HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Junior forward Rob Lewis (Colorado Springs, Colo.) had nine points, five assists and nine rebounds, including seven in the second half, to lead the No. 6-seeded University of Denver men's basketball team to a convincing 73-58 victory over No. 3-seeded Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament First Round in Convention Center Court on Sunday night.
The Pioneers (19-12) used a 26-7 run in the first 12:55 of the second half and stretched the lead to as many as 21 points by shooting 70.6 percent (12-for-17) from the field and hitting 22 free throws in the second half. DU held the Blue Raiders (19-13) to 43.5 percent (20-of-46) from the field and just 3-of-15 (20 percent) from three-point range.
"We were tough and stayed with what we do. I think we were able to wear them down with what we do," head coach Joe Scott said. "Our guys were able to finish defensive possessions and finish offensive possessions, and the game went about as well as it could go for us. I was proud of our player's effort, and hopefully we can keep it going tomorrow."
Senior guard Nate Rohnert (Parker, Colo.) had a team-high 16 points, while sophomore guard Brian Stafford (Walnut Creek, Calif.) and freshman guard Chase Hallam (Mesquite, Texas) added 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Middle Tennessee led most of the first half until Rohnert put the Pioneers up by one with a pair of free throws at the 1:08 mark. The Blue Raiders hit a free throw with 0.9 left to send the game to halftime knotted at 25-25.
Middle Tennessee was led by Calvin O'Neil, who had 14 points in the game.
The Pioneers advance to face No. 2 seeded North Texas in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Semifinals on Monday at 7:30 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcast live on the Sun Belt Television Network, as well as audio on AM 950 and www.DenverPioneers.com. Live video and live stats are available at http://www.sunbeltsports.org/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=4100&ATCLID=204783267.