Game #28: Denver (19-8, 14-2 WAC) vs. Texas Arlington (17-10, 11-5 WAC)
Thursday, March 7, 2013 • 7 p.m. MT
Magness Arena (7,200) • Denver, Colo.
TV: None • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: Pioneer Vision (web and audio)
About Denver: The Pioneers have won eight-straight, 15-of-their-last-16 and 18-of-their-last-21 games. With a 14-2 WAC record, Denver is in sole possession of second place and is 2.0 games behind Louisiana Tech (16-0) for first place. The Pioneers lead the WAC in scoring defense (55.2 ppg), field goal percentage (.478), three-point percentage (.372), assists (16.11), assists/turnover ratio (1.42) and three-pointers made (8.00); are second in scoring margin (+9.0), free throw percentage (.735), steals (9.07) and turnover margin (+4.48); and are third in rebounding defense (30.9) and blocked shots (4.22). 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 Texas-Arlington: The Mavericks are 17-10 overall, 11-5 in the WAC and 10-3 on the road this season. UTA has won seven of its last 10 games, including a 61-46 home win over Utah State in its last game on March 2. UTA is averaging 63.6 points per game, while shooting .406 from the field and .331 from three-point range. However, the Mavericks are limiting opponents to 60.7 points, and holding them to just .373 from the field and .307 from beyond the arc. Kevin Butler is the only UTA player averaging double digits in scoring at 10.9 points per game. Jordan Reves is third in the WAC with 8.6 rebounds per game, and Brandon Edwards is fifth (8.1). Reves is also second in blocked shots (2.37). Butler was named Preseason All-WAC Second Team. UTA was predicted to finish fifth in the WAC by the coaches and sixth by the media in the league's preseason polls.
The Matchup: The Pioneers are 4-1 all-time against the Mavericks, including a 50-35 victory on New Year's Eve in Arlington, Texas. Denver is 2-1 at home against UTA, but all three games were in 1976 and 1977.
Last Time Out: Junior forward Chris Udofia recorded 13 points, five assists, four blocks and three steals, leading the Pioneers to their eighth-straight win with a 66-60 victory over New Mexico State at Magness Arena on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Royce O'Neale added 14 points, five assists and five rebounds for Denver. Sophomore guard Brett Olson finished with 13 points, and senior guard Chase Hallam added 11 points, four assists and three steals.
Searching for the Century Mark: A win on Thursday would give head coach Joe Scott 100 victories with the Pioneers. Scott already has the fourth-most wins among the 30 coaches in Denver history.
WACky Scenarios: If Denver beats UTA and Louisiana Tech loses at New Mexico State on Thursday, the Pioneers would play for a WAC co-championship when La Tech comes to Magness Arena on Saturday.
WAC Tournament Watch: The Pioneers would clinch a top two seed in the WAC Tournament with a win on Thursday or a NM State loss. If Denver wins both games and La Tech loses both games this week, the two teams would be tied, and the No. 1 seed would be the team with the higher RPI. Either way, DU will play its first game of the WAC Tournament in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 14. The top six teams receive byes in the tournament, which will be held March 12-16 in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers have won 10-straight home games, improving to 72-15 (.828) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott, including a 44-6 (.888) mark in conference games (Sun Belt/WAC). Denver is 10-2 overall and 7-0 in WAC games 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.
National Rankings: Denver, which is ranked No. 14 in the Mid-Major Top 25 (page 7), has an RPI of 66, but the Pioneers fare better in the other rankings. DU is No. 41 in the Pomeroy Ratings, No. 55 in ESPN's Basketball Power Index and No. 62 in the Sagarin Index, as of Wednesday.
Let's Go Streaking: The Pioneers have won eight-straight games, matching the 11th-longest overall and fourth-longest Division I winning streak in team history. Denver has not won nine-straight games since the 1987-88 season and has never beaten nine-straight Division I opponents.
Cut to the Chase: Denver's lone senior, Chase Hallam, made three steals against New Mexico State on March 2, increasing his season total to 60, the sixth most in DU history and just 11 shy of the single-season 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 18th on Denver's all-time scoring list (page 4) with 1,179 career points and second on DU's all-time career steals list (194), fourth in three-point percentage (.431), eighth in three-pointers made (157), and ninth in both assists (251) and games played (117, all starts). Hallam, who was named College Sports Madness WAC Player of the Week for Jan. 7-13, is first in the WAC and 25th in the NCAA this season in steals (2.22). Hallam is also fifth in the WAC in three-point percentage (.407), seventh in field goal percentage (.485) and ninth in three-pointers made (1.63). Hallam returned to the starting lineup after missing the final three games of the 2011-12 season due to a back injury. 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.
U-Tube: Preseason All-WAC First Teamer Chris Udofia blocked four shots against New Mexico State on March 2 after making six blocks on Jan. 23, when DU faced the Aggies in Las Cruces. The six blocks were Udofia's career high and matched 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 173, is third in the WAC and 37th in the nation this season in blocked shots (2.30). Udofia, who was named WAC Player of the Week for Feb. 11-17, scored his 1,000th career point at San Jose State on Feb. 16, becoming the 33rd Pioneer to eclipse that total. Udofia ranks second in the WAC in assist/turnover ratio (1.77); fifth in both field goal percentage (.504) and steals (1.67); sixth in assists (3.41); 10th in scoring (12.4); and 15th in free throw percentage (.682). Udofia was selected as the 2012 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and an All-SBC First Team member last season.
