Jan. 16, 2014
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By: Steve Irvine, UABSports.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The latest win for the UAB men’s basketball team didn’t include a dominating rebounding performance by the Blazers. In fact, the Blazers, the nation’s top rebounding team, were outrebounded for only the second time in 16 games.
So what was the key to the 78-65 Conference USA victory over UTSA on Thursday night at Bartow Arena?
The Blazers shared the basketball, limited the turnovers and made things tough for the Roadrunners around the basket. Put those three things together and the Blazers found a way to win against a gritty UTSA team that was one of three C-USA teams with a 2-0 league record heading into Thursday’s action. UAB (12-4 overall, 1-1 C-USA) had a season-high 23 assists, turned the ball over just nine times and blocked 13 UTSA shots.
If UAB keeps producing numbers like that and the Blazers will win a lot of CUSA games.
“A big part of the game was our ability was to stay in front of the ball and challenge shots,” said UAB head coach Jerod Haase. “We had a lot of blocked shots. We got outrebounded (47-42), which hasn’t happened much this year, but we made up for it with our assist-to-turnover ratio.”
UAB had one turnover at halftime and finished with nine turnovers, which tied the team’s season-low. Chad Frazier and Denzell Watts, who share the point guard position for the Blazers, did not turn the ball over.
“Handling the basketball has been and will be an emphasis for us,” Haase said. “We want to be able to play without turning the ball over and also share the basketball. There were some zone offensive possessions in the second half that were really nice, where we had three or four guys that could have shot the ball but made the extra pass.”
The extra passes generally led to quality shots. UAB had an assist on all but five baskets with 34 of the team’s points coming in the paint. Junior C.J. Washington hit a pair of 3-pointers but most of his production came in the paint as he produced a team-high 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“We all wanted to make the simple plays,” said senior Robert Williams, who 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. “Sometimes we get into trying to do it ourselves, taking it all the way. Most of the times, simple plays are staring us in our faces, wide-open man on the three, man in the post.”
The Blazers spread out the blocked shots among five players. Fahro Alihodzic had four blocks, Washington had three, and Rod Rucker, Frazier and Tosin Mehinti each had a pair of blocks.
UAB led most of the game, falling behind by one point three times in the first half. The last UTSA lead came when Edrico McGregor followed on a missed shot to give to give the Roadrunners a 29-28 advantage with 4:26 left in the first half.
The Blazers responded with a 10-0 run that featured a pair of 3-pointers by Williams and concluded with a pair of Frazier free throws with 2:16 left in the half.
However, the Blazers still had a difficult time pulling away from the Roadrunners. UTSA stayed within striking distance for the first half of the final stanza before UAB finally created a comfortable lead. Part of the reason UAB pulled away a bit was a defense that limited UTSA to 24.2 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes.
“They are long and athletic ad we had a hard time finishing,” said UTSA head coach Brooks Thompson. “We have to give UAB credit with their length and athleticism. They altered a bunch of guys’ shots.”
UAB now faces a quick turnaround with a matchup against UTEP on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Bartow Arena.