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UAB drops final two games of season
After seeing success at home and on the road recently, the UAB Men’s Basketball team looked to end the season on a high note; however, their hopes were dashed in the final minutes of Wednesday night’s game against UCF who managed to overcome UAB at Bartow Arena 74-70 in front of 3,759 fans.
Wednesday marked the second time these two teams have met this season and while the Knights annihilated the Blazers back in January 64-48, the Green and Gold has had time to work on their shot selection, and improve their ball handling which helped their performance this time around. In the January game the Blazers shot just 26 percent from the field and attempted twenty three, 3-point shots netting zero points.
UAB began Wednesday night’s game with a feverish attitude and a strong desire to win. The Blazers Rob Williams came off the bench strong scoring nine points in the first half as the Blazers closed with a 36-35 lead.
After the break, UCF came back with vengeance, raining down an array of 3 point shots, including a 3 pointer from Isaiah Sykes at the 18 minute mark which gave UCF its first lead of the night. UCF dominated the second half going up by as many as 12 points. However, the Blazers continued to fight and with 3:25 left to play, UAB was able to tie the game with a layup from Rod Rucker.
While the fans were ecstatic with the Blazers performance, this feeling would be short lived. Missed opportunities and mistakes led to UCF’s win and brought UAB’s momentum swing to a screeching halt.
“We probably didn’t play with the same edge that we have the past several games,” said head coach Jerod Haase. “We out rebounded them and fought down the stretch to come back in a game where we were down 10 points late. We made a conscious effort to protect the paint at all costs. We did a good job of that and we wanted them to shoot a lot of three pointers with a hand in their face. They just made a bunch of them. “
After the UCF loss the Blazers moved to 15-15, 7-8 meaning they would have to defeat Memphis at Memphis in the final game of the season in order for coach Haase’s first season to be a winning season as promised.
Memphis and UAB have had a long standing rivalry with Memphis owning the record 34-10 including Saturday nights 86-71 fall at FedEx Forum. The Blazers were on a roll early in the season before Memphis came to Bartow Arena and crushed the Green and Gold’s home game winning streak.
Three Blazers managed to score double digits in Saturday night’s contest. Jordan Swing lead the way with 19 points and 7 rebounds, Rod Rucker knocked down 16 points followed by Quincy Taylor who contributed 12 points on the night.
UAB and Memphis shot 45.2 percent and 44.8 percent from the field respectively; however, Memphis was able to connect 10-19 from the 3-point line while the Blazers went 6-19 from beyond the arc.
Three-point shooting as well as the 16-23 free point opportunities Memphis capitalized on more than made up the point difference Saturday night.
While the end of the season was somewhat sour for the Blazers, the Green and Gold managed to earn the seventh seed at the Conference USA Tournament which will be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma March 13-16. The Blazers are set to face the 10th seeded SMU Mustangs Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. CST.
Senior Staff Writer