Posted: 8:58 p.m. Thursday, March 21, 2013
By Benjamin Miraski
Chris Udofia made nine shots for Denver on Thursday night, in the lone NIT game that dared to go against the NCAA Tournament.
The rest of the Pioneers made just 11.
It wasn't so much that Maryland outplayed Denver in its 62-52 win, it was just that they played decently.
Denver shot only 40 percent from the floor and a horrid 5-for-18 from 3-point range as they took a hard luck loss against the Terps.
It wouldn't have taken much more for the Pios to come out on top. Maryland didn't shoot that well -- only Xavier-transfer Dez Wells made more than half of his shots. The Terps were even worse from long range (just 3-for-12).
But the collapse came, and it was led by Wells who finished with 19 points.
Thirty-one minutes into the game, Denver held the lead, and then Maryland went small and took over. Wells had nine points during a 23-4 run that closed out the Pioneers' season.
It marks the end to a frustrating year for Denver, a team that looked for all the world like it was going to be making the run to the NCAA Tournament, and representing the WAC. Except they lost to Texas State, then they almost blew the first round game against Ohio, and then this.
Denver couldn't close out a team that was playing its sixth game in 12 days and needed to go five guards deep just to get enough fresh legs to beat them.
It didn't help that Udofia got himself into foul trouble, shutting down the only real threat the Pioneers had all night long. He finished the night with 24 points, six boards and a block. But it was the lack of him on the floor that really doomed Denver.
The good news? Udofia is just a junior, and Denver will be on its way to the Summit League next season, a chance to make an immediate impact in a more competitive conference. The bad news is that this season is over, and one of the best hopes for a deep run in the NIT by a mid-major is dashed.