Game #16: Denver (9-7, 5-1 WAC) San Jose State (9-7, 3-2 WAC)
Thursday, January 17, 2013 • 7 p.m. MT
Magness Arena (7,200) • Denver, Colo.
TV: None • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: Pioneer Vision (video and audio)
About Denver: The Pioneers have won five-straight games and eight of the last 10. With a 5-1 WAC record, DU is 0.5 games behind leaders Utah State (5-0) and Louisiana Tech (5-0). The Pioneers lead the WAC in scoring defense (55.7 ppg), free throw percentage (.729) and three-pointers made (8.3); are second in assists (15.5), three-point percentage (.361), turnover margin (+3.69) and assists/turnover ratio (1.3); and third in field goal percentage (.458), scoring margin (+6.8), steals (8.4) and rebounding defense (31.2). Denver, which was ranked eighth in the nation with a 48.8 field goal percentage last season, returns 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-WAC First Team member Chris Udofia, who was voted 2011-12 SBC Defensive Player of the Year and All-SBC First Team last season. In their lone year in the WAC, the Pioneers were picked to finish third in the WAC's Preseason Polls by both the coaches and the media.
About San Jose State: The Spartans are 9-7 overall, 3-2 in the WAC and 4-3 on the road this season. SJSU is 2-2 in its last four games and 4-4 in its last eight. The Spartans were defeated 66-60 at Utah State in their last game on Jan. 11. SJSU is led by James Kinney whose 20.6 points per game are first in the WAC, although Kinney missed the last game along with teammate Louis Garrett (7.1 ppg) for undisclosed reasons. Chris Cunningham is averaging 11.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for the Spartans. SJSU is second in the WAC in field goal percentage defense (.397), offensive rebounds (14.0) and defensive rebounds (26.3), and the team is shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from three-point range. San Jose State was picked to finish ninth by the media and coaches in the WAC preseason polls.
The Matchup: Denver won both previous meetings with the Spartans, both at home in 1959 and 1971.
Last Time Out: Senior guard Chase Hallam scored a game-high 17 points, including a career-high five three-pointers, leading the Pioneers to a 64-51 victory over Seattle on Jan. 12. Junior forward Chris Udofia added 15 points, six assists and three blocks, while sophomore Royce O'Neale added nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Jalen Love set a new career-high with 11 points. Denver hit 12 three-pointers, including nine in the first half, jumping to a 19-point lead just 10:23 into the game, and led 43-29 at halftime. Seattle made a second-half run but could not get closer than 10 points the rest of the way. DU shot 22-for-48 (45.8 percent) from the field and 12-for-27 (44.4 percent) from three-point range, while the Redhawks went 21-for-45 (46.7 percent) from the floor and 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Youth Movement: With an average of only 0.85 years of experience per player, Denver has the eighth youngest team in the nation. DU has only one senior and two juniors among their scholarship athletes, while sporting six freshmen.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers have won five-straight home games, improving to 67-15 (.817) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott. 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.
Cut to the Chase: Denver's lone senior, Chase Hallam, hit a career-high five three-pointers as part of his game-high 17 points in a win at Seattle on Jan. 12. Two days earlier, Hallam scored eight of his team-high 14 points at Idaho on Jan. 10 in the game's final 3:20. Hallam, who was named College Sports Madness WAC Player of the Week for Jan. 7-13, moved past Doug Wilson (1980-83) into second on DU's all-time career steals list with 168 and into a tie for ninth on the all-time three-pointers made list with 141. Hallam is just one point shy of joining Denver's top 25 all-time scoring list with 1,070 career points (chart on next page). Hallam is ranked fourth in the WAC this season in steals (2.1), sixth in three-point percentage (.424), eighth in field goal percentage (.492), ninth in three-pointers made (1.8) and 15th in blocked shots (0.7). Hallam returned to the starting lineup after missing the final three games of the 2011-12 season due to a back injury. Aside from those three games, Hallam has started all 105 games during his DU career. A 2010-11 All-Sun Belt Second Team selection, Hallam averaged 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals in the first three years of his career.
The Long Ranger: The Pioneers hit nine of their 12 three-pointers at Seattle on Jan. 12 in the first half, paving the way to a 64-51 win. The Pioneers have taken 47.2 percent of their field goal attempts this season from beyond the three-point arc, the highest rate in the nation, according to KenPom.com. In fact, 39.9 percent of Denver's points this season have come from three-pointers, the third highest ratio in the nation. The Pioneers are first in the WAC and 24th in the nation with 8.3 three-pointers made per game and second with a .361 three-point percentage. Overall, Denver was ranked No. 8 in the nation in three-point shooting at 39.8 percent (255-of-641) last season, which was also the best mark in the Sun Belt Conference. Denver is 5-0 in 2012-13 and a combined 15-1 over the past two seasons when hitting 10 or more three-pointers. The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 208-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
A Little Help from Their Friends: During DU's five-game winning streak, the Pioneers have recorded assists on 84.1 percent of their field goals (90-of-107). Denver had 24 assists against UTSA on Jan. 6, the most recorded by the Pioneers since dishing out 25 against Louisiana-Monroe on Dec. 19, 2009. DU has dished out 248 assists on 357 field goals (69.5 percent) this season, the third-highest mark in the nation, according to KenPom.com. Chris Udofia and Royce O'Neale are fourth and eighth in the WAC with 3.6 and 3.3 assists per game, respectively. 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 NCAA. 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.
