Feb. 13, 2014
Steve Irvine, UABSports.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB men’s basketball team shook off recent struggles on Thursday night to dominate a Southern Miss team that entered the night with a share of the Conference USA lead. The Blazers hit a season-high 11 3-pointers, clamped down on defense and dished out 22 assists in the 84-60 victory over the Golden Eagles at Bartow Arena.
It was a welcome performance, especially considering the Blazers (15-9 overall, 4-6 C-USA) entered the game mired in a three-game C-USA losing streak.
“After any game you can look at the box score and really evaluate in a lot of different ways,” said UAB head coach Jerod Haase. “The way I choose to evaluate this was our guys really bought in at a time when it hasn’t been easy. Our message has been consistent, from the coaches to the players, that they have to buy in, play as hard as they can and execute the game plan as well as they did.”
Very little went wrong for the Blazers on Thursday night. Chad Frazier was the best guard on the floor – contributing 20 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals with only one turnover – and C.J. Washington had a big game despite playing only 18 minutes because of foul trouble. Washington finished with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, three rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal.
Washington got things going for the Blazers, hitting three 3-pointers in the first five minutes.
“I thought those two 3s early in the game were important, obviously for the points, but kind of just setting a tone for our team that ‘We’re going to play today, we’re going to make some shots today, we’re going to play aggressively on defense’,” Haase said.
But the Blazers didn’t begin pulling away until late in the half. The Blazers closed the half by outscoring the Golden Eagles, 14-4, over the final 4:26. Frazier scored 10 points during that time, including a pair of 3-pointers in the final 1:16, to help UAB take a 41-29 halftime lead.
It was just part of a big night for Frazier.
“Frazier was safe and solid with the ball and made the right decisions time and time again,” said Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall, whose team fell to 21-4 overall and 8-2 in C-USA. “We just could never really get them out of rhythm.”
UAB was never out of rhythm in the second half, hitting 60.7 from the field overall and making 5-of-11 3-pointers. The Blazers never led by less than 11 points in the half and never let the Golden Eagles back into the game. Part of the reason was they never let Southern Miss standout Neil Watson get on track. He scored eight points with five coming from the free throw line.
“We were really, really unselfish,” Haase said. “There was never an issue with anything. If the guy was open, you hit him.”
The Blazers received solid performances throughout the lineup. Rod Rucker scored 13 points with seven rebounds and four assists and Denzell Watts had a career-high 11 points, including two 3-pointers, and added three assists. Jordan Swing hit his first 3-pointer since Jan. 16 and Tyler Madison and Tosin Mehinti made solid contributions.
“Everybody I put in gave us quality minutes,” Haase said. “Even the players that didn’t get in gave phenomenal effort in practice. It’s about this team. No individual is bigger than this team and no individual is more important. If a guy doesn’t play right now, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about this team. I really felt that was the way we played tonight.”
UAB makes the quick turnaround to host Tulane on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.