VIEW FROM THE BOOTH - DAVID CRANE
"Howdy" from El Paso. The Blazers made their way west today (Tuesday) to get set for the second tilt of the season with the UTEP Miners. The Green and Gold won the first round in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, but it was a battle all the way. UAB led by as many as 14 in the second half, but the Miners closed to within two with a little more than a minute to play. As has been the case during the Conference USA season, the Blazers hit their free throws down the stretch to hold on for the 81-73 win.
Stefon Jackson poured in 22 in the loss, and the junior is averaging 24.3 points per game this season, tops in Conference USA. Just for good measure, Jackson is also the CUSA Player of the Week after totaling 69 points in two wins last week. He scored 28 points and pulled down 8 rebounds in a win at Marshall on Wednesday before absolutely going crazy on Saturday. In a 91-62 win over East Carolina in El Paso, Jackson scored a career-high 41 points (30 in the second half) and grabbed 11 rebounds...let's hope he got it all out of his system.
It is a mighty big game for the Green and Gold, and coach Davis is hoping to see a better start on Wednesday night than he saw on Saturday in Dallas against SMU. The Blazers are starting the stretch run, and a strong finish could do wonders for this team. Only four games remain on the schedule, and UAB is currently tied for second in the league with Houston (the win over the Cougars a week ago was HUGE). If the Blazers can take care of business in El Paso (and it will NOT be easy), we'll head back home for the final two games of the year at Bartow Arena and then travel to Memphis for the season-ender. It's all about winning games and enhancing the resume, and UAB can do that with a good four-game run.
While the start at SMU wasn't exactly what we were hoping for, the finish was pretty incredible. Robert Vaden found his touch in the second half and took control. He hit seven of his eight three-pointers in the final 20 minutes as the Green and Gold came from behind to win. Throw in another double-double for Reggie Huffman and another solid night for Lawrence Kinnard, and it's easy to see why UAB is playing some pretty good basketball these days...just have to keep it up!
We'll be on the air from El Paso at 7:30 PM central time on Wednesday night for pre-game, with tip time slated for 8 PM central. We opened the league slate in New Orleans, and the Green Wave returns the trip on Saturday night. It's another 7 PM tip in the Magic City, and you're just about out of chances to enjoy what has been a terrifically entertaining show at Bartow this season. I hope you'll come out on Saturday night and again next Wednesday for the home finale against Tulsa.
Were you rooting for Memphis last Saturday night against the Vols? I sure was...for any number of reasons. I hated to see the conference lose that match-up, but what a game. I don't think it hurts Conference USA's credibility for the Tigers to come up just short. Spinning it into a positive, the home win streak is over...it's official, Memphis can be beaten at the FedEx Forum!
Baseball season got underway last weekend, and the Blazers split a four-game series with Ball State. Coach Shoop's team will have another four-game set this weekend with Brown coming to Birmingham. They'll play two on Saturday, so why don't you make it an All-Blazer Weekend...take in some hardball followed by some round ball.
Well, it's time to round up some dinner here in El Paso. Stay warm in chilly Birmingham...weather here in west Texas is supposed to be mighty nice. Let's hope the Blazers can feed off the bright sunshine and pick up a win in a tough setting.
Have a great week, and GO BLAZERS!!!