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(E) Junior forward Zeljko Zupic (Sinj, Croatia / Hill [Texas] JC)
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  12/28/2002 | Sports | Unrated
(E) Junior forward Zeljko Zupic (Sinj, Croatia / Hill [Texas] JC)


Zeljko Zupic's 34 point, 11 rebound, one steal, one assist

"Junior forward Zeljko Zupic's 34 point, 11 rebound, one steal, one assist effort against Binghamton (Dec. 6) and Western Illinois (Dec. 7) earned him a spot on the Cyclone Challenge all-tournament team"


The Pioneers were able to win two of three at the San Juan Shootout last weekend, defeating James Madison (79-72) and Duquesne (49-48) for a third place finish.

Dec. 28, 2002


THE GAME - - The University of Denver men's basketball team will play host to Drake University on Sunday, December 29. Game time is set for 1 p.m. in Magness Arena. The Pioneers were able to win two of three at the San Juan Shootout last weekend, defeating James Madison (79-72) and Duquesne (49-48) for a third place finish. The Bulldogs enter the contest after dropping a 76-55 decision at Iowa State on December 22. Drake is 1-3 on the road this season. The game can be seen live on Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain. It can also be heard live on AM 1600.

CAREER MOVES - - Senior guard B.J. Pratt (San Antonio, Texas / Converse Judson HS) has scored 1,326 points in his four-year career at Denver ... He is ranked sixth all-time ... Pratt is 55 points short of moving into the fifth spot (Jack Hauser '45-'49) ... The senior began the year 13th and has already moved up seven places.

SERIES HISTORY & NOTES - - Drake leads the all-time series 3-5 ... The two teams first met in 1935 ... The Bulldogs defeated the Pioneers, 72-68 last season in Des Moines, Iowa ... Denver last defeated Drake, 78-66, on January 24, 1953, in Denver.

SCOUTING THE PIONEERS - - Denver is 3-0 at home, including 2-0 in Magness Arena ... Senior captain B.J. Pratt leads the Pioneers in scoring, averaging 14.2 points per game ... Sophomore guard Erik Benzel (Spokane, Wash. / Ferris HS) has added 12.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest ... Junior center Brett Starkey (Lakewood, Colo. / Green Mountain HS) scored a game-high 10 points last game and is averaging a near double-double, scoring 9.5 points and grabbing a team-high 9.7 rebounds ... Sophomore point guard Rodney Billups (Denver, Colo. / L.A. Valley [Calif.] CC) has contributed 6.5 points and a team-best 3.6 assists ... Junior forward Zeljko Zupic (Sinj, Croatia / Hill [Texas] JC) has dropped in 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the first third of the season.

LAST TIME OUT - - The University of Denver men's basketball team opened the second half with a 13-3 run and then survived an almost seven-minute scoring drought to beat Duquesne 49-48 for third place in the San Juan Shootout on Sunday. With the victory the Pioneers improve to 6-5, while the Dukes fall to 3-7.

"Duquesne was very aggressive in the first eight minutes," said head coach Terry Carroll . "It would have been easy for us to pack it in, but we decided to get down and guard instead. Our play for the last 32 minutes of the game proves that you can win ball games if you struggle on the offensive end of the floor."

Senior captain B.J. Pratt's long 3-pointer with 7:45 left got Denver within 41-40 and was the first score for the Pioneers since his layup and free throw with 14:24.

Sophomore guard Erik Benzel then a steal which led to junior forward Carvell McAlister's (Fresno, Calif. / Eastern Wyoming JC) inside basket that put Denver back in the lead for good. Duquesne was within 49-48 when Brad Midgely hit a 3-pointer with 1:23 left, but nobody scored after that.

The Dukes had their chance after Benzel missed a shot and then traveled with 36 seconds left. Kevin Forney drove for a shot, but it bounced off the rim. Benzel then missed a free throw with 3 seconds left, but Ron Dokes' desperation 3-pointer was short at the buzzer.

Junior center Brett Starkey had 10 points to lead the Pioneers, which shot 35 percent (17-of-48). Forney had 13 points for Duquesne.

