Alcorn State (3-7) vs. Denver (5-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 28, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,222) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: ASU 3-0, Denver 3-2. Away Record: ASU 0-7, Denver 2-2. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, Denver 0-2. Conference Record: ASU 0-0, Denver 0-0. Series Record: Denver leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Sun Bowl Invitational tips off at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso on Saturday night, as the Denver Pioneers take on the Alcorn State Braves.
Since winning three straight home games in mid-November, Alcorn State has hit a rough patch with seven consecutive losses, all coming on the road. The Braves' most recent contest took place on Dec. 16, and they fell on the wrong end of a 70-44 decision at Mercer.
As for Denver, it has displayed plenty of inconsistency en route to its 5-6 ledger. After winning three straight games, the Pioneers closed out a three- game homestand on a sour note on Dec. 21 by losing to UC Irvine, 63-50.
In the only previous meeting between these two programs, Denver bested Alcorn State at home on Nov. 24, 2010, 69-51.
Alcorn State never had a prayer in its most recent contest, as it shot a meager 24.2 percent from the field (including 3-of-20 from 3-point range), while allowing Mercer to make good on 52.3 percent of its field goal tries en route to the embarrassing 26-point setback. LeAntwan Luckett poured in a game- high 22 points, but he did so on just 9-of-24 shooting from the floor while also committing five turnovers. Twann Oakley scored 13 points off the bench, although the rest of the team combined to make just two field goals.
Poor offensive showings have become a bad habit for the Braves, as they shoot just 38.4 percent from the field for 64.6 points per game, which is 8.1 points fewer than they allow. To make matters worse, they also sport negative margins in terms of rebounding (-5.5) and turnovers (-0.3). Despite Luckett's lackluster field goal percentage (.379), he still generates enough volume to score a team-best 14.2 points per game. Octavious Brown (10.0 ppg) is the only other player to net in double figures, and he also corrals a team-high 6.3 rebounds per contest.
Despite allowing just 63 points in its latest bout, Denver permitted UCI to shoot a lofty 61.5 percent from the field, which dwarfed its 34 percent showing in the team's worst offensive performance of the season. The squad tried to keep the game close by staying active from 3-point range, but while it drained seven long-range buckets, 25 attempts were needed to get there (.280). Brett Olson scored 14 points in defeat, while Jalen Love tacked on 11.
The Pioneers' offensive struggles are far from a rare occurrence, as they shoot 43.2 percent from the field for 65.7 points per game, while their opponents shoot just shy of 50 percent for 67.6 points per tilt. They also own a -5.8 rebounding margin, although they are able to even the playing field somewhat with a +2.5 turnover margin. Olson is the go-to scoring option with 15.1 points per game and is nearly automatic from the free-throw line (41- of-45). Chris Udofia brings 13.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game to the table while also blocking nearly three shots per game. Love (9.6 ppg) narrowly misses the double-digit scorer's club.
Neither team has been all that impressive this season, but at least Denver has shown flashes, while Alcorn State has struggled to even remain competitive of late.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 71, Alcorn State 59
12/28 10:45:00 ET