Blazers battle, fall to MTSU (Photos)

By on March 7, 2014
Rucker looking for an open man

“All losses hurt, but this one had a little something extra that I won’t forget for a really long time.”  Head Coach Jerod Haase said about the emotional loss to Middle Tennessee on senior night.

The game started with UAB clicking on all cylinders as the all senior starting five were honored before tip-off.  The Blazers jumped out to an eight point advantage in the opening first ten minutes.

The MTSU offense wasn’t stymied for long as they made up the difference and went into halftime with a single point advantage over the Birmingham squad, 27-26.

The Blazers regained the lead and held it for most of the second half, including carrying a 6 point lead with a little less than two minutes left to go in the game.

The Blue Raiders hit a pair of three pointers to even the score with a minute left.   On the final possession, Blue Raider point guard, Tweety Knight, drove the lane and scored on a tough layup, high off the glass. Haase said, “It’s tough.  Certainly give middle Tennessee a lot of credit.  They hit two difficult shots, and made the plays when they had to.  We missed the plays down the stretch when we had to.”

With four seconds left, the Blazers elected not to call a time out and inbound the ball. Frazier drove the length of the court and missed a lightly contested floater from around 8 feet to seal the Blazers fate.  Haase said about the final sequence, “It wasn’t a great look but it was a good look in the paint.  Will I think about it a lot and kick myself, absolutely because it didn’t work out.”

The loss came on senior night as six Blazers played their final game inside of Bartow Arena.  Jordan Swing, Rod Rucker, Fahro Alihodzic, Preston Purifoy, Robert Williams and Karl Moton all were recognized before the game with all but Moton getting the starting nod.

“We have a team that I thought fought as hard as they could. They tried to followed directions as best as they could. The seniors played like it was their last home game.” Haase said about the way his team played on senior night.

“The underclassmen played like it meant something to them, sending the seniors out in the right way.  When you have all of that as a coach you feel like you let them down somehow, not giving them better instruction or doing a better job.  That is the way I feel right now.  We have a locker room of guys hurting right now, hurting for each other.”

In a rare event for the second best rebounding team in the country, UAB lost the rebound battle, 32-29.  Also the Blazers turned the ball over 14 times while only accruing 11 assists.  Free throws also plagued the Blazers as they shot a measly %50 from the line, 9-18.

Rod Rucker shined in his final game inside of Bartow scoring 15 points while grabbing 8 boards.  Rucker said after the game, “It is a bitter sweet moment.  It feels good to go out there and fight with my guys and try to compete to win.  The hard part is that this is my last one and I had to leave on this note. Inside there is joy in knowing I will always be a Blazer.”

Chad Frazier added 15 points on 6-12 shooting including 2-4 from beyond the arc.

UAB was also down the second leading scorer on the team in C.J. Washington.  The 6-8 junior who injured his shoulder in the LA Tech game was sitting in street clothes supporting his team.

The loss drops the Blazers to 18-12 (7-9 C-USA).  With the loss, the Green and Gold are the 8 seed in the conference tournament in El Paso starting on Wednesday.  Conference USA seems to have great parody in the league.  Going into the tournament there are no clear favorites as there was a four way tie for the regular season C-USA champions.  UAB beat two out of the four teams at the top of the conference.

Haase said about the upcoming tournament, “I believe and I think our team believes that we are good enough to beat anybody in this league.  Obviously we have been competitive.  We are in the games with the guys in the top of the league.  I don’t think we are going into a game out in El Paso thinking we don’t have a chance.  We feel very confident and very excited.”

The 8 seed guarantees UAB a first day bye and will play Charlotte on Thursday.  The opening two games for UAB will be live streamed from conferenceusa.com for free.  If the Blazers make it to the semifinal rounds the game will be broadcast CBS Sports Network with the championship game to be shown on CBS.

UAB defeated Charlotte earlier this season in a tough game in North Carolina.  The second half was tightly contested with neither team earning significant advantage and Alihodzic tipped in the eventual game winner with 14 ticks remaining on the clock.

The winner of the game will go on to face LA Tech who earned the top overall seed in the tournament.

So watch online, listen to the radio and support the Blazer as they chase down a C-USA tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

 

Photos by Molly Wilson

 

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About Tripp Larsen

I am life long Blazer fan, who wishes the best for the program. I am 22 year old psychology major. If you have any comments or arguments feel free to comment, or send me an email at sports@insideuab.com. Writers are wanted so if you want to become a member of the staff send an email or come down to the student media office.
 
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