GAMES NOTES: The Denver Pioneers will try to secure the No. 2 seed in the
Western Athletic Conference on Thursday night when they face the Texas-
Arlington Mavericks in a league bout at Magness Arena.
With wins in seven of the last eight games Texas-Arlington is surging at just
the right time. The Mavericks are now 11-5 and a game behind New Mexico State
for third place in the standings. The Mavericks have been one of the rare
teams that has played better on the road (10-3) than at home (7-7) this
Denver has also been rolling recently with wins in eight straight contests.
The Pioneers are a win away from securing their 20th victory of the season as
well as a win from securing the second seed in the upcoming WAC Tournament.
The Pioneers are an impressive 11-2 at Magness Arena this season.
These teams met as conference foes for the first time earlier this season when
Denver grabbed a 50-35 win on the road in a New Year's Eve clash. The Pioneers
have won four of the five total meetings.
Led by 21 points from KEvin Butler and a strong defensive performance, the
Mavericks defeated UTah State, 61-46, last time out. The Mavericks held the
Aggies to just 30.4 percent shooting and only 14 total field goals. The
Mavericks forced 16 turnovers and hit 11 3-pointers in the contest.
Texas-Arlington is one of the worst offensive teams in the conference ranking
ninth in points scored (63.6 pg) and eighth in field goal percentage (.406).
However the Mavericks have been able to keep themselves in the win column more
often than not by owning the fourth-lowest opponent field-goal percentage in
the country (.373). Butler (10.9 ppg) is the lone double figure scorer on the
roster for the MAvericks who rely more on balance. Brandon Edwards (8.0 ppg,
8.1 rpg) is the fifth-leading rebounder in the conference and is one of six
different players on the team putting in at least seven points per game.
In its battle with New Mexico State last time out the Pioneers were leading by
just a 55-54 advantage with just under two minutes remaining. However an 11-3
run allowed the Pioneers to pull away for the 66-60 victory. Royce O'Neale
scored a team-high 14 points in the loss.
Denver is also a staunch defensive team especially in its ability to get into
passing lanes and force teams to create off of one-on-one plays. The Pioneers
allow the sixth-fewest assists in the conference (9 apg), while also ranking
sixth nationally in scoring defense (55.2 pg). While not high scoring, the
Pioneers are extremely efficient, leading the conference in assists (16.1 apg)
and field-goal percentage (.478). Chris Udofia (12.4 ppg) leads four players
on the roster not only scoring in double figures but also shooting over 45
percent from the floor. O'Neale (11.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.4 apg) has been the most
versatile commodity on the squad, leading in rebounds and assists.
With the No. 2 seed within grasp for Denver expect the Pioneers to grind out a
win in what promises to be a grueling defensive battle.