Feb. 1, 2014
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By: Steve Irvine, UABSports.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB men’s basketball team nearly climbed out of a 16-point second-half hole but came up short in a 74-67 loss to East Carolina on Saturday before a Bartow Arena crowd of 6,013.
The Blazers (14-7 overall, 3-4 C-USA) pulled within two points three times in the last five minutes and were down by just one with 3:30 left. But the Pirates (12-10, 1-6) made the critical plays down the stretch to win in C-USA play for the first time this season despite 25 points by UAB junior forward C.J. Washington.
“Right now, I’m hugely disappointed,” said UAB head coach Jerod Haase. “We had an opportunity to get above .500 in league and an opportunity to play in front of a great crowd. I thought in energy and effort, there was an ebb and flow to it. On the offensive end, I thought our ability to make plays was not there.”
At one point in the first half, though, it appeared like UAB was primed to run away from the Pirates. UAB rolled off 13 consecutive points to turn a four-point deficit into a 24-15 lead with 6:58 left in the first half. The hot streak, which lasted just over three minutes, began with two 3-pointers by junior guard Chad Frazier and another by Washington. Two free throws by Washington and a layup by senior guard Robert Williams, after a nice pass from Frazier, finished off the run for the Blazers.
However, East Carolina turned things quickly. The Pirates answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by junior guard Paris Roberts-Campbell and eventually ran off 14 consecutive points. Overall, East Carolina scored 18 of the 20 points over the final 6:36 to stake a 33-26 advantage at halftime.
It didn’t get better for the Blazers after intermission. East Carolina hit four 3-pointers in just over three minutes to begin the second half and enjoyed a 51-35 advantage with 13:23 remaining.
“We made some shots and I thought we’d have to make 10 3’s in this game to have a shot to win on the road,” said ECU head coach Jeff Lebo, whose team finished 9-of-22 on 3-pointers.
Haase said it wasn’t a matter of his team being surprised by the Pirates’ outside shooting.
“We couldn’t have been surprised as much as we emphasized the ability to guard the 3-point shot,” Haase said. “We told them that they were very capable shooters.”
UAB finally began to chip away at the deficit midway through the second half, even though the Pirates kept shooting well. UAB pulled to within 57-53 with 6:21 remaining after two buckets by senior forward Rod Rucker in less than a minute.
Nearly three minutes later, Washington scored five consecutive points, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key, to trim the deficit to 63-62 with 3:31 left. But East Carolina answered immediately with a 3-pointer by senior guard Akeem Richmond.
“It really wasn’t a dagger at that time because we still had energy,” said Washington, who added nine rebounds and three steals. “We still had everything going our way. If we had just gotten a couple more stops, it could have been a better outcome.”
Two free throws by Rucker made the score 68-66 with 2:01 remaining but UAB didn’t score again until Rucker made another free throw with 29.3 seconds left. East Carolina made six consecutive free throws over the final 1:21 to ice the game.
“Their zone caused us a lot of problems because we were not able to shoot from the outside,” Haase said. “Up until halfway through the second half, we weren’t able to make any shots on the inside either. As a coach, you go back to the drawing board to find answers and solutions to give the guys a better game plan to be able to score against the zone.”
UAB now heads to Florida for two games. The Blazers travel to FAU on Thursday for a 6 p.m. CT tip and follows with a 6 p.m. Saturday game at FIU.