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Blazers dominate Rice
The UAB Men’s Basketball team was looking for a momentum shift this week as they traveled to Greenville, NC on Wednesday to face the ECU Pirates.
The Blazers were also looking for their third road win this season as well as some payback for the loss they suffered at the hands of the Pirates who visited Bartow Arena back in January.
However, ECU had more of the same for UAB as they poured in several last minute free throw shots to end the game 74-61 at Minges Coliseum in front of 4,324 fans.
The Blazers came out strong in the first half of Wednesday’s contest, shooting 55.6 percent from the field matching the Pirates shot selection nearly point for point.
Trailing by four at the half, UAB saw an opportunity to take control of the game and secure its third win in a row after the pain of the six losses suffered in the middle of the season. However, ECU came out of the gate quickly to open the second half, and it wasn’t long before the Pirates extended their lead to double digits.
The Blazers defense clamped down on the Pirates with eight minutes remaining in the game and attempted a late game rally going on an 11-0 run, but the Pirates capitalized on every trip to the foul line holding the game just out of reach for the Green and Gold.
Both Rod Rucker and Fahro Alihodzic put up double digits on the night with 14 and 11 points scored respectively with Robert Williams rounding out the Blazers top three scorers with nine points and nine rebounds.
While the Blazers fell short on the road they didn’t let the effects of Wednesday night’s game trample their spirits entirely.
The Blazers headed into Saturday night’s game against Rice University with a different attitude and little more determination and it showed as soon as they stepped onto the court at Bartow Arena.
The Blazers defense held Rice to 36.4 percent shooting from the field and UAB’s offense really dominated the entire game. Jordan Swing and Preston Purifoy each knocked down 19 points with Farho Alihodzic netting 11 points of his own followed by Quincy Taylor who put up nine points on the night.
The Blazers shot 50 percent down the line and took full advantage of several of Rice’s missteps but the greatest contributor to the Blazers 80-57 victory was team effort.
Head coach Jerod Haase commented, “Our guys played hard, and as the game went on, we played smarter and smarter. I thought the defensive effort was there and we had a lot of guys make shots for us. We also shared the basketball really well. I was proud of the way we learned from the Marshall and Tulsa games. We continued to play throughout the game, and we can be a team that is hard to guard when we shoot the ball as well as we shot tonight.”
UAB stands just two games out of .500 for the season with five games remaining on the schedule before they head to Tulsa for the conference tournament.
Haase’s squad are starting to turn things around winning four out of the six after dropping the previous six games. With the next three games coming against some of the worst teams in Conference USA the Blazers will look to gain some momentum before they try to avenge losses against both UCF and Memphis to close out the season.
UAB continues to move the basketball well as they rank 12th in the nation in assist per game but still have problem hitting on the majority of their shots, ranking 154th in the country in shot percentage according to ESPN.com.
The Blazers will need to shoot the ball more efficiently if they want to beat the top teams in the conference like Memphis and UCF, and to make a deep run in the conference tournament.
The Green and Gold will have about a week off before they hit the road for Huntington, WV where they will face Marshall’s Thundering Herd Saturday, February 23, at 6 p.m. CST.
They will return to Bartow Arena on March 2 to take on Southern Methodist University before the big game against UCF that could potentially be the deciding game to see if UAB will have the first back to back losing season in program history. So come out and “play your part” and support UAB.
Senior Staff Wirter