Growing up, easily the biggest Cinderella, the team that played the most memorable first round games in the NCAA Tournament, was always Princeton. Their most memorable game happened in 1989, when the Tigers narrowly upset top seeded Georgetown, losing by a point: 50-49. Legendary Princeton coach Pete Carrill had a saying, "The smart take from the strong." That saying was epitomized in the way his team played. It was always smarter than the opponent. Desciples of Carrill have been running the Princeton offense faster, but with equal effectiveness in the modern game. They include Northwestern's BIll Carmody who has the Wildcats at 6-0 headed for a showdown with Baylor on Sunday. They also include Denver University's Joe Scott. Tonight I witnessed how effective the Princeton offense can be. Utah State entered their home game against Denver University with a 33 game home winning streatk. The Spectrum is one of the countries top home arena's averaging over ten thousand fans per contest. The Utah State University student body is among the best in the country. In fact outside of Creighton, I can't think of a better atmosphere at a midmajor. The last home loss for the Aggies happened on December 5th, 2007 against St. Mary's. Until Denver came in tonight and played smarter than the stronger Aggies. The activites actually start with the Utah State mascot rappelling down from the scoreboard above the court, but from that moment forward the game is all about Denver's smarter play. Denver opens the game with a 25-12 blitz. This inspite of the fact that Utah State Coach Stew Morrill had indicated that star junior college transfer Kyisean Read would not play, yet Kyisean enters the game early in the first half. The Pioneers are also whistled for six fouls compared to the Aggies one during the first ten minutes of play. It doesn't matter, the Pioneers hit 53% of their field goal attempts in the first half. Denver only leads 34-29 at the half, but it seems like more because the loudest the USU student section has been able to cheer was at the start of the game when they did their traditional "I Believe We Will Win" chant. Other than those opening moments the Denver execution and precision has effectively taken them out of the game. In fact the crowd only becomes more stunned as the second half unfolds. Denver receives balanced scoring as Rob Lewis and Chris Udofia who each score fifteen points. Standout point guard Chase Haslam plays almost the entire game, scoring twelve points without a turnover and administers the offense as if he were playing alongside Joe Scott and Bill Carmody years ago. The Aggies get thirteen points from Preston Medlin, but it's not close to enough. I have been to several Utah State games and have never seen them get handled quite this easily at home. The student section leaves with a little over four minutes to go. Worrisome for the Aggies is the fact that next year this will be a conference game as the Pioneers are set to join the WAC next year. I can see Denver making a nice run in the Sun Belt this year and perhaps winning the league tournament and getting to their first NCAA tournament ever.
DENVER 67, at UTAH STATE 54 11/30/2011
DENVER 5-1 (0-0) -- J. Washington 1-5 2-3 4; B. Stafford 5-9 0-1 12; C. Hallam 4-8 0-0 11; C. Udofia 5-8 5-6 15; R. O'Neale 1-3 2-2 5; R. Lewis 6-8 2-2 15; B. Olson 1-3 0-0 3; J. Coughlin 1-3 0-0 2; B. Foeman 1-1 0-0 2; T. Hallam 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 25-48 9-11 67. UTAH STATE 3-3 (0-0) -- P. Medlin 5-12 1-2 13; B. Pane 4-9 4-5 12; M. Grim 3-7 5-8 11; A. Thoseby 0-2 0-0 0; K. Reed 3-5 0-0 6; B. Clifford 0-1 0-0 0; M. Bruneel 3-4 0-0 6; J. Stone 1-1 4-4 6; S. Thornton 0-0 0-0 0; E. Farris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-41 14-19 54.
Three-point goals: DEN 8-20 (R. Lewis 1-3; B. Stafford 2-4; T. Hallam 0-3; C. Hallam 3-4; C. Udofia 0-2; R. O'Neale 1-2; B. Olson 1-2), USU 2-4 (P. Medlin 2-3; B. Clifford 0-1); Rebounds: DEN 21 (C. Udofia 6), USU 27 (M. Grim 8); Assists: DEN 16 (J. Coughlin 3), USU 6 (P. Medlin 2); Total Fouls -- DEN 17, USU 12; Fouled Out: DEN-None; USU-None.