Jan. 18, 2014
By: Steve Irvine, UABSports.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB men’s basketball team got the look they wanted on the final possession of a Conference USA slugfest with UTEP on Saturday night at Bartow Arena. But Robert Williams wasn’t able to make an open 3-pointer from the left corner and the Miners capped off a big week with a gritty 63-61 win over the Blazers.
“I wanted the ball in (Chad Frazier’s) hands to make a play,” UAB head coach Jerod Haase said of the play, which began with 15.1 seconds on the clock. “I wanted him attacking the rim, either to get fouled or find an open shooter. We got a wide open shot and didn’t get it. We competed for the offensive rebound, like we talked about in the timeout, weren’t able to get that. If you would have said we’d get a good look from three, I’d said ‘we’ll take it.”
Williams’ shot clipped the rim and bounced long. Jordan Swing had the Blazers’ best chance at an offensive rebound. But the Miners tipped the ball into the corner, where point guard C.J. Cooper grabbed it and threw the ball into the back court to teammate John Bohannon.
Truthfully, though, what happened earlier in the game was a bigger problem than the final possession for the Blazers. UAB (12-5 overall, 1-2) struggled to find a rhythm against a big and long UTEP defense. The Miners, who won at Middle Tennessee on Thursday, changed defenses throughout to keep UAB off balance on the offensive end.
“It took us too long to figure out what we could do against their defenses,” Swing said. “By the time we did, it was just too little, too late.”
The Blazers didn’t shoot terribly overall – hitting 42.3 percent from the field – but made just 2-of-14 3-point attempts. What UAB couldn’t do, however, was get in an offensive flow for the most part. The Blazers went nearly eight minutes in the first half without making a field goal but trailed just 30-24 at halftime.
“I thought our guys competed and weren’t ever able to put continuous offensive possessions together and make a run at them,” Haase said. “I’m even more proud of that because we just competed throughout the game, continued to grind and gave ourselves a chance at the end of the game to win it.”
The Blazers did open the second half with a 6-2 spurt that included buckets in the paint by Rod Rucker, C.J. Washington and Frazier. The final one – a fast break layup by Frazier – cut the deficit to 32-30 with 17:53 remaining. But UTEP (13-6, 3-1) had answer, scoring four quick points, and continued that trend for most of the half. Rucker did a bulk of the second half damage for the Blazers in the second half, battling inside to score 10 of his team-high 17 points with
UAB fell behind by as many as eight points in the second half but finally tied the score at 55 with 4:14 remaining on a three-point play by C.J. Washington. The teams traded the lead over the next three minutes before UTEP took a 63-59 lead on a layup by Bohannon and a 3-point dagger by Cooper with 57.2 seconds left.
“That was probably the one defensive error that I was most discouraged with throughout the game,” Haase said of Cooper’s 3-pointer. “It was under 10 on the shot clock and we do want to switch that. It ended up being a wide open 3-pointer.”
However, UAB didn’t quit. Williams hit a pair of free throws with 49 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 63-61. UTEP ran the shot clock down on the ensuing possession and Vincent Hunter appeared to hit a 3-point prayer to beat the shot clock. But, after a lengthy delay for a video review, the officials ruled it was a shot clock violation and the Blazers had a final chance.
UAB returns to the road next week with C-USA trips to North Texas on Thursday and Tulsa on Saturday.
“I believe we have a very, very resilient group,” Haase said afterwards. “They’re going to need to prove it. They’re going to need to stick together, the season is not done. We need to bounce back on the road.”