Senior Dusty Wadlington (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / Morningside College), Denver's 5-foot-5 point guard, keyed the run that started the second half. After Starkey's layup, Wadlington had a steal that he turned into a layup, hit a 3-pointer and assisted on a basket by Benzel with 16:40 left that gave the Pioneers their first lead, 34-32.

The Dukes were not able to take full advantage of Denver's scoring drought, going ahead by only four points. Duquesne had its own six-minute scoreless streak before Ron Dokes' one-handed slam with 10:31 left.

The Dukes led throughout the first half, twice building 10-point leads before settling for a 29-24 halftime score. Tricco had a 3-pointer and Forney made a layup in the first minute to put Duquesne ahead.

DRAKE FAST BREAKS - - Drake lost at Iowa State, 76-55 ... Sunday's game is the second stop on a four-game road swing for the Bulldogs ... Drake freshman redshirt Quantel Murphy (George Washington HS) will be playing his first college game in his hometown ... Head coach Kurt Kanaskie is in his sixth year at Drake (57-121) ... Denver head coach Terry Carroll was an assistant coach at Drake (under Gary Garner) from 1984-88, while assistant Matt Woodley played at Drake from 1998-2000 and ended as the Bulldogs' career leader in steals (198), while ranking second in three point baskets (188) ... J.J Sola (15.2), Luke McDonald (14.5), Greg Danielson (13.8), Lonnie Randolph (7.0) and T.J. Welton (4.7) are the team's leading scorers ... Drake, which led the Missouri Valley Conference in three-point shooting each of the last two seasons, has made just seven of 28 three-point shots (25 percent) in the last three games ... The Bulldogs' 5-5 record includes four games against opponents that either advanced to the post-season play in 2002 or won their respective regular-season conference titles last year.

ALL-SAN JUAN - - Senior captain B.J. Pratt's 51 point, 12 rebound, three steal, two assist effort in three games against James Madison (December 20), Auburn (December 21) and Duquesne (December 22) earned him a spot on the San Juan Shootout all-tournament team.

HOT, HOT, HOT - - Junior center Brett Starkey set three career marks in Denver's 49-48 victory against Duquesne on December 22 ... His four assist effort was one better than the previous high (South Alabama on February 14, 2002) ... He blocked two shots for the sixth time in his career and played 34 minutes for only the second time in his three-year career ... Starkey's fourth double-double of the year (11 points, 11 rebounds) led the Pioneers to a third-place finish in the San Juan Shootout.

NEUTRAL COURT - - The Pioneers are 3-2 on neutral floors this season ... Denver will not play another game on a neutral court until the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on March 7 or 8.

LOPSIDED GAMES - - The Pioneers have won four of their contests by 16 points or more ... Three of their five loses have also been by 16 points or more.

MORE SHOTS - - Denver has attempted 57 more shots than its opponents (658-601) ... 5.2 per game ... The Pioneers have also thrown up 85 more three-point attempts (255-170) ... 7.7 per contest ... Denver has even shot 28 more free throws (205-177) ... 2.5 per game.

THREE-PEAT - - Chicago State was the third opponent the Pioneers have faced from the Mid -Con Conference ... Denver is 3-0 against the Mid-Con, defeating UMKC, 83-66, on December 3, Western Illinois, 75-48, on December 7 and Chicago State, 76-49, on December 14.

TALE OF TWO HALFS - - The Pioneers are 4-0 when leading at half time and 2-5 when trailing ... Denver has been outscored its opponent in the first frame by just seven points, 333-326 ... The Pioneers have outscored their opponents, 424-391, in the second half.

TURNOVER BUG - - Denver has only turned the ball over 151 times (13.7), while forcing 182 (16.5) ... The Pioneers turned the ball over a season-high 18 times in their 63-58 lost to Auburn (December 21) ... Their season-low (seven) came in their 75-48 victory against Western Illinois (December 7).

