Game #25: Denver (16-8, 12-2 WAC) vs. San Jose State (9-15, 3-10 WAC)
Saturday, February 16, 2013 • 8 p.m. MT
The Events Center (5,000) • San Jose, Calif.
TV: None • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: Pioneer Vision (video/audio)
About Denver: The Pioneers have won five-straight, 12-of-their-last-13 and 15-of-their-last-18 games. With an 12-2 WAC record, Denver is tied with New Mexico State and is 1.5 games behind Louisiana Tech (13-0) for first place. The Pioneers lead the WAC in scoring defense (55.5 ppg), field goal percentage (.477), assists (16.29), steals (9.00), assists/turnover ratio (1.44) and three-pointers made (8.08); are second in scoring margin (+8.8), free throw percentage (.728), rebounding defense (31.0) and turnover margin (+4.50); and are third in three-point percentage (.365) and blocked shots (4.25). Denver 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 9-15 overall, 3-10 in the WAC and 5-7 at home this season. SJSU has lost nine-straight games, dating back to Jan. 11 when James Kinney, the WAC's leading scorer (20.6 ppg) at the time, was suspended for the remainder of the season. The Spartans were defeated 67-57 to New Mexico State on Thursday. Without Kinney, SJSU is led by Chris Cunningham, who is averaging 10.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, which is second in the WAC, and his 3.63 offensive rebounds per game leads the league. SJSU is last in the WAC in field goal percentage (.382), and ninth in both three-point percentage (.309) and free throw percentage (.658). San Jose State was picked to finish ninth by the media and coaches in the WAC preseason polls.
The Matchup: Denver has won the three previous meetings with the Spartans, all at home. DU won 73-37 at Magness Arena on Jan. 17, and also won in 1959 and 1971.
Last Time Out: Sophomore Brett Olson hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer in overtime to give the Pioneers a 63-60 victory over Utah State at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Thursday night. Olson, who scored the game's first and last bucket, had a team-high 17 points for the Pioneers. Sophomore Royce O'Neale recorded 14 points and five assists, senior Chase Hallam had 13 points and three steals, and junior Chris Udofia scored 10 points and dished out five assists.
Extra Basketball: Thursday's overtime win snapped a five-game losing streak when DU plays extra time, dating back to a win over Florida International on Jan. 15, 2011. It was the first time the Pioneers won a true road game in overtime since winning in double overtime at Northern Colorado on Dec. 12, 1989 - 11 months before Chase Hallam, this year's oldest player, was born (Nov. 17, 1990). Denver is 4-19 in overtime games since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998-99, and 3-11 in such games since head coach Joe Scott took over the program in 2006-07, including a 76-75 neutral-site win in Norman, Okla., against East Central University in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic on Nov. 8, 2008, in Scott's first game with the Pioneers.
Three's Company: Sophomore point guard Brett Olson went 3-for-4 from three-point range at Utah State on Feb. 14, nailing the final one at the buzzer for the win. Olson, who earned WAC Player of the Week by both the conference and College Sports Madness for Jan. 14-20, is second in the WAC this season in three-pointers made (2.46) and fourth in three-point percentage (.424). Olson is also sixth in the WAC in minutes played (33.58), 12th in field goal percentage (.455) and 15th in steals (1.13).
The Long Ranger: The Pioneers are first in the WAC and 28th in the NCAA in three-pointers per game (8.08). DU has taken 45.6 percent of their field goal attempts this season from beyond the three-point arc (third-highest rate in the nation), while only 24.4 percent of opponents points have come from three-point range (fourth in the NCAA), according to KenPom.com. DU is also third in the WAC with a .365 three-point percentage. Last season, 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 Conference. Denver is 7-0 in 2012-13 and a combined 17-1 over the past two seasons when hitting 10 or more three-pointers. The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 216-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
U-Tube: Preseason All-WAC First Teamer Chris Udofia is just seven points shy of becoming the 33rd Pioneer to surpass 1,000 career points. Udofia tied his career high with six blocked shots at New Mexico State on Jan. 23, matching the highest mark by a WAC player this season. The 6-foot-6 Udofia, who is second on DU's all-time career blocked shots list with 167, is second in the WAC this season in blocked shots (2.33). Udofia also ranks fourth in the WAC in assist/turnover ratio (1.67); fifth field goal percentage (.511); sixth in steals (1.54); ninth in assists (3.21); 10th in scoring (12.4); and 15th in free throw percentage (.697). Udofia was selected as the 2012 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and an All-SBC First Team member last season.
Cut to the Chase: Denver's lone senior, Chase Hallam, had three steals against Utah State on Feb. 14, moving him into eighth place on DU's single-season steals list with 55, only 16 from the team record. Hallam broke DU's NCAA Division I single-game record and the Magness Arena record with eight steals against Seattle on Feb. 7. It also tied Denver's overall record, matching Andre Guzman (vs. Wayne State, Nov. 27, 1993), Tim Ray (vs. Fort Lewis, Feb. 4, 1991) and Joe Fisher (vs. Dordt, Jan. 3, 1987). It was the most by a player in the WAC this season. Hallam is currently second on DU's all-time career steals list (189), fifth in three-point percentage (.425), ninth in three-pointers made (151) and 20th on DU's all-time scoring list (1,144). Hallam, who was named College Sports Madness WAC Player of the Week for Jan. 7-13, is first in the WAC and 21st in the NCAA this season in steals (2.29). Hallam is also sixth in the WAC in three-point percentage (.384), ninth in three-pointers made (1.58), 11th in field goal percentage (.468) and 14th in blocked shots (0.58). 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 114 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 his first three seasons.
