Denver (0-2) vs. Harvard (4-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 28, 11:59 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sullivan Arena (8,700) -- Anchorage, Alaska. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Denver 0-1, Harvard 3-0. Away Record: Denver 0-1, Harvard 0-1. Neutral Record: Denver 0-0, Harvard 1-0. Conference Record: Denver 0-0, Harvard 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Denver Pioneers and Harvard Crimson will close out Thursday's first-round action of the Great Alaska Shootout, as they face one another in a late-night tip off at Sullivan Arena.
Joe Scott's Pioneers have played just two games and haven't taken the court in competition in 11 days. The two games came against a pair of Pac-12 foes and resulted in losses to both California (77-50) and Stanford (66-57).
Tommy Amaker's Crimson have been much more active in the early going, as this represents the team's sixth games of the season. Harvard opened the season with four consecutive wins, but enters this tournament off its first loss of the season, a 70-62 setback at Colorado last Sunday.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams. The winner of this game will take on either Pepperdine or Green Bay in Friday's second-round action.
Despite the small sample size, Denver has shown a lack of scoring punch thus far. The team's 57 points against Stanford were actually more than in the season opener. A lot of that production came from senior forward Chris Udofia, who went 7-of-9 from the floor and finished with 20 points against the Cardinal. Scoring balance was non-existent, with no other Pioneer having more than eight points in the game.
Expectations are still high for Denver, which was picked to finish second in the Summit League this season. If the Pioneers are to fulfill that, Udofia will be front and center. The 6-foot-6 veteran was a All-Summit First-Team selection. His 20 points against the Cardinal were a big boost from the eight he scored against Cal. Over two games, he is averaging 14.0 ppg and is shooting an impressive .769 from the field. The problem for Denver early on is finding Udofia some support at the offensive end. Cam Griffin is the next best option at 11.5 ppg, but is shooting a modest .438 from the floor which happens to rank second in terms of efficiency behind Udofia.
The Crimson have actually played well at both ends of the floor, as evidenced by their +18.8 scoring margin. The team has no shortage of offensive options this season at 77.0 ppg, while limiting foes to a meager 58.2. Wesley Saunders leads the way with his 15.2 ppg. Steve Moundou-Missi and Kyle Casey are next in line at 10.8 ppg apiece. Siyani Chambers is just below double figures at 9.2 ppg, but paces the Crimson in assists (4.6 apg).
Harvard was on fire in the first half against Colorado, converting 15-of-28 shots from the floor to take a 42-30 lead into intermission. However, the Buffaloes came roaring back and outscored the Crimson 40-20 in the second half to earn the win. Overall, Harvard shot a season-low .371 from the floor and lost the rebounding battle, 46-29. Moundou-Missi led the team with a near double-double of 13 points and nine rebounds. Chambers added 12 points, while Casey and Laurent finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Saunders struggled in the game, netting just 3-of-10 shots from the floor, while posting just seven points.
The Pioneers will be a far better team as the season goes on, but coming up against a Harvard squad that let one slip away in Boulder last time out and is eager to get back on the court, should prevent Denver from earning its first win of the season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Harvard 67, Denver 58
11/28 10:35:27 ET