GAME NOTES: Second-round action in the 2013 NIT is set for College Park on Thursday night, as the Maryland Terrapins play host to the Denver Pioneers at the Comcast Center.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood. The winner will move into the quarterfinals next week to face either Alabama or defending NIT champion Stanford.
Joe Scott's Pioneers played extremely well down the stretch, earning a share of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season crown with Louisiana Tech with a 16-2 league ledger. Overall, Denver has won 11 of its last 12 games, with the lone loss coming against Texas State in the WAC Tournament (72-68). Denver picked up a three-seed in this year's NIT. The team opened tournament play on Tuesday at home and advanced with a 61-57 victory over Ohio, marking Denver's first postseason win at the Division I level.
The Terrapins are no stranger to postseason success and this marks the team's eighth appearance in this particular postseason event. Maryland owns one NIT title in 1972 and opened this year's tournament with a rather easy 86-70 victory over Niagara in Tuesday's first-round action. Mark Turgeon's Terps, who advanced to the ACC Tournament's semifinals, finished a mere 8-10 in conference play this season and was never seriously in the hunt for the regular-season crown. Maryland was ousted in the ACC Tournament by North Carolina in a shootout, 79-76.
Sophomore Cam Griffin was instrumental in Denver's first-ever postseason victory, as he recorded his first career double-double, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds against Ohio. Fellow sophomore Brett Olson led the way with 15 points, while junior Chris Udofia matched Griffin's scoring output with 14 points of his own. Despite shooting just 2-of-10 from behind the arc against the Bobcats, Denver managed to finish the game with an impressive 53.7 percent accuracy from the floor overall.
Denver was impressive this season in several categories, ranking eighth in the nation in scoring defense (55.7 ppg), assists (16.4 apg) and turnover margin (+4.8), while ranking fourth in assist/turnover ratio (1.47) and 12th in field-goal percentage (.483). Udofia leads three Pioneers with double-digit scoring averages at 12.9 ppg, getting it done on a hefty 51.3 percent shooting. Olson is next in line at 11.5 ppg, followed closely by Royce O'Neale and his 11.3 ppg.
Maryland was tied up with the Purple Eagles at 35-35 at the half on Tuesday, before dominating over the final 20 minutes and running away from Niagara for the win. Five Terrapins finished the game in double figures, as Nick Faust, Seth Allen and Logan Aronhalt all netted 15 points in the win. Dez Wells and Charles Mitchell added 12 and 10 points, respectively. Faust finished off his first career double-double grabbing 11 rebounds in the win.
Just a sophomore, the 6-foot-5 Wells has led the way for Maryland, shooting 52.7 percent from the floor to pace the team with 13.1 ppg. Wells doubles as one of the team's top distributors at just over three assists per game. Wells has really elevated his play at the offensive end of late, averaging 18.3 ppg over his last eight outings. Fellow sophomore Alex Len is a valuable commodity in the low post. The 7-footer is converting over 53 percent from the floor, averaging 11.9 ppg, while leading the team in both rebounding (7.8 rpg) and blocked shots (66).
Maryland has a distinct advantage in this one, as not many teams can come into the Comcast Center and leave with a victory. Denver has had a remarkable season, but all good things come to an end and the Pioneers' campaign will suffer that fate in College Park.
Game Date and Time