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December 4, 2008

Blazer fans,

When last we "talked," I was leaving Madison Square Garden to go catch a flight to Orlando for the final football game of the season. The Blazers certainly ended things on a high note here in 2008...the first win over UCF...the first shutout for the Green and Gold in a Conference USA game...and two wins (both on the road) in three tries to close out the campaign. It was a very happy bunch after the 15-0 win over the Knights, and even a long delay waiting on our charter flight home couldn't dampen the spirits.

I applaud coach Callaway, his staff and the players for the way they concluded their season. The 4-8 record isn't what anyone was hoping for, but it does show improvement from 2007. The Blazers were better this season, and I think the progress and the growth will continue in 2009. The coaches are out recruiting as we speak, and another good signing class will have the Green and Gold much closer to the maximum of 85 players on scholarship. The off-season is just beginning, and I know the players will be busy, much like the coaching staff in this critical recruiting period.

After leaving Madison Square Garden last Friday, I was like most fans...disappointed that UAB didn't come away with at least one win in New York City. Upon further review, while the trip didn't end the way we wanted, the overall goal, I believe, was met. The tournament experience will pay dividends down the road. The Blazers played good competition from power conferences...away from home...on national television...and made a good showing. In fact, I think the two late-game swoons versus Oklahoma and Boston College have already served a a memorable finish to the long-awaited, first home game of the season.

If you didn't make it to Bartow Arena on Wednesday night, you missed TWO good games. The women came up just short against Florida, and the men staged a late rally to steal one away from USF. The Bulls outplayed UAB for much of the night, but a 13-point lead wasn't quite enough for our visitors from Tampa. The Blazers made a furious some help from South Florida...made some clutch free throws (finally!)...and came up with one last defensive stand to win an overtime thriller, 78-77. It looked for the world like the Blazers were going to suffer a surprising setback to the Bulls, but UAB didn't panic. The Blazers played with patience...aggression...and confidence all at the same time, and I think the losses in NYC taught them how to handle a deficit late in the game. You don't have to hit a three every time down the floor...there's no need to try to make a six-point play on one possession...take what the opponent is giving you and then go back to work. Paul Delaney, III, came up big for the Blazers down the stretch. He did it on both ends of the floor and sank the game-winning free throws with just 15 seconds remaining in overtime. Lawrence Kinnard and Robert Vaden made big shots, as well, and the end result was a thrilled, but exhausted, crowd of over 6,000 at Bartow.

This is a big week for the UAB basketball team with two games against the Big East. We visit Cincinnati on Saturday for an 11 AM tip-off. Pre-game on the Blazers ISP Sports Network will begin at 10:30 AM. The game will be televised by ESPN+, so if you have the "Full Court" package or are near an "establishment" on Saturday, you should be able to see the Blazers and the Bearcats. It would be awfully nice to head into exam week with a 6-2 record and games against the Pac-10, Big 12, ACC and Big East already completed. We'll see you again at Bartow on Wednesday, December 17th, when Jacksonville State rolls into town for a 7 PM tip.

Even though we don't have any games next week, we hope you will join us for Blazers All-Access on Monday. We've changed nights for basketball season, and the month of December will be a little hectic. For the next two weeks (Dec. 8 and Dec. 15), we'll be broadcasting live from the Highway 150 location of Buffalo Wild Wings. We'll be on the air from 7-8 PM talking UAB basketball, and we would love to see you live and in person at BWW.

Well, time to finish getting ready for the Bearcats...we'll be driving up to Cincinnati tomorrow and returning right after the game on Saturday. Stay warm on this chilly December weekend, and GO BLAZERS!!!


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