Game #19: Denver (11-7, 7-1 WAC) vs. New Mexico State (12-8, 6-2 WAC)
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 • 9 p.m. MT
Pan American Center (8,994) • Las Cruces, N.M.
TV: ESPNU • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: ESPN3.com (video) & Pioneer Vision (audio)
About Denver: The Pioneers have won seven-straight games and 10 of the last 12. With a 7-1 WAC record, DU is 0.5 games behind Louisiana Tech (7-0) for first place. The Pioneers lead the WAC in scoring defense (54.7 ppg), scoring margin (+8.7), assists (15.9), assists/turnover ratio (1.4) and three-pointers made (8.4); are second in free throw percentage (.726), three-point percentage (.372) and turnover margin (+4.33); and are third in field goal percentage (.470), blocked shots (4.4), steals (8.3) and rebounding defense (30.8). 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 New Mexico State: The Aggies are 12-8 overall, 6-2 in the WAC and 9-1 at home this season. NMSU is riding a six-game winning streak and sits in third place in the WAC. NMSU's Daniel Mullings was selected to the Preseason All-WAC First Team, and Tyrone Watson was voted to the Second Team. Mullings is eighth in the WAC this season in scoring (14.7), second in steals (2.2) and fourth in field goal percentage (.533). Watson is averaging 10.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, while Bandja Sy has recorded 10.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. The Aggies are second in the WAC in field goal percentage defense (.400), rebounding margin (+7.1) and blocked shots (5.1), and are third in scoring defense (63.1), but last in three-point field goal percentage (.290) and three-pointers per game (3.6). The Aggies were picked to finish first in the conference by the coaches and second by the media in the WAC preseason polls.
The Matchup: The Aggies lead 12-5 in the all-time series, including a 5-3 mark in Las Cruces. DU swept the last two games in a home-and-home series with New Mexico State in 2005, when both teams were in the Sun Belt Conference.
Broadcast Info: Wednesday's game at New Mexico State will be broadcast live on ESPNU. Trey Bender (play-by-play) and Stephen Howard (color) will call the action. ESPNU is available on Comcast (Ch. 404 or 669HD), DirecTV (Ch. 208) or Dish Network (Ch. 148).
Last Time Out: Sophomore guard Brett Olson scored 18 points and dished out four assists, leading the Pioneers to their seventh-straight victory with a 68-57 win over the Utah State Aggies at Magness Arena on Saturday afternoon. Senior guard Chase Hallam scored 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting for Denver. Junior forward Chris Udofia added 13 points, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Freshman Jalen Love rounded out the double-digit scoring with 10 points. The Pioneers shot 56.5 percent (26-for-46) from the field and 52.6 percent (10-for-19) from beyond the arc. The Aggies shot 47.1 percent (16-of-34) from the floor and 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from beyond the arc. The Crimson and Gold had a season low three turnovers, while forcing 15 Aggie turnovers and were able to outscore the Aggies 17-2 in points off of turnovers.
Let's Go Streaking: With a win on Wednesday, Denver would match the team's longest NCAA Division I winning streak at eight, which DU established from Dec. 18, 2009 - Jan. 20, 2010.
Limiting Turnovers: The Pioneers turned the ball over only three times against Utah State on Jan. 19, the lowest since DU returned to NCAA Division I in 1998-99. In the first half of the game, Denver did not commit any turnovers, the first time the team has gone a half without a turnover since the second half at Montana State on Dec. 20, 2003. Two days prior, DU turned the ball over only five times against San Jose State. In last week's games, the Pioneers outscored their opponents 32-7. DU is first in the WAC and 11th in the nation with a 1.4 assist/turnover ratio, and second in the WAC this season with a +4.33 turnover margin, the 13th best mark in the nation.
D-nial: The Pioneers are No. 7 in the NCAA in scoring defense, holding opponents to 54.6 points per game. According to KenPom.com, the Pioneers are also ranked seventh in the nation in turnover percentage, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 26.1 percent of their possessions.
Been Caught Stealing: Denver also ranks 10th in the NCAA in steal percentage, recording a steal on 13.8 percent of opponents' possessions. Conversely, opponents have recorded steals on only 7.5 percent of DU's possessions, the 13th best mark in the nation.
Winning Margin: The Pioneers have limited WAC opponents to 50.0 points per game, the best mark in the conference by 11.6 points. 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 seven-game home winning streak, DU has outscored opponents by 24.6 points per game.
WAC Player of the Week: Sophomore point guard Brett Olson earned WAC Player of the Week by both the conference and College Sports Madness for Jan. 14-20. Olson scored a season-high 18 points against Utah State on Jan. 19. In two wins last week, Olson shot 61.9 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three-point range. Olson's three-point accuracy of 42.1 percent this season ranks fifth in the WAC and 34th in the nation, and Olson is second in the WAC in three-pointers made (2.50).
Playing the Percentages: Denver shot 56.5 percent (26-of-46) from the field against Utah State on Jan. 19, the eighth time in the last 13 games in which DU has hit at least 50 percent of its shots. After making just 38.1 percent from the floor in the first six games, the Pioneers have raised their season average to 47.0 percent, third-best in the WAC. According to KenPom.com DU is ranked eighth in the nation in two-point percentage (55.3 percent) and 10th in effective field goal percentage (55.5 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).
Feeling Charitable: Denver hit just 46.2 percent (6-of-13) of its free throws in a win over Utah State on Jan. 19, making DU 7-2 this season when shooting less than 70 percent from the charity stripe. Two days earlier, the Pioneers hit all 11 free throw attempts against San Jose State on Jan. 17, marking the first time the Pioneers were perfect from the free throw line with at least 10 attempts since going 14-of-14 against Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 30, 2010. The Pioneers are second in the WAC with a 72.6 free throw percentage. Denver was tied for 12th in the nation last season, hitting 76.2 percent from the charity stripe.
The Long Ranger: The Pioneers hit 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) of their three-point attempts against Utah State on Jan. 19, the third time this season DU has hit at least half of their attempts from beyond the arc. Denver has taken 46.5 percent of their field goal attempts this season from beyond the three-point arc, the second-highest rate in the nation, according to KenPom.com. The Pioneers are first in the WAC and 20th in the nation with 8.4 three-pointers made per game and second in the WAC with a .372 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 6-0 in 2012-13 and a combined 16-1 over the past two seasons when hitting 10 or more three-pointers. The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 210-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
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.
A Little Help from Their Friends: During DU's seven-game winning streak, the Pioneers have recorded assists on 80.6 percent of their field goals (129-of-160). Overall, DU has dished out 287 assists on 410 field goals (70.0 percent) this season, the third-highest mark in the nation, according to KenPom.com. Chris Udofia and Royce O'Neale are fifth and sixth in the WAC with 3.44 and 3.49 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.
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.
Cut to the Chase: Denver's lone senior, Chase Hallam, was named College Sports Madness WAC Player of the Week for Jan. 7-13. Hallam has moved into second on DU's all-time career steals list with 170 and into ninth on the all-time three-pointers made list with 144. Hallam is also 24th on DU's all-time scoring list with 1,087 career points, just 13 behind former teammate Rob Lewis (2007-12) for 23rd place. Hallam is ranked fifth in the WAC this season in steals (2.0), sixth in three-point percentage (.413), seventh in field goal percentage (.489), 10th in three-pointers made (1.72), and 15th in blocked shots (0.67). 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 108 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.
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 10-0 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 78-25 (.757) when leading at half, and 12-53 (.185) when heading into the break with a deficit.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers have won seven-straight home games, improving to 69-15 (.821) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott. The Pioneers are 7-2 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.
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.
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.
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.