Been Caught Stealing: According to KenPom.com, the Pioneers are ranked seventh in the nation in turnover percentage, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 26.2 percent of their possessions. Denver also ranks 11th in steal percentage, recording a steal on 13.7 percent of opponents' possessions. DU is first in the WAC and 10th in the NCAA in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 55.7 points per game.
Playing the Percentages: After making just 38.1 percent from the floor in the first six games, the Pioneers have raised their season average to 45.8 percent, third-best in the WAC. According to KenPom.com DU is ranked 18th in the nation in two-point percentage (54.4 percent) and 22nd in effective field goal percentage (54.3 percent), which gives added weight to three-pointers to determine overall offensive effectiveness. DU was tied for eighth in the nation with a .478 field goal percentage last season. According to ESPN.com, Denver was third in the nation in adjusted field goal percentage (57.3 percent). Likewise, KenPom.com had Denver ranked third in the nation last season in both effective field goal percentage (57.3) and two-point field goals (55.3 percent).
Half & Half: At Idaho on Jan. 10, the Pioneers won their first game this season when they have trailed at the half. Denver is a perfect 8-0 this season when leading at the half and 1-7 when trailing at the break. Since Joe Scott took over as head coach, the Pioneers are 76-25 (.752) when leading at half, and 12-53 (.185) when heading into the break with a deficit.
Royce Rolls: Sophomore guard Royce O'Neale narrowly missed his third double-double of the season, recording nine points and 10 rebounds at Seattle on Jan. 12. O'Neale, who earned WAC Player of the Week honors for Dec. 10-16, recorded double-doubles against Nebraska Omaha (Dec. 15) and UTSA (Jan. 6). O'Neale is second in the WAC in minutes played (35.2) and free throw percentage (.807); sixth in steals (1.7); eighth in assists (3.3) and defensive rebounds (4.8); ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.3); 11th in scoring (12.8); 12th in three-pointers per game (1.6); 13th in three-point percentage (.366); and 14th in rebounding (5.6).
Feeling Charitable: Denver shot 92.3 percent (12-of-13) from the free throw line at Idaho on Jan. 10, the team's highest percentage with at least 10 attempts since going 14-of-14 against Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 30, 2010. The Pioneers are leading the WAC with a 72.9 free throw percentage. Strangely, though, the Pioneers are 3-5 when hitting 70 percent or better from the free throw line this season, and 6-2 when under 70 percent. Denver was tied for 12th in the nation last season, hitting 76.2 percent from the charity stripe.
Reaching the Summit: The University of Denver has accepted an invitation to join The Summit League, moving all athletics programs currently participating in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) after completion of the 2012-13 season. Denver plans to participate in 11-of-the-19 championship sports The Summit League currently offers. Denver teams scheduled to compete for conference championships include men's and women's basketball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, and volleyball. The Pioneers will officially begin league play during the 2013-14 school year. The University of Denver becomes the 10th member of The Summit League, joining IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne), University of Missouri-Kansas City (Kansas City), North Dakota State University, Oakland University, University of Nebraska-Omaha (Omaha), University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University. The conference, in existence since 1982, changed its name to The Summit League in 2007 from the Mid-Continent Conference. The University's remaining sports - hockey, gymnastics, men's and women's lacrosse, and men's and women's skiing - will continue in their respective conferences.
Road Show: The Pioneers have won their last three road games, giving DU a 3-5 mark on the road this season. If Denver wins at New Mexico State on Jan. 23, it will match DU's longest road winning streak since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998, which was set last season. DU was 7-6 on the road last year, marking the team's first Division I winning road record since 1970-71 and only the ninth time in Denver's 89-year Division I history. In the previous five years, Denver had a combined six road victories.
Out of the Gate: Seven of Denver's first nine opponents played in the postseason last year, including Iona, California, Colorado State and Southern Miss, 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 twice against three WAC teams that played in the postseason - New Mexico State played in the NCAA Tournament, UT-Arlington was in the NIT, and Utah State was the CIT runner-up.
This One Goes to 11: Denver's 55-49 victory over Idaho on Jan. 10 marked the team's only win by less than 11 points this season. DU's nine wins have come by an average margin of 19.6 points.
What's the Point?: Denver's 50-35 victory at UT-Arlington on Dec. 31 marked the lowest DU point total and lowest opponent's point total in a Pioneers' win since Denver beat Southern Mississippi 44-30 at the BP Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Nov. 19, 2005.
Preseason Honors: Junior forward Chris Udofia was voted to the 2012-13 Preseason All-WAC First Team by both the league coaches and media.
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.