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Blazers wrap up non-conference
UAB defeats Newberry, 96-75, to head into conference season 11-3
The Blazers maintained rebounding dominance over the break en route to 4-1 record since students left for winter break.
The most recent was a 96-75 victory over Newberry College.
The Blazers had a week off before playing the Division II opponent and it took some time to shake off the rust. After the first seven minutes of competition, the 2,891 fans in attendance at Bartow saw Newberry hold a 17-15 advantage. Over the next ten minutes, the Blazers dominated on a 34-12 run to open up a 20 point lead.
“All week it was just about getting better as a team, getting ready for conference play… Today was all about us getting better as a team, getting better as a unit, getting ready for conference play,” team captain Robert Williams said about the week off.
In the second half Newberry knocked the lead down to single digits, but the game was never really in question.
Head Coach Jerod Haase’s squad monopolized the glass as they owned a 50-23 advantage over the Indians. UAB averages 13 more rebounds a game more than their opponents as they are number one in the country in rebounding.
UAB had 6 players score in double digits.
“One thing about us is we do have 4 or 5 or 6 guys that pretty much every night that are going to score that basketball so it will be hard for teams to focus in on just one player,” Haase commented.
C.J. Washington arguably had the best game for the Blazers, grabbing a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds in front of his family who came to support the junior college transfer.
Another JUCO for the Blazers had a good game; Chad Frazier had a complete stat line with 18 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals. Frazier has busted on to the scene at UAB, averaging 17.6 points a game which ranks him third among all JUCO transfers in the country.
Rod Rucker who posted 11 points pulled down 7 boards and dished 6 assist for the Green and Gold.
“Rod Rucker didn’t have a great night statistically, but he was unbelievable in a lot of ways,” Haase said about his senior forward, “defensively [he] was very active, and had an assist to turnover ratio was 6:1. Even though his points and rebounds were not astronomical, and he was 2-8 from the field, he did some great things.”
Other Blazers in double figures were Fahro Aldihodic with 14 and grabbed 7 boards. Robert Williams scored 14 points on just 7 attempts, also adding 4 steals as the Blazer defense remains one of the toughest in the conference. Jordan Swing was the final Blazer in double figure, with 11 points, but just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.
The win lifted he Green and Gold to 11-3 on the season as they closed out their non conference schedule.
“Well you always want to take those three loses and do those over but that’s not the way it works. As a whole I think we have done some nice things. We are 11-3 heading into our conference season.” Haase said in reflection over the first half of the season. “I am pleased with our effort, pleased with our attitude. I absolutely love the guys in the locker room. I think we do have a talented team and we are continuing to improve. We have a long way to go still. This is chapter 2 of the season, the conference season. We have done a lot of things to prepare ourselves and we need to continue to grow. Right now everyone is 0-0 in conference.”
Looking ahead, Conference USA has many new faces, Charlotte, Old Dominion, FIU, FAU, UTSA, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, and North Texas. Senior guard, Robert Williams said this about the new look C-USA, “We ready, it’s going to be a challenge, playing 16 teams. That is a lot of teams to prepare for so we are going to take it one game at a time. It will be a long road for the team but we are ready for it.”
“As a coach you are never completely satisfied but I do think we have made some great strides in the preseason and we put ourselves in good position to reach our goals for the season.” Haase said about his team heading forward. “The biggest thing is we have a team with great altitudes, good team chemistry and we have a lot of talent in that locker room. If we continue to build on that we have put ourselves in position to do some nice things.”
The team has another week off before heading to Murphy Athletic Center to take on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in their first conference game of the season. Washington is geared up for the game, saying, “I’m ready for it, it will be my first time playing in a Divisions I conference attitude so I am ready to head down to Middle Tennessee and get a big win.”
Middle Tennessee will likely head into Saturday’s game with a 10-5 record. Like UAB, MTSU scoring coming from several people with three averaging double digits lead by Senior Forward, Shawn Jones. MTSU can have problems rebounding, with only one person averaging over 5 rebounds a game for the Blue Raiders. If UAB can limit turnovers they should be able to rebound their way to a victory.
To watch the Blazers, tune into CSS on January 11, at 5 pm CT, or listen to 107.7 as UAB will hopefully improve to 12-3.