Game #3: Denver (1-1) vs. California (2-0)
Friday, November 16, 2012 • 6 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 return 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-SBC First Team member Chris Udofia, who was voted 2011-12 SBC Defensive Player of the Year and All-SBC First Team last season. Udofia was tied for fourth in the Sun Belt in scoring (14.5 ppg) last year, and led the team in field goal percentage (.534), assists (2.6 per game) and blocked shots (2.3 per game). Additionally, Royce O'Neale is back after leading the team in rebounding (5.8 per game), Brett Olson, who was second in the SBC in three-point percentage (.456), and 2010-11 All-SBC Second Team selection Chase Hallam. DU welcomes five newcomers to the roster. In their first year in the WAC, the Pioneers were picked to finish third in the WAC Preseason Polls by both the coaches and the media.
About California: The Golden Bears won their first two games this season, beating Cal State Bakersfield 78-65 and Pepperdine 79-62. Cal is led by Allen Crabbe's 30 points per game, and Justin Cobbs has averaged 22.5 points in the first two games. David Kravish and Richard Solomon are averaging 8.0 and 7.5 rebounds per game, respectively. The Bears, who were picked third in the Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll this season, earned a berth in last year's NCAA Tournament after going 24-10 overall and 13-5 in the Pac-12.
The Match-up: Cal has won all three previous meetings with the Pioneers, including an 80-59 win last season in Berkeley, Calif. Previously, the Bears won 73-68 in Berkeley in 1966-67, and 96-82 in Denver the following year.
Magness Magic: Following Wednesday's win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the home opener, DU improved to 62-13 (.827) at Magness Arena since head coach Joe Scott took over in 2007. The Pioneers went 14-2 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.
Last Time Out: Junior forward Chris Udofia had game highs with 17 points and seven rebounds, leading the Pioneers to a 68-51 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday night at Magness Arena. Denver shot 44.4 percent (11-for-21) from three-point range in the game, including three from sophomore guard Brett Olson, who finished with 11 points. Overall, the Pioneers hit 46.5 percent (20-of-23) from the field, while holding the Islanders (1-1) to 38.8 percent (19-of-49). Sophomore forward Royce O'Neale matched Udofia's game-high with seven rebounds and led all players with five assists. Sophomore guard Cam Griffin scored eight points, going 2-for-2 on his first-career three-pointers, while senior guard Chase Hallam and freshman guard Jalen Love added seven points apiece. Hallam also recorded three blocks.
TV Stars: Friday's game against Cal will be broadcast live on ROOT SPORTS. Marc Stout (play-by-play) and Greg Lackey (color) will call the action. The Pioneers are 23-7 in games on ROOT SPORTS during head coach Joe Scott's five years at DU, including a 6-1 mark in 2011-12. ROOT is available on Comcast (Ch. 26 or 665HD), DirecTV (Ch. 683) or Dish Network (Ch. 414).
U-Tube: Preseason All-WAC First Teamer Chris Udofia averaged 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 blocks in DU's first two games this season. Udofia was selected as the 2012 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and an All-SBC First Team member last season. The 6-foot-6 Udofia ranked 30th in the NCAA in blocked shots (2.3 per game) last year and 35th in field goal percentage (.534), which were third and sixth in the Sun Belt Conference, respectively. Udofia's 72 blocks were the fourth most in a single season at DU, and his 115 career blocks rank fifth.
Out of the Gate: Seven of Denver's first nine opponents played in the postseason last year, including Iona, California, Colorado State and Southern Mississippi (three of the first four opponents), 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 home-and-homes with three WAC teams that played in the postseason - New Mexico State played in the NCAA Tournament, Texas Arlington was in the NIT, and Utah State was the CIT runner-up.
Denver vs. BCS Conference Teams: Denver is looking for just its second win over a team from a BCS conference in 20 such games since 1990, and its first since beating Oregon State 54-53 on Dec. 13, 2000. Overall, DU is 76-212 against schools that are currently in the six BCS conferences, including a 46-62 mark in Denver. The Pioneers are 0-5 against those schools under head coach Joe Scott.
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.
The Long Rangers Return: Sophomore Brett Olson has knocked down seven of DU's 17 three-pointers this season. Olson led the Sun Belt Conference in three-point percentage (.462) last season. Overall, 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. DU averaged 8.2 three-pointers made per game, second most in the SBC and 24th in the NCAA. The Pioneers were 10-1 last season when hitting 10 or more three-pointers. Denver also broke the team's single season record of 251 three-pointers, set in 2009-10. The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 182-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
Happy Birthday: Senior Chase Hallam, will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Saturday. Hallam has averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, and tied a career-high with three blocks against the Islanders on Wednesday.
Bench Warming: After going scoreless against Iona on Nov. 9, DU's bench scored 25 points against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 14. That output included the first career three-pointers for sophomore Cam Griffin (2), and freshmen Nate Engesser (2) and Jalen Love, and redshirt freshman Marcus Byrd scored his first four career points in the game.
A Little Help from Their Friends: DU dished out 17 assists on 20 field goals (85.0 percent) against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 14. 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 nation, according to KenPom.com. DU had seven players averaging 1.65 assists per game or better, including Chris Udofia who was 12th in the SBC with 2.3 assists per game. 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.
Can't Drive 65: Denver's 65-58 loss to Iona marked just the second time since the 2010-11 season that Denver has allowed 65 or fewer points and lost. The Pioneers are 23-2 in the past two seasons when holding opponents to 65 or fewer points and 0-8 when the opponent scored more than 65 points.
Chairmen of the Boards: The Pioneers out-rebounded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 33-31 on Nov. 14, improving DU's record to 6-0 when out-rebounding its opponent in the last two seasons. Junior Chris Udofia, sophomore Royce O'Neale and Chase Hallam have averaged 6.5, 5.5 and 5.0 rebounds per game, respectively.