GAME NOTES: The Denver Pioneers will try to pick up their first Western Athletic Conference victory of the season as they venture to the College Park Center to tangle with the Texas-Arlington Mavericks.
Denver is coming off a 68-60 loss at Louisiana Tech in the WAC opener which dropped its overall record to 4-7. Jeff Scott's Pioneers have shown improvement lately with wins in three of their last five games, with the victories coming by an average of 29.7 points. Denver has shot 54.5 percent from the field in its past five outings after hitting just 38.1 percent of its attempts from the floor in its opening six games.
Scott Cross and his Mavericks improved to 6-3 on the season with a 68-47 rout of New Mexico State on Friday. The win was the third in four games for UTA, which is 26-7 in its last 33 games dating back to last season and 6-1 all-time at CPC. The Mavericks play at a slower tempo which results in a scoring average of 62.8 ppg on 41.3 percent field goal shooting, but they are holding their opponents to 58.2 ppg on a much lesser 34.5 percent shooting from the floor.
This is the fifth all-time meeting between the schools and the first in the Lone Star State. Denver leads the series 3-1. The teams have not met since 2008. UT Arlingtons lone win in the series came in 1976 (99-97 OT) in Denver.
Although the Pioneers knocked down 46.9 percent of their field goal attempts and limited Louisiana Tech to a .434 field goal percentage on Friday, Denver still lost after converting just 4-of-19 from beyond the arc and committing 17 turnovers. Sophomore forward Royce O'Neale paced the team with 18 points and seven boards, while Chris Udofia added 10 points. O'Neale is Denver's leading scorer with 15 ppg. Udofia, who was the 2011-12 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, is filling up the stat sheet with 12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.3 blocks per outing.
UTA's perimeter defense was relentless on Friday as it powered its 21-point rout by holding NMSU to a 2-of-18 clip from beyond the arc. The Mavericks took a 37-24 lead into halftime after they knocked down 55.2 percent of their field goal attempts including 5-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first half and protected their lead by converting 8-of-13 at the charity stripe after the break. Kevin Butler poured in a team-high 18 points, Drew Charles provided a spark off the bench with 12 points, and Brandon Edwards made an impact on the glass with 11 rebounds. Jordan Reves showed off his versatility by scoring eight points, grabbing eight boards, and rejecting five shots. Butler is leading the team with a modest 10.7 point per game average and Reves is near a consistent double-double with 9.8 points and 10.4 boards per contest.
Denver's recent improvement on the offensive end gives it a chance as it heads to Texas, but it will be up against a very stingy UTA squad in this one. The Mavericks have a deep rotation that allows them to stay active on both ends, which is working so far.
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