Dec. 1, 2013
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By Steve Irvine, UABSports.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- The box score wasn’t far away from North Carolina head coach Roy Williams when he met with the media following UAB’s 63-59 victory over the 16th ranked Tar Heels on Sunday night before a loud and appreciative crowd of 8,313 at Bartow Arena.
However, when it came to talking about the key to UAB’s victory – rebounds – Williams didn’t even glance at the sheet sitting in front of him. Nope, those were numbers that were already ingrained into his mind.
“To beat us 52-37 on the backboards and have 13 more possessions, that means, (it’s like) you start the game and give them the ball 13 straight times, see how many points they score and then alternate after that,” Williams said.
That was just the start of his thoughts on the subject.
“You look at it, they shot 30.6 percent and they still won the game because the rebounding battle,” Williams continued. “To me it’s the most important factor in the basketball game. You get the ball, I get the ball and the only way to get it more times is for me to get offensive rebounds and stop you from getting offensive rebounds.”
In a way, though, that was just part of what was a magical evening in Bartow Arena. The nationally-televised win marked UAB’s first win over a ranked team since beating Butler, 67-57, on Dec. 22, 2009. It was also the largest – and probably loudest – Bartow Arena crowd since 9,119 showed up to watch Memphis win in overtime on Jan. 22, 2011. The game also featured teacher (Williams) vs. pupil (UAB head coach Jerod Haase) and a marvelous game by UAB point guard Chad Frazier against his home state team.
However, as Williams already explained, the biggest story of the night was the job UAB did on the boards. It wasn’t unexpected for Williams. He had seen it on film and read in UAB’s box scores. He saw UAB outrebound Rutgers, 54-27, whip Troy, 53-24, on the boards and grab 62 rebounds against New Mexico. It’s what Haase’s team has become known for this season.
“This year in general, we will go through scouting reports and change things from time to time, but, for the most part, we’re going to be UAB, do what we do and do it the best we can,” Haase said.
It was a team effort on Sunday. Fahro Alihodzic led the way with 13 rebounds, including seven of the team’s 21 offensive rebounds. C.J. Washington had eight rebounds, Jordan Swing grabbed six rebounds and Robert Williams and Rod Rucker each had five rebounds.
“I think we really wanted it tonight,” Robert Williams said. “You look at the stats, we outrebounded them, and that’s what we’ve been doing over the last few games. We’re a pretty good rebounding team and I think the will showed on the glass. It was a team effort and a team win.”
It wasn’t a pretty night on offense. Aside from Frazier, who had a game-high 25 points, the Blazers had trouble putting the ball in the basket. Frazier was 5-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers, and also had four rebounds, three assists, a steal and four turnovers.
“It was hard for us to handle Chad Frazier’s penetration,” Roy Williams said.
Frazier’s 18 first half points – many which came on the penetration – helped UAB build a 37-25 lead at halftime. But North Carolina scored seven of the first nine points in the second half