU 54-50 in Miami to snap a nine-game losing streak. The Warhawks are led by Fred Brown's 12.6 points and 2.4 assists per game, while Charles Winborne has added 10.8 points per game. ULM is averaging just 58.7 points per game, last in the SBC and 322nd in the nation, while allowing opponents to score 69.0 points. ULM is also last in the SBC in blocked shots (2.2 per game) and steals (5.2 per game). The Warhawks are shooting 34.9 percent from three-point range, while allowing opponents to hit 38.0 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. ULM was picked to finish last in the SBC West in the preseason coaches' poll, and Brown was named Preseason All-SBC third team.
The Match-up: Denver is 8-4 all-time against ULM overall, including a 2-4 mark at Fant-Ewing Coliseum. Denver swept a pair of games against ULM last season and has won six of the last seven meetings, including two of the last three in Monroe.
Worldwide Leader: Denver's game against Middle Tennessee at Magness Arena on Feb. 4 will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2, as the ESPN/Sun Belt Wildcard game. It marks the first time ESPN or ESPN2 will ever broadcast a basketball game from Magness Arena. The only other time DU appeared on either channel was during the 2005 Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game.
Getting Started: Denver is 14-4, the best NCAA Division I start in team history, which dates to 1903. Excluding DU's stint in NAIA and Division II from 1979-98, the Pioneers have been D-I for 89 years.
Road Show: The Pioneers are 5-2 on the road this season, including a 2-0 start in the SBC. In the previous five years, Denver had a combined six road victories, including two at ULM. The five road victories match the second-highest total for a season since DU returned to NCAA Division I in 1998-99. The 2003-04 squad won five road games, and the team won six the following season.
Chief of Stafford: Senior guard and team co-captain Brian Stafford scored a game-high 24 points at Colorado State on Jan. 11, jumping from ninth to fifth on DU's all-time scoring list. Stafford now has 1,401 career points and sits just 16 points away from Peter Faller (1984-88) for fourth place. Ironically, Stafford will also tie Faller for 10th on DU's all-time games played list with his 112th game on Thursday. Stafford also has 234 career three-pointers, fourth on DU's all-time list, including a 3-for-5 performance against WKU on Jan. 15. Stafford is ninth in the nation in three-point percentage (.474) and 22nd in free throw percentage (.889), both of which lead the SBC. He is also leading the SBC in three-pointers made (2.5 per game), as well as second in scoring (14.6), sixth in minutes played (32.7 per game), and seventh in field goal percentage (.515). Stafford went 12-for-12 from the line last week, moving into 10th on DU's all-time list with 287 free throws made.
The Long Rangers: The Pioneers have hit season highs in three-point shooting in each of their last two games, including 58.8 percent (10-of-17) against Western Kentucky on Jan. 15. Denver is ranked No. 8 in the nation in three-point shooting at 41.3 percent (154-of-373), which is also the best mark in the Sun Belt. Denver is averaging 8.6 three-pointers made per game, second most in the SBC and 18th in the NCAA. The Pioneers are 7-0 this season when hitting 10 or more three-pointers. 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 167-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.
Threes Company: DU is monopolizing the top of the SBC three-point percentage list with Brian Stafford (.474), Royce O'Neale (.465) and Brett Olson (.459) holding the first second and third spot, respectively. Chase Hallam is just behind in seventh place with a .441 three-point percentage.
A Little Help from Their Friends: Denver has 290 assists on 411 field goals (70.6 percent) this season, the highest percentage in the NCAA by 3.3 percent and 17.0 percent higher than the national average, according to KenPom.com. DU has seven players averaging 1.5 assists per game or better, including Chris Udofia who is 10th in the SBC with 2.8 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.
Playing the Percentages: Denver shot a combined 61.0 percent (50-of-82) in two games last week, including a season-high 62.9 percent at CSU on Jan. 11. The Pioneers are 14th in the nation with a .493 field goal percentage. According to ESPN.com, DU is second in the nation in adjusted field goal percentage (58.6 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 58.4 percent and fifth in two-point field goals at 55.6 percent.
Toeing the Line: Denver is third in the nation in free throw shooting at 79.8 percent and has shot at least 73.3 percent in each of their 18 games, nearly five percent higher than the national average (68.7 percent). DU is 10-2 when making at least 12 free throws, including a 12-of-16 performance against Western Kentucky on Jan. 15.
U-Tube: Sophomore forward Chris Udofia recorded his third career double-double-and second this season-with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Western Kentucky on Jan. 15. Udofia is 28th in the nation and second in the SBC with 2.5 blocks per game. Udofia has 45 blocked shots this season, ninth on DU's single-season list. His 84 career blocks are the ninth highest total in DU history. This season, Udofia is also ranked fourth in the SBC in scoring (14.4 points per game); fifth in field goal percentage (.533); 10th in assists (2.8 per game); 12th free throw percentage (.756); and 19th in rebounding (5.2 per game).
Mid-Major Ranking: DU is No. 21 in the Mid-Major Top 25. Three of DU's opponents (No. 3 Saint Mary's, No. 5 Middle Tennessee, No. 8 Iona) are also on the list. MTSU and Iona got votes in the coaches' and media polls, respectively.
Can't Drive 65: Denver has won all 14 games when holding opponents to 65 or fewer points and lost all four in which the opponent scored more than 65 points.
Cut to the Chase: Junior guard Chase Hallam is eighth on DU's all-time list with 122 career steals, just two steals shy of Nate Rohnert (124) in seventh. Hallam, who was voted to the Preseason All-SBC second team, leads DU and is fourth in the conference with 1.8 steals per game, and he is seventh in the SBC in three-point field goal percentage (.441).
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.
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.
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.