VIEW FROM THE BOOTH - DAVID CRANE
KEEP THE STREAKS GOING
What a win for the UAB men's team last Wednesday. The Blazers opened the Conference USA season in New Orleans and found themselves in a defensive struggle with Tulane. The Green Wave and the Green and Gold were the top two defensive teams in the league heading into the game, and the stats didn't lie after tip-off. Robert Vaden had to work for every single point he got, thanks to relentless pressure by Tulane. Vaden led UAB with 16 points, but he certainly got some help. Lawrence Kinnard played well, again, against the Greenies and posted a double-double with 16 points to go with his 11 rebounds. Reggie Huffman added 11 points, and all three had key buckets down the stretch.
But in the end, Ed Berrios proved to be the final hero of the night. Down two with under 10 seconds to play, Berrios sprinted up the floor after a missed Tulane free throw. The junior stopped in front of his own bench, drew two defenders, delivered a wonderful head fake and drew a foul as he launched a desperation three-pointer. With 1.6 seconds showing on the clock, the cool New Yorker stepped to the line. The first rattled the iron pretty good before falling through. The next two, the game-tier and the game-winner, were dead on.
Our broadcast position was high above the floor in New Orleans, but even without our green and gold glasses on, we knew the call was correct. You don't get many like that on the road, but Berrios deserves a lot of credit for forcing the mistake by Tulane. As we left Fogelman Arena, there was a definite sense of thievery in the air. Don't get me wrong...UAB played very hard all night, and the Blazers deserved to win the game...but with an ending like that...you smile, pack up your very valuable stolen road conference game and get the heck out of there!
UAB has a three-game winning streak going, and after the weekend off, the Blazers go back to work with two games this week. Southern Miss comes to Bartow Arena on Wednesday night for a 7 PM tip. I certainly hope the fans will reward their teams gutsy performance by showing up in large numbers. I really think this bunch has the chance to get on quite a roll if they will continue to give the effort they showed in the Crescent City. We follow that game with a trip to Marshall this weekend. The Thundering Herd has split its first two conference games...a win over Rice followed by a loss to Memphis. That game will tip at 6 PM central time from frosty Huntington, WV. We'll be on the air at 5:30 PM.
There was some bad news for the UAB men. We learned on Monday that Walter Sharpe will be academically ineligible for the rest of the season. The loss of Walter is a big blow, but looking on the bright side, the Blazers have played the last several games without him...and played pretty well. I really do think the guys can make the adjustment to life without Walter and keep plugging along. He is an amazingly talented young man, and let's all hope Mr. Sharpe will handle this setback...take care of business...and be back in uniform next year for the Green and Gold.
The other piece of good news for Mike Davis is the "arrival" of Channing Toney. The transfer from the University of Georgia will finally be eligible to play for UAB as of Wednesday. I won't go into all the details, but Channing sat out the year after his transfer from UGA, plus a few extra games, four, to be exact, as mandated by the NCAA. He's ready to go, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes to work himself back into game shape.
The UAB women are also on a three-game winning streak. Audra Smith's team has gotten it going with the start of the Conference USA season. The Blazers have beaten Memphis, East Carolina and Marshall to wrap up the very long home stand. The last two games have both gone to overtime. Diamond Rogers picked up Conference USA Co-Player of the Week honors after recording a double-double in both overtime victories. The senior from Jackson, MS, had 19 points and 15 rebounds against ECU and 20 points to go with 12 rebounds in the victory over the Thundering Herd. She scored 10 of her 20 points against Marshall in OT! She's leading CUSA in scoring at almost 18 points per game, and now the Blazers hit the road for three straight games. The first two come this week...at UTEP on Friday and at Tulane on Sunday.
Bundle up, and come on out to see some Blazer Basketball this Wednesday. We need Bartow Arena to be a real home-court advantage, and YOU are the key ingredient!
Have a great week, and GO BLAZERS!!!