Game #28: Denver (19-8, 9-5 SBC) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (2-24, 1-12 SBC)
Saturday, February 18, 2012 • 4 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 19-8 overall and 9-5 in the Sun Belt Conference, tied for second in the SBC West Division and 1.5 games behind division-leading Arkansas-Little Rock. The Pioneers' 19 regular season wins are the most in team's 89-year NCAA Division I history and just one shy of the record for overall victories. Denver is eighth in the nation field goal percentage (.493), 11th in three-point field goal percentage (.400), 18th in assists (15.9 per game), 20th in free throw percentage (.757), and 21st in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.29). 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 2-24 overall and 1-12 in the SBC this season, although their two wins were both on the road. ULM has lost nine-straight and 18 of its last 19 games, including an 86-51 defeat at North Texas on Thursday. The Warhawks are led by Fred Brown, who is first in the SBC in free throw shooting (.875) and whose 12.5 points and 1.3 steals per game are ninth and 11th, respectively. Charles Winborne is 19th in the SBC in scoring (10.8 points per game). ULM is averaging 58.6 points per game while allowing 71.2 points per game, which rank 12th and 11th in the SBC, respectively. The Warhawks are shooting 38.4 percent, which also ranks last in the SBC. 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 Warhawks are ineligible for postseason play.
The Match-up: Denver is 9-4 all-time against ULM overall and have won all six meetings in Denver. DU has won three-straight and seven of the last eight against the Warhawks, including a 63-48 victory in Monroe on Jan. 19.
Winning Ways: The Pioneers' 19 victories this season are the most regular season wins in DU's 89-year Division I history. One more win would tie Denver's all-time Division I record for total victories.
DU's Sun Belt Scenarios: Denver (9-5) currently is slotted for the No. 3 spot in the SBC Tournament, trailing Middle Tennessee (12-1) and Arkansas-Little Rock (10-3). The Pioneers are tied with Louisiana-Lafayette (9-5), but hold the tie breaker against the Cajuns, since the teams split their two games and DU beat top-seeded Middle Tennessee, which has already clinched the SBC East Division title. In order to win the SBC West Division, the Pioneers would need to win their remaining two games, and UALR would need to lose its final three games. Because Louisiana-Monroe will not participate, this year's SBC Tournament will give byes to the top five seeds. If DU beats ULM and FAU loses at Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Denver would clinch a first round bye.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers are concluding the regular season with three-straight games at home, where DU is 12-2 at home this season, improving DU's record to 59-13 (.819) 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.
U-Tube: Chris Udofia scored a game-high 19 points against Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 16, marking the 10th time this season that Udofia has led DU in scoring. Udofia also had two blocks against ULL, moving him into fifth place on DU's single season list with 64, and his 103 career blocks also rank fifth. The 6-foot-6 forward is 26th in the nation and second in the SBC with 2.4 blocks per game. This season, Udofia is ranks first in the SBC in scoring (15.1 points per game); fifth in field goal percentage (.540) and ninth in assists (2.9 per game).
Chief of Stafford: Senior guard and team co-captain Brian Stafford will break DU's record with his 121st game played on Saturday. Stafford, who has started every game in his career, is fourth on DU's all-time scoring list with 1,513 career points. Stafford is also fourth in DU history and sixth on the Sun Belt Conference all-time three-pointers made list with 251 in his career. This season, Stafford is second in the SBC in three-point percentage (.456), which would rank 12th in the nation but he is just shy of the minimum. Stafford also is second in the SBC in three-pointers made (2.3 per game), third in minutes played (33.4 per game), fourth in scoring (13.9 per game), seventh in free throw percentage (.793), and ninth in field goal percentage (.502). Stafford is eighth on DU's all-time list with 308 free throws made.
Royce Rolls: Freshman forward Royce O'Neale pulled down 11 rebounds and tied a career-high with seven assists against the Ragin' Cajuns on Feb. 16. O'Neale recorded his first career double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds, both career highs, at Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 2. The 13 rebounds were the highest by a Pioneer since Nate Rohnert pulled down 13 boards at New Orleans on Feb. 20, 2010. O'Neale also had 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. The freshman is ranked 32nd in the NCAA and second in the SBC in free throw percentage (.862). During conference play, O'Neale is first in the SBC in free throw percentage (.902); fourth in field goal percentage (.557) and defensive rebounds (5.0 per game); fifth in three-point percentage (.441); ninth in steals (1.4 per game) and rebounding (6.2 per game); 12th in scoring (12.1 per game) and 15th in assists (2.4 per game).
Playing the Percentages: The Pioneers are eighth in the nation with a .493 field goal percentage. According to ESPN.com, DU is second in the nation in adjusted field goal percentage (57.8 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 57.8 percent and second in two-point field goals at 56.0 percent.
The Long Rangers: Denver is ranked No. 11 in the nation in three-point shooting at 40.0 percent (221-of-552), which is also the best mark in the Sun Belt. DU is averaging 8.2 three-pointers made per game, second most in the SBC and 31st in the NCAA. The Pioneers are 9-1 this season when hitting 10 or more three-pointers, including 11 at FIU on Feb. 11, with the only loss coming after hitting 11 three-pointers at North Texas on Jan. 21. 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 176-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.
A Little Help from Their Friends: DU has 428 assists on 636 field goals (67.3 percent) this season, the highest percentage in the nation, according to KenPom.com. DU has seven players averaging 1.6 assists per game or better, including Chris Udofia who is ninth 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.
Wait...What?: Denver shot 59.2 percent (29-of-49) from the field against Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 16, marking the fifth time this season DU has shot 59 percent or better. Strangely, the Pioneers have won only two of those five games. DU beat Western Kentucky on Jan. 15, when it shot 59.6 percent (28-of-47) from the field, but lost when shooting 59.2 percent (29-of-49) against Iona on Dec. 7, 62.9 percent (22-of-35) at Colorado State on Jan. 11 and 59.6 percent (28-of-47) at Florida Atlantic on Feb. 9, including 81.0 percent (17-of-21) in the second half. DU is 9-0 this season when shooting between 48 and 59 percent, and 2-3 when shooting better than 59 percent.
Can't Drive 65: The Pioneers are 19-1 when holding opponents to 65 or fewer points and 0-7 when the opponent scored more than 65 points.
OhSoClose: Denver lost 72-71 at Florida Atlantic on Feb. 9, when the Owls hit two free throws with 1.1 seconds left. It marked the fourth game this season, including three of the last five road games, in which the Pioneers have lost in the final 1.1 seconds. DU also lost its previous road game on a free throw with 0.4 seconds remaining in overtime at ULL on Feb. 2. The Pioneers fell on buzzer beaters in overtime against both Iona on Dec. 7 and at North Texas on Jan. 21. 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.
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 will have traveled 12,032 miles by plane and bus.
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.
Academic All-District: Senior Brian Stafford and junior Chase Hallam were among the five student-athletes named CoSIDA Academic All-District 7. Stafford is a finance major with a 3.7 cumulative grade-point average, while Hallam has a 3.9 GPA in accounting. Both will now be on the ballot for Academic All-American. As a team, the Pioneers compiled a 3.4 combined GPA in 2010-11.
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.
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.
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.