[Cross-posted from Pioneer Pulse.]
Last month, desperate for any spark amid a dismal 2-8 start, Denver coach Joe Scott tried to light a fire under sophomore forward Chase Hallam by referring to the Pioneers as “Chase’s team.” On Saturday, in front of the largest home crowd to watch a DU game during Scott’s four-year tenure, Hallam had an chance to dramatically seal Denver’s seventh straight win with a buzzer-beating layup. “I don’t think you can get a better shot” than the one Hallam had, Scott would say later. “We had a wide-open drive there.”
The shot missed.
Instead of a wild celebration at the end of regulation, the game went to overtime, all tied at 65-65. And Hallam resolved not to squander another opportunity.
“I thought I had the game-winner, and since I didn’t hit that, I had to make up for it,” he said of his 10 points in overtime — the bulk of the team’s 14 total in the extra period, and nearly half of his 22 points in the game.
Led by its two players with double-doubles on the night, Hallam (22 points, 10 rebounds) and freshman Chris Udofia (21 points, 12 rebounds), Denver outscored Florida International 14-5 in overtime — Udofia had the 4 Pioneer points in OT not scored by Hallam — to beat FIU, 79-70.
“Two double-doubles at the University of Denver,” said Scott. “Doesn’t happen too often.” Indeed, Hallam and Udofia are the first pair of Denver players to get double-doubles in the same game since Yemi Nicholson and DaShawn Walker did it against Troy in 2006, according to the DU SID.
The win boosted the Pioneers to 5-0 in the Sun Belt and 9-9 overall, with a seven-game winning streak since starting the season 2-9. Moreover, thanks to a North Texas loss Saturday to Troy, Denver now leads the Sun Belt West Division by two games. That is to say, every other team in the division has at least two losses, while DU remains undefeated.