FACTS & STATS: Site: Magness Arena (7,200) -- Denver, Colorado. Television: ROOT-RM. Home Record: Utah St. 10-1, Denver 7-2. Away Record: Utah St. 4-1, Denver 3-5. Neutral Record: Utah St. 0-0, Denver 0-0. Conference Record: Utah St. 5-1, Denver 6-1. Series Record: Utah State leads, 53-36.
GAME NOTES: Two of the top teams in the Western Athletic Conference collide at Magness Arena on Saturday, as the Denver Pioneers play host to the Utah State Aggies.
Joe Scott's Pioneers are on a roll right now, entering this showdown with wins in six straight games and nine of their last 11 overall. The team currently sits in second place in the WAC standings at 6-1 following Thursday's 73-37 whipping of San Jose State.
Stew Morrill's Aggies boast a better overall record at 14-2, although the team had a 13-game win streak snapped last time out, suffering its first league loss in six WAC outings, with a 64-51 setback at New Mexico State on Thursday.
This marks the 90th meeting between these two teams on the hardwood, with Utah State holding a 53-36 advantage. The Aggies had won nine straight in the series prior to last year's 67-54 Denver win in Logan.
The Aggies don't put up gaudy scoring totals, averaging a modest 71.2 ppg on the year, but they do make each trip down the floor count, shooting an impressive .489 from the floor. Utah State has enjoyed superior play on the boards as well, holding a +7.7 rebounding margin. Preston Medlin is the team's top offensive threat, averaging 16.3 ppg, thanks in large part to his team- high 33 3-pointers. While Medlin is delivering from the outside, both Jarred Shaw (12.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Kyisean Reed (12.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) deliver from closer in.
An ugly first half did in the Aggies against New Mexico State on Thursday, as the team could not overcome an 8-of-31 effort from the floor in the first 20 minutes. Utah State shot a much better 56.0 percent over the final 20 minutes, but NMSU also delivered at a high rate (69.6 percent) to keep Utah State at bay. Medlin led the way in defeat with 14 points. Shaw finished with 11 points.
The Pioneers put on a shooting clinic in their rout of San Jose State, converting 56.3 percent from the floor, including a ridiculous 73.9 percent in the second half (17-of-23). Brett Olson and Chris Udofia led the way with 15 points apiece. Royce O'Neale added just seven points to the cause, but led the team with 10 rebounds.
The offensive performance was a bit of an aberration for Denver, but the defensive one was just another in a long line of standout performances at that end. On the season, Denver is allowing foes to score just 54.6 ppg to rank seventh nationally in that category. O'Neale and Udofia are the top scoring options on the roster at 12.4 and 12.3 ppg, respectively. Chase Hallen is next in line at 9.6 ppg, followed closely by Olson and his 9.1 ppg.
Utah State isn't intimidated on the road and certainly possesses the firepower to knock off Denver, despite the Pioneers' strong defensive principles.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 65, Denver 63
01/19 10:31:15 ET
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