Been Caught Stealing: The Pioneers have recorded 245 steals, already the sixth most in DU's single-season history and the most since 1994-95. Denver is No. 16 in the NCAA in steals per game (9.1). Additionally, DU ranks No. 3 in the NCAA in steal percentage, recording a steal on 15.2 percent of opponents' possessions, trailing only VCU (17.7 percent) and Louisville (15.8 percent). Conversely, opponents have recorded steals on only 8.2 percent of DU's possessions, which is the 29th best mark in the nation. 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. DU is 7-0 this season when recording at least 10 steals.
D-nial: The Pioneers are first in the WAC and No. 7 in the NCAA in scoring defense, holding opponents to 55.2 points per game. Denver also is third in the nation in turnover percentage, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 26.5 percent of their possessions, according to KenPom.com.
Turning the Turnovers: Denver is first in the WAC and eighth in the nation with a 1.42 assist/turnover ratio, and second in the WAC this season with a +4.48 turnover margin, also the eighth best mark in the nation.
Royce Rolls: Sophomore guard Royce O'Neale is one of only two players to rank among the WAC's top 15 in scoring (13th - 11.6), rebounding (14th - 5.5), assists (seventh - 3.37) and steals (10th - 1.44). O'Neale actually ranks among the WAC leaders in 11-of-13 categories: also third in minutes played (35.04), fifth in free throw percentage (.765), seventh in both assist/turnover ratio (1.49) and defensive rebounds (4.59), 13th in field goal percentage (.455), and 15th in both three-point percentage (.346) and three-pointers made (1.33). 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).
Three's Company: Sophomore point guard Brett Olson, who has earned WAC Player of the Week by College Sports Madness twice this season (Jan. 14-20 and Feb. 18-24), is second in the WAC this season in three-pointers made (2.33), third in three-point percentage (.426), seventh in minutes played (33.85), and 12th in field goal percentage (.457). Olson has stepped up during conference games, ranking second in both three-point percentage (.439) and three-pointers made (2.25), sixth in minutes played (34.50), 10th in field goal percentage (.496), 12th assists (2.94), and 15th in scoring (11.5). Olson has also made 22-straight free throw attempts, going 26-for-27 (.963) from the line this season.
The Long Ranger: The Pioneers are first in the WAC and 28th in the NCAA in three-pointers per game (8.00). DU has taken 44.7 percent of its field goal attempts this season from beyond the three-point arc (fourth-highest rate in the nation), while only 25.0 percent of opponents points have come from three-point range (eighth in the NCAA), according to KenPom.com. DU is also first in the WAC in three-point percentage (.372) and fourth in three-point percentage defense (.321). 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 219-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
A Little Help from Their Friends: The Pioneers had 17 assists on 20 field goals against New Mexico State on March 2, increasing their season total to 435 assists on 620 field goals (70.2 percent), the second-highest mark in the nation, according to KenPom.com. Chris Udofia and Royce O'Neale are sixth and seventh in the WAC with 3.41 and 3.37 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 Scott served as assistant coach for at Princeton - has a longer such streak.
Further Assistance: With 435 assists this season, Denver has 78.3 percent more assists than their opponents (244), and every one of Denver's top nine players has a positive assist/turnover ratio. In WAC play, DU has more than twice as many assists as their opponents at 275-135 (103.7 percent).
Playing the Margins: The Pioneers have outscored WAC opponents by a margin of +11.9, 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 10-game home winning streak, DU has outscored opponents by 21.1 points per game at Magness Arena. DU has limited WAC opponents to 53.0 points per game, the best mark in the conference by 7.3 points. Thursday's opponent, UTA, is second with 60.7 points against per game.
Half & Half: Denver's win over New Mexico State on March 2 marked just the second time this year the Pioneers overcame a halftime deficit to win. DU is a perfect 17-0 this season when leading at the half and 2-8 when trailing at the break. Since Joe Scott took over as head coach, the Pioneers are 85-25 (.773) when leading at half, and 13-54 (.194) when heading into the break with a deficit.
Playing the Percentages: After shooting just 38.1 percent from the floor in the first six games, the Pioneers have shot a WAC-best 49.5 percent from the field in conference games, raising their season average to 47.8 percent, tops in the WAC and 16th in the nation. According to KenPom.com, DU is fourth in the nation in two-point percentage (56.3 percent) and No. 4 in effective field goal percentage (56.1 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).
Road Show: Denver won 8-of-its-final-9 road games, giving them an 8-6 road record. The eight wins are second-most in team history and match the most Division I road wins, set with an 8-6 record in 1942-43. This season is just the 10th in Denver's 89-year Division I history with a winning road record. Last year, DU went 7-6, marking the team's first Division I winning road record since 1970-71. From 2006-11, DU had a combined six road victories.
Extra Basketball: Denver's overtime win at Utah State on Feb. 14 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 also 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.
Comeback Kids: Denver overcame a 14-point deficit at Northern Iowa on Feb. 23, the biggest deficit overcome by DU in a win since coming back from 16 down to beat Seattle 84-83 on Dec. 22, 2009. It was also the largest road deficit overcome by the Pioneers in a win since 2000.
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 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.
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.
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. Northern Iowa advanced to the second round of the NIT.
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.