Been Caught Stealing: In their last three games, the Pioneers recorded a combined 45 steals. Denver's 22 steals against Seattle on Feb. 7 shattered its single-game team record, which had been 18 against Rockmont on Feb. 10, 1982, and the mark was the most by a team in the WAC this season. Denver had not recorded more than 10 steals in a half since returning to NCAA Division I in 1999, but the Pioneers had 11 in each half against the Redhawks. Denver is No. 18 in the NCAA in steals per game (9.0). Additionally, Denver ranks No. 4 in the NCAA in steal percentage, recording a steal on 15.0 percent of opponents' possessions. Conversely, opponents have recorded steals on only 8.0 percent of DU's possessions, which is the 22nd best mark in the nation.
D-nial: The Pioneers are first in the WAC and No. 9 in the NCAA in scoring defense, holding opponents to 55.5 points per game. Denver also is fifth in the nation in turnover percentage, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 26.3 percent of their possessions, according to KenPom.com.
Turning the Turnovers: Denver is first in the WAC and seventh in the nation with a 1.44 assist/turnover ratio, and second in the WAC this season with a +4.50 turnover margin, the eighth best mark in the nation.
A Little Help from Their Friends: Denver dished out 20 assists on 22 field goals (90.9 percent) at Utah State on Feb. 14. The Pioneers have recorded 391 assists on 555 field goals (70.5 percent) this season, the highest mark in the nation, according to KenPom.com. Royce O'Neale and Chris Udofia are seventh and ninth in the WAC with 3.33 and 3.21 assists per game, respectively. Last season, the Pioneers recorded an assist on 66.5 percent of their field goals (484 assists on 728 field goals), 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.
Further Assistance: With 391 assists this season, Denver has 81.0 percent more assists than their opponents (216), and every one of Denver's top nine players has a positive assist/turnover ratio. In WAC play, the Pioneers have 110.3 percent more assists as their opponents at 244-116.
Road Show: The Pioneers have won six of their last seven road games, evening DU up at 6-6 on the road this 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.
Playing the Margins: The Pioneers have outscored WAC opponents by a margin of +12.3, the best mark in the conference. Denver's 36-point winning margin over San Jose State on Jan. 17 was the team's highest since beating Arkansas State by 38 points in a 74-36 rout on Jan. 20, 2011. During the current nine-game home winning streak, DU has outscored opponents by 22.8 points per game at Magness Arena. The Pioneers have limited WAC opponents to 52.8 points per game, the best mark in the conference by 7.4 points.
Playing the Percentages: After making just 38.1 percent from the floor in the first six games, the Pioneers have shot a WAC-best 49.6 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from three-point range (third best) in conference games, raising their season average to 47.7 percent, tops in the WAC and 20th in the nation. According to KenPom.com DU is leading the nation in two-point percentage (57.0 percent) and No. 6 in effective field goal percentage (56.0 percent), which gives added weight to three-pointers to determine overall offensive effectiveness. Last season, DU was tied for eighth in the nation with a .478 field goal percentage. 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).
National Rankings: Denver, which is just outside the Mid-Major Top 25 (page 6), has an RPI of 90 (a 19-place jump following the win at Utah State on Feb. 14), but the Pioneers fare better in the other rankings. DU is No. 49 in the Pomeroy Ratings, No. 66 in ESPN's Basketball Power Index and No. 73 in the Sagarin Index, as of Friday.
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.
Academic All-District: Senior guard Chase Hallam was voted to the Capital One Academic All-District 7 Team for the third-straight year. Hallam, an accounting major with a 3.9 cumulative GPA, has earned Academic All-District every year he has been eligible. The Mesquite, Texas, native is on the ballot for Academic All-American, which will be announced later this month. Hallam earned a spot on the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List each of his first three seasons, compiling a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better every year.
Half & Half: At Idaho on Jan. 10, the Pioneers won their first game this season when they trailed at the half. Denver is a perfect 15-0 this season when leading at the half and 1-8 when trailing at the break. Since Joe Scott took over as head coach, the Pioneers are 83-25 (.769) when leading at half, and 12-54 (.182) when heading into the break with a deficit.
BracketBuster: Denver will travel to Northern Iowa to take on the Panthers as part of the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters on Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3. The Pioneers have played the Panthers twice with UNI edging DU 61-56 in their only meeting in Cedar Falls on Nov. 15, 2008. Denver opened the following season against Northern Iowa at Magness Arena on Nov. 13, 2009, and again UNI edged DU 71-65. The Panthers ultimately went 30-5 that season, upsetting No. 1 Kansas to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
WAC Tournament Watch: The Pioneers clinched a bye in the WAC Tournament and are guaranteed one of the top five seeds. DU will play its first game in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 14. The top six teams receive byes in the WAC Tournament, which will be held March 12-16 in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
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), 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.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers have won nine-straight home games, improving to 71-15 (.826) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott. Denver is 9-2 at home this year after going 15-2 at home last season. In February 2012, ESPN.com's Ken Pomeroy wrote that Magness Arena was one of the top two home-court advantages in the nation.
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.
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.