DOWNTOWN - - The Pioneers have already thrown up 255 three-point shots, making 86 of them (.337) ... Of their 658 shot attempts 39 percent of them have been from behind the arc, while 33 percent of their made baskets (86-of-264) have been from downtown.

ALL-TOURNAMENT - - Junior forward Zeljko Zupic's 34 point, 11 rebound, one steal, one assist effort against Binghamton (Dec. 6) and Western Illinois (Dec. 7) earned him a spot on the Cyclone Challenge all-tournament team.

BACK-TO-BACK - - Denver's games on December 6th and 7th were the first time in its brief Division I history that the Pioneers have played on back-to-back nights ... The Pioneers played three games in three days in Puerto Rico (December 20-21) ... Denver is 2-1 in the second of back-to-back games.

UNCHARTED TERRITORY - - The Pioneers' 6-5 mark put them above .500 for the first time after five games in their short Division I history ... Denver's best record after 11 games was 4-7 ... A feat it accomplished in the 2000-2001 season.

BIG HALF - - The 51 points the Pioneers scored in the first half of their, 75-48, victory against Western Illinois on December 7 were the most points they have scored in a half since, January 31, 2000, when Denver dropped in 52 points in the second half versus Arkansas-Little Rock ... The Pioneers scored 53 in the first half against Loyal (Md.) on February 2, 1999.

LET IT RAIN - - The Pioneers hit a school-record 16 three-pointers en route to an 83-66 victory against UMKC on December 3 ... Denver's previous high for threes was 15 against Wright State on December 12, 1998.

CAREER NIGHT - - Sophomore guard Erik Benzel established career-highs in five different categories in Denver's 83-66 victory against UMKC on December 3 ... Benzel's 22 points were two better than the previous high (20 at Louisiana-Lafayette on January 26, 2002) ... The sophomore's attempted and made field goals (8-of-15) and three-pointers (6-of-12) were also career-highs.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE - - Junior center Brett Starkey has been a dominate force in the paint in this season ... With four double-double performances in the Pioneers' victories over Eastern Washington (November 30) ,Western Illinois (December 7), James Madison (December 20) and Duquesne (December 22) and a career-tying-high 17 points versus Colorado State (December 11), the Lakewood, Colo. native is averaging 9.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest.

FRIENDLY CONFINES - - Denver's first regular season game in Hamilton Gymnasium was a success ... The Pioneers defeated Eastern Washington, 69-48, in front of 1,342 fans on November 30 ... It was the largest home crowd since January 19, 2002, when Denver took on Western Kentucky.

DEEP BENCH - - The Pioneers have gone very deep into their bench ... 11 of the 12 players on the roster have seen 53 minutes or more this season ... The only individual to have not seen at least 53 minutes of playing time this season is junior Josh Hansen (Burlington, Colo. / Northeastern [Colo.] JC) ... He has been on the floor for nine minutes.

FIRST POINT - - Lone freshman Brett Seger (Omaha, Neb. / Westside HS) scored his first point as a collegian against Eastern Washington (November 30) ... With 13:02 remaining in the second half, the freshman stepped to the free-throw line and hit one-of-two ... His first field goal came on December 7 (Western Illinois) ... Seger put home a 3-pointer with 8:15 remaining in the first half.

ODD BEGINNING - - This is the first season the Pioneers have started 0-2 since 1997 when they also dropped two straight road games to Wyoming (73-50) and Portland (78-49) ... Denver started the last four seasons 1-1.

CHARITY STRIPE - - Denver's 13-for-13 performance at the free-throw line vs. Wyoming on November 23 was only the third time in school history that the Pioneers have made all of their free-throws in a game ... Denver converted all of its free-throws vs. Grand Canyon on March, 6, 1989, and again vs. Southern Colorado on February 27, 1993.

HE'S BACK - - Denver regained the dominating physical presence of senior Steve Simmons (Salt Lake City, Utah / Treasure CC), who sat out last season to concentrate on his academics. At 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, Simmons is No. 10 on the Pioneers all-time block list, needing just eight blocks to move up two places to No. 8. In 2000-01, he led the Pioneers in rebounds (9.0) and field goal percentage (56 percent).

NEW COACH - - Al Williams begins his first season as an assistant coach with the Denver men's basketball team. Williams will join Greg Lackey and Matt Woodley to complete Terry Carroll's coaching staff for the 2002-03 season. He will work with all aspects of the team including recruiting, scouting, scheduling and on-floor practices.

FIFTH IN THE WEST - - The University of Denver men's basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the Sun Belt Conference West Division. The Denver men received 17 votes to finish behind North Texas (39 pts.).

Denver's B.J. Pratt earned third team preseason All-Sun Belt Conference honors. Pratt, a senior guard, returns for his final season with the Pioneers after leading the team in scoring last season with 388 points (13.0 ppg). Pratt also recorded a team-high, 56 three-point field goals during the 2001-02 campaign, and carried the team's second-best free-throw percentage, draining 52 of 62 attempts (.839). The coaches selected Western Kentucky senior center Chris Marcus as the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year.

Second-year head coach Terry Carroll welcomes back five letter winners and two starters from a team that struggled through an 8-20 season last year and a first round exit from the SBC Tournament.

Returning to the lineup this season will be seniors Pratt, Leslie Richardson (Aurora, Colo. / Overland HS) and Steve Simmons, juniors Ryan Goral and Brett Starkey and sophomore Erik Benzel. The Pioneers welcome back 54 percent of its offensive production and almost half of the defensive production from last season.

Last year, Denver improved in rebounding, hauling in nearly eight more balls than the year before, and in free-throw shooting percentage with a significant increase from 69.7 percent to 59.8 percent in 2000-01.

Men's Preseason Poll

East1. Western Kentucky         55 (11)2. Arkansas-Little Rock         373. Florida International       284. Middle Tennessee             225. Arkansas State               19

West 1. Louisiana-Lafayette 66 (11) 2. New Mexico State 53 3. New Orleans 40 4. North Texas 39 5. Denver 17 6. South Alabama 16

SIGN HERE PLEASE - - Two men's basketball players - an Iowa prep standout and a Colorado prep all-star - have signed National Letters of Intent to attend the University of Denver and play for head coach Terry Carroll.

High school swing guard David Kummer (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / Washington HS) and point guard James Lane (Colorado Springs, Colo. / Palmer HS) have officially announced they will join the Pioneers squad next fall.

Kummer, 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, is among the best high school players in Iowa. He earned second-team all-state honors, and was named first team All-Missouri Valley Conference and All-District plaudits after averaging 14 points, 9.5 rebounds and four assists per game his junior year. He has started since his freshman year and has led Washington in rebounds, assists, deflections and steals the past two seasons.

Lane comes to Denver after a very solid junior season at Palmer high school in Colorado Springs. The 6-foot-2 point guard earned all-state honorable mention honors his junior year after averaging 14.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per contest. He also led Palmer in scoring in eight games.

Lane also played football for the Terrors, passing for 2,042 yards and 24 touchdowns his junior year.

STARKEY NAMED TO ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT TEAM - - Junior center Brett Starkey was selected to the Verizon Academic All-District VII men's basketball team, as voted on and announced Feb. 21, 2002 by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

He is joined on the team by Iowa's Luke Recker, Iowa State's Jake Sullivan, Nebraska's Cary Cochran and Michael Lindeman of Creighton. The five men represented the district as candidates for the 2002 Verizon Academic All-America team.

The 6-foot-9 Starkey carried a 3.955 grade-point average in biology, and spent this past summer engaging in cholangiocyte research on polycystic liver disease under Dr. Brian Doctor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Last year, he was a member of the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List for earning a 3.5 GPA or higher during the 2000-01 academic year, and is a two-time recipient of the University's gold academic medallion.

He was fifth on the Pioneers' squad in scoring at 5.6 points per game, and third in rebounding at 5.3 boards a contest. As one of Denver's top reserves, he had three games in double-figure points and another three in double-figure rebounds. His best game came on Jan. 13, 2002 in Denver's 72-69 win vs. Florida International, when he had a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds.


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