Denver (17-8) at F-I-U (7-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 11th, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: Denver 11-2, FIU 1-7. Away Record: Denver 6-6, FIU 5-7. Neutral Record: Denver 0-0, FIU 1-2. Conference Record: Denver 7-5, FIU 4-7. Series Record: Denver leads, 9-7.
GAME NOTES: The Denver Pioneers wrap up their two-game road swing in the Sunshine State tonight, as they visit the FIU Golden Panthers for a Sun Belt Conference clash at U.S. Century Bank Arena in Miami.
Three weeks ago, Denver was sitting at 15-4, one of its best starts in school history, and it was enjoying first place in the West Division of the Sun Belt. Since then however, the Pioneers have been free falling, losing four of their last six and now own a 7-5 record in conference, two and a half games behind Arkansas-Little Rock for first place. They went down in heart-breaking fashion on Thursday, losing to Florida Atlantic in a 72-71 final.
FIU hasn't had anywhere near the success Denver has had this season, losing a total of 16 games, second-most in the conference. The Golden Panthers have shown improvement of late though, winning back-to-back road games last week before losing to North Texas on Thursday, 68-61.
The Golden Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak to the Pioneers in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament last year, winning 53-49. Still, Denver holds a slim lead in the series with FIU, 9-7.
Though Denver ranks fifth in the conference in scoring offense (67.8 ppg), they are the most efficient scoring team in the conference, ranking first in free throw percentage (.769) and three-point percentage (.399), and second in field goal percentage (.488). The Pioneer defense has been impressive as well, ranking second in the conference in allowing just 61.4 ppg, but the unit has disappointed in allowing 72 points in each of their last two losses. Denver shot a sizzling 59.6 percent from the floor in Thursday's game but still lost as Florida Atlantic hit nine three-pointers and went 15-of-19 at the foul line. Chris Udofia scored 20 points for the second consecutive game and blocked six shots, adding to his 2.4 bpg average (second in the conference). Udofia leads the league in scoring (14.9 ppg) and the team in rebounding (5.4 rpg), while shooting 53.5 percent from the floor. Brian Stafford nets 14.1 ppg and is deadly from three-point range, draining 2.4 treys per game at a 47.6 percent clip.
Unlike its counterpart tonight, FIU has one of the least effective offenses in the Sun Belt, scoring 62.1 ppg on 41.7 percent field goal efficiency. Though the Golden Panther defense held North Texas below its season average on Thursday, the offense could not capitalize, connecting on just 35.9 percent of its total shots. As with most of the team, Phil Taylor struggled from the floor by going just 5-of-14, but he still managed to lead the team with 16 points. Since returning from injury, DeJuan Wright has been perhaps the conference's most dominant player, tallying 15.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, .511 field goal percentage and .389 three-point FG percentage in 16 games. Taylor (14.3 ppg) and Jeremy Allen (13.4 ppg) are both top-10 scorers in the conference but connect on less than 40 percent of their total shots. Dominique Ferguson adds 9.8 ppg and 6.8 rpg to the mix. FIU does not move the ball well, ranking last in both assists (6.0 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.6).
Denver has had a rough stretch and an east-coast road trip certainly doesn't help matters, but remarkably, FIU only has one win at home this season and none in conference play. If the Pioneers can get their defense in check, they should be able to get back on track.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 73, FIU 67
02/11 10:44:30 ET