Feb. 3, 2010
After a stirring performance on Tuesday night against previously unbeaten Tulsa, the Blazers looked to finish off an undefeated January on Saturday night against UTEP. Mike Davis said the Miners were the most talented team in Conference USA, and anyone who was at Bartow Arena knows the coach wasn't blowing smoke. The Green and Gold battled and battled. Despite shooting 28% from the field, UAB still had a chance to knock off the Miners and remain undefeated in the league, at home and in 2010. But with just under three minutes to play in regulation, the Blazers and their fans received a cold, hard slap to the face...or, in this case, a hard skull to the nose of Aaron Johnson.
When Kenneth Cooper (who played an amazing game...with a concussion!) collided with UTEP's Randy Culpepper, the talented, but undersized for that collision, guard came to a screeching halt. Aaron Johnson, who chased Culpepper all night, caught up with him quickly and dramatically. Aaron's nose hit Culpepper's head, and we all know who, or what, won. AJ was done for the night, and UAB's offense was done, as well. The undisputed leader of the team sat, helplessly, in the training room as they tried to stop the bleeding and fix his broken nose. He could hear the crowd roar as the game went into double overtime, but he couldn't do a thing about it.
Hours after the loss, Johnson sent a text message to his head coach apologizing for getting hurt...APOLOGIZING. Are you kidding me?
A few days later, the loss still hurts, but there is plenty of good news to focus on. Aaron was back at practice and should be ready to play against Memphis tonight at FedEx Forum. He'll be wearing a mask, so we'll have to wait and see how much he's affected by the injury. The Blazers are STILL in first place in Conference USA, and they STILL have the highest RPI of any team in the league. And Aaron and company will have a shot at payback the final game of the regular season when they visit El Paso.
This is a big week for the Green and Gold. We're in Memphis tonight to take on the Tigers, who are also smarting after a loss at SMU on Saturday afternoon. Then it's off to Houston on Saturday for the season's only game with the Rice Owls...who picked up their first conference win on what turned out to be a wild Saturday. Both games will be tough, but both are also winnable. The Wednesday game with Memphis marks the end of the first half of the C-USA slate, and after playing at Rice this weekend, the Blazers will have a full week off to prepare for the second showdown of the year with Marshall.
I think we all shared Mike Davis' reaction following the game with UTEP...it seemed as if UAB was 3-18 as opposed to being 18-3. The coach told the players they've lost one game a month this year...not too bad. Everything this team has put on the wish list is still available, so there's no time to mope about one excruciating loss. The Blazers know they have to keep playing great defense...keep rebounding like mad men...and make a few more shots. Nothing to it!
Congratulations to coach Callaway and the football staff for another successful signing day. It looks like the Blazers filled some needs and added numbers. I hope you're making your plans to be at the Signing Day Social tonight at Bartow Arena...6 PM in the Green and Gold Room...and will stick around to watch the Blazers and the Tigers on the video boards inside the arena.
Final thought...I think we all learned a painful lesson last week. The women dropped an overtime game at East Carolina on Thursday. Then Audra Smith's team fell in double overtime at Marshall on Saturday evening...not long before the men suffered the same fate at the hands of UTEP. It is obvious that overtime is not for us! No matter how stressful the games may be, there simply is no alternative...win it in regulation.
Have a great week, and GO BLAZERS!!!