Game #30: Denver (17-12, 10-8 SBC) vs. Florida International (7-24, 4-14 SBC)
Saturday, March 6, 2010 • 7:45 p.m. MT
Summit Arena (6,000) • Hot Springs, Arkansas
TV: None • Radio: AM 950 • Web: www.DenverPioneers.com (Audio)
About Denver: The Pioneers enter the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Saturday after beating Louisiana-Lafayette 63-47 on Feb. 27 in the regular season finale. Denver went 3-1 in its last four games and 5-5 in its last 10. DU finished in a tie for third place in the SBC West Division and holds the No. 6 seed in the SBC Tournament. Denver returns nine players, including all five starters, and 98 percent of its scoring and rebounding from last year. DU was picked second in the Sun Belt West Division in the annual coaches' preseason poll, and senior captain and guard Nate Rohnert was named to the Preseason All-SBC First Team.
About Florida International: The Golden Panthers are the No. 11 seed in the SBC Tournament after going 7-24 overall and 4-14 in the Sun Belt Conference during Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas' first season as FIU head coach. The Panthers are riding an eight-game losing streak, dating back to a win over UALR on Jan. 23. FIU is led in scoring by Marvin Roberts' 15.6 points per game, and Antoine Watson averaged 10.4 points but has not played since Jan. 2. Leading rebounder JC Otero tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Feb. 27, ending his season. FIU was predicted to finish sixth in the SBC East Division in the Preseason Coaches' Poll.
The Match-up: Denver holds a slight 7-6 lead in the all-time series. The Pioneers fell to FIU in the 2001 SBC Tournament, the only neutral site meeting between the teams. The Pioneers beat the Golden Panthers 59-53 on Dec. 17 in the only previous meeting this season.
Staying Neutral: The Pioneers are 3-1 at neutral sites since Joe Scott took over as head coach in 2007-08. Denver beat East Central in Scott's first game at DU (11/8/07), Morgan State (12/29/07) and Texas-Arlington (12/5/08) before falling 58-55 to Arkansas-Little Rock in last year's SBC Tournament at Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Ark.
DU in the SBC Tournament: The Pioneers are 6-9 in the SBC Tournament since joining the conference during the 1999-00 season. Denver lost 58-55 in the SBC Quarterfinals last season. If DU beats Florida International, the Pioneers would advance to the Quarterfinals against No. 3 seeded Middle Tennessee on Sunday at 8 p.m. MT.
Winning Ways: Denver's 17 wins overall and 10 Sun Belt Conference wins this season mark the second most in DU's NCAA Division I history and the most by the Pioneers since going 20-11 and 12-3 SBC during the 2004-05 season. The 10-8 SBC record marks just the second winning conference record in Denver history.
Sun Belt Honors: Denver senior guard Nate Rohnert was named All-Sun Belt Conference First Team for the second-straight season, becoming the second Pioneer to earn the honor twice and just the third to DU player named to the first team. Wahhab Carter made the first team in 2000, and Yemi Nicholson was named in 2005 and 2006.
O Captain! My Captain!: Nate Rohnert jumped to ninth place on DU's all-time scorer list with 1,261 points and now sits just four points from eighth place and 21 points from joining DU's top five. The senior captain is fourth all-time with 362 free throws made, and sixth on Denver's all-time career lists in both assists (346) and free throw attempts (505). Rohnert is seventh on DU's all-time career steals list with 121. On Saturday, the Parker, Colo., native will move into a tie for the most games ever played by a Pioneers player with 118.
Monster Style: Nate Rohnert had 11 points and 10 rebounds against Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 27, giving him his fourth career double-double.
Percentage Game: Denver ranks sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (49.4) and 11th in three-point field goal percentage (39.8). Denver has shot at least 60 percent from the field in five games this season. In the previous 11 seasons since returning to NCAA Division I, the Pioneers had shot 60 percent or better five times, combined, and never more than once in a season.
Cut to the Chase: Guard Chase Hallam had a career-high and game-high 20 points against Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 27, going 7-for-12 from the field and 4-for-6 from three-point range. In February, Hallam led the Pioneers with 14.1 points, 1.9 steals per game and a 55.6 field goal percentage, while pulling down 5.9 rebounds per game. The freshman guard has started every game this year and is third in the SBC in three-point percentage (47.0), and seventh in both field goal percentage (52.9) and steals (1.4). Additionally, Hallam's next rebound will be his 100th.
Making His Point: Sophomore guard Brian Stafford scored 16 points at South Alabama on Thursday, marking the fifth time he led the Pioneers in scoring in their last eight games. Stafford is second on the team with 214 points during conference play this season, just one point behind Nate Rohnert.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers finished the season tied for the ninth longest home winning streak in the nation at 15-straight games. DU has not lost at Magness Arena since a season opening defeat to Missouri Valley champion Northern Iowa, which also has won 15-straight at home. Since Joe Scott took over as head coach prior to the 2007-08 season, the Pioneers are 36-7 (.837) overall and 23-4 (.852) against SBC teams at Magness Arena.
Rocky Mountain Way: Eight of Denver's 15 players hail from Colorado: Sabatino Chen (Louisville), Tom Chott (Littleton), Justin CoughlinAndrew Hooper (Lakewood), Kyle Lewis (Denver), Rob Lewis (Colorado Springs), Trevor Noonan (Broomfield) and Nate Rohnert (Yuma), (Parker).
Scott Signs Dallas Prep: High school senior Chris Udofia signed a National Letters of Intent on Nov. 11 to play for Denver beginning next season. Udofia, a 6-foot-6 forward, earned First Team All-District and District Defensive Player of the Year with Jesuit Prep High School in Dallas, Texas.
Transfer of Power: Sophomore forward Trevor Noonan joined the Pioneers this season after transferring from Air Force. Due to NCAA rules, Noonan will not be eligible to play until next season.