Texas State (11-21) vs. Denver (21-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 14, 5:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: TSU 4-11, Denver 13-2. Away Record: TSU 4-8, Denver 8-6. Neutral Record: TSU 3-2, Denver 0-0. Conference Record: TSU 4-13, Denver 16-2. Series Record: Denver leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Two of the latest additions to the Western Athletic Conference prepare themselves for battle in the quarterfinals of the 30th annual tournament, as the Denver Pioneers take on the Texas State Bobcats at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The Bobcats may be new to the league, but the seventh seed in this year's event have already tasted success thanks to a convincing 68-56 win over Seattle in the first round of the tourney two nights ago. Texas State, which came over from the Southland Conference for this season, is only make a brief stop in the WAC before moving on to the Sun Belt Conference beginning next season.
Denver, which ironically enough, came to the WAC from the Sun Belt for this season, found the transition to be rather smooth, at least from a conference perspective. Granted, the team opened the campaign with a 1-5 mark, but when the league schedule kicked into gear there was almost no stopping the Pioneers. The team earned the second seed in this event by finishing with a 16-2 league mark, putting together a strong 10-game win streak to close out the regular season.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, Denver is ahead by a count of 2-0 thanks to a 64-53 victory at home during the first week of January, and a 79-64 triumph a month later in San Marcos.
The winner of this clash will be back in action on Friday in the semifinals versus the survivor of the Idaho/New Mexico State battle for the right to take part in the title tilt on Saturday night.
Joel Wright scored a game-high 26 points as the Texas State Bobcats posted the double-digit win over the Seattle Redhawks in the first round of the WAC Tournament earlier this week. Wright, who shot 12-of-14 at the free-throw line, added nine rebounds and four steals for the Bobcats, followed by Matt Staff with 13 points in the triumph. Texas State scored the first points of the night and never looked back, shooting not only 50.0 percent from the floor in the first half but also a perfect 10-of-10 at the free-throw line in order to establish a 36-28 advantage at the break. In the second half the Bobcats again shot an even 50 percent from the field and came up big at the charity stripe, 12-of-16, all while holding Seattle to a mere 32.3 percent from the floor.
Outside of a 53-42 setback versus New Mexico State on the road in late January, the Pioneers have been the hottest team over the last 10 weeks of the campaign, winning all but one of the last 18 contests on the schedule, the last of those victories coming on Saturday afternoon in a blowout of LaTech, 78-54, which had been seemingly invincible right up until the final week of the regular season. Denver is led by Chris Udofia (12.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 100 assists) who was selected to the All-WAC First Team for his efforts, but the Pioneers are just so much more deeper than that these days. Royce O'Neale (11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Brett Olson (11.1 ppg) and Chase Hallam (10.0 ppg) bring experience and maturity that has earned them spots on the WAC's all-conference teams as well.
The earlier matchups between these teams were by no means one-sided, which should give the Bobcats reason to believe they can compete. But before Texas State gets ahead of itself, it might as well start thinking about life in the Sun Belt.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 76, Texas State 61
03/14 10:37:15 ET