South Dakota (9-13) at Denver (11-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 8, 6 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Magness Arena (7,200) -- Denver, Colorado. Television: ROOT-RM. Home Record: USD 8-3, Denver 6-4. Away Record: USD 1-9, Denver 4-5. Neutral Record: USD 0-1, Denver 1-2. Conference Record: USD 3-4, Denver 4-3. Series Record: Denver leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Denver Pioneers will close out a three-game homestand at Magness Arena on Saturday night when they play host to the South Dakota Coyotes in Summit League action.
After opening up its league slate of games with three straight victories, South Dakota quickly dropped in the standings with four consecutive losses before finally snapping out of it with a 80-40 non-conference victory over Peru State on Tuesday. The Coyotes are just 9-13 this season, which includes a miserable 1-9 mark on the road.
Denver has had an up-and-down campaign as its 11-11 overall record and 4-3 mark in the Summit League would suggest, but it has been on the upswing of late with wins in four of its last five. The Pioneers improved to 6-4 at Magness Arena last Saturday when they downed North Dakota State, 67-63.
The Pioneers lead the all-time series with the Coyotes, 2-1, although the newly-formed league rivals haven't met since the 1982-83 season.
The Coyotes did what was expected of them against their NAIA opponent earlier in the week, as they outshot Peru State from the field, 52.6 percent to 27.3 percent, en route to the dominating 40-point victory. Tyler Flack led the way with 13 points, doing so on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field. Casey Kasperbauer scored 12 points, Adam Thoseby had 11 points and Tyler Larson tallied 10 points, six assists and six rebounds. All 11 players to see the floor in the victory scored.
South Dakota typically doesn't have a problem putting points on the board, as it shoots 44.5 percent from the field for 70.7 ppg. Its downfall comes on the defensive end of the court, where it gives up 71.2 ppg. Brandon Bos shoots just 40.5 percent from the field but still leads the team with 12.8 ppg. Trevor Gruis (12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg) is a much more efficient 57.5 percent from the field, while four others put up between 7.2 and 7.8 ppg.
The Pioneers held a lead as large as 13 points in the second half of their most recent contest, and while they saw that advantage dwindle down to just one point with 30 seconds remaining, they made 3-of-4 from the free-throw line down the stretch to hang on for the victory. It was an outstanding shooting afternoon for Denver, whether it be from the floor (.514), 3-point range (9- of-16) or the foul line (20-of-22). Brett Olson paced the effort with 19 points, Chris Udofia logged 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks, while Bryant Rucker and Marcus Byrd poured in 12 and 10 points, respectively.
On the season, Denver hardly lights it up on offense, shooting 45.6 percent from the field for a mere 65.6 ppg, but it has remained competitive thanks to a stellar scoring defense (63.2 ppg). It is also aided by a +2.5 turnover margin and a strong free-throw percentage (.736). Olson is the offensive spark plug with 14.7 ppg on 40.6 percent from beyond the arc and 92.5 percent at the foul line. Udofia is a well-rounded forward with 12.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.5 bpg and 1.5 spg, while Jalen Love (9.3 ppg) and Cam Griffin (8.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) are also integral pieces to the puzzle.
South Dakota was able to boost its team morale with an easy win earlier in the week, but beating up on lesser competition at home will not prepare it for this tough road test. With Denver surging of late, expect the trend to continue as it closes out its homestand in style.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 72, South Dakota 64
02/08 10:27:35 ET