GAME NOTES: The long-standing rivalry between Wyoming and Denver adds another chapter this afternoon, as the Pioneers host the Cowboys in non-conference action at Magness Arena.
For the Cowboys, this is yet another opportunity for them to secure their first true road win of 2013-14, having come up short previously against the likes of Colorado and nationally-ranked Ohio State. However, since bowing to the Buckeyes last month, Wyoming has posted three straight victories, the latest being a 67-66 overtime win versus South Dakota last Saturday in Rapid City.
Meanwhile, Denver is a squad that kicked off the campaign with four consecutive defeats, but has since responded with three wins in four chances. After going down in overtime to Mercer on the road Dec. 7, the Pioneers bounced back with an 80-70 triumph against Colorado State at Moby Arena earlier this week.
For the Pioneers, this is the second most-played rivalry in program history, numbering 150 games, trailing only the 161 matchups against Colorado State. Unfortunately for Denver, the Pokes own a commanding 101-49 edge in the relationship, although Wyoming has not won in Magness Arena since 2001.
The home team has won 11 straight decisions in the series.
In a game that featured 13 ties and just as many lead changes, the Cowboys had the last laugh against South Dakota when they pulled out the one-point overtime victory at Rushmore Plaza eight days ago. Playing the hero was Larry Nance Jr. who knocked down the game-winning free throw with just two seconds remaining, part of his career-high 25-point performance. Nance, who shot 7- of-11 at the charity stripe, also pulled down nine rebounds, second only to Derek Cooke Jr. who had 14 boards before fouling out. Josh Adams accounted for 12 points for the visitors as well.
Nance is currently second on the team in scoring overall with 13.3 ppg, just fractions of a point behind Riley Grabau with his 13.0 ppg, stemming from an incredible 62.8 percent (27-of-43) shooting behind the 3-point line over nine games. While Grabau attacks on the perimeter, Nance settles into the paint in order to pulled down a team-best 9.0 rpg. Cooke (7.4 ppg), second on the glass with 8.3 rpg, makes the most of his opportunities at the offensive end where he has shot a fantastic 71.1 percent from the floor.
While the game between Denver and Colorado State didn't have as many twists and turns as the meeting between Wyoming and South Dakota, there were still enough ups and downs to keep the meeting interesting. Brett Olson blazed the way for the double-digit road win as he tallied a game-high 24 points and handed out five assists, followed by Chris Udofia and Dom Samac with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Udofia also pulled down a team-best nine rebounds in order to give the Pioneers a slight edge on the glass, 29-27.
One of three players to have started every game for Denver, Olson paces the program in scoring with 13.8 ppg and is also tops in assists with 30, giving him twice as many dishes as he has turnovers. Udofia checks in with 13.0 ppg, clearing close to six rebounds per game and recording 27 blocked shots, which means the rest of the unit has combined for just 12 in the latter category. As a group the Pioneers are again trying to get the job done by keeping scoring to a minimum, producing 64.9 ppg while giving up 69.8 ppg as they enter play today.
The Pioneers simply don't have the offensive firepower to keep up with Wyoming, should the visitors opt to run this game at an aggressive pace. Even though the hometown fans deserve more, Denver will probably disappoint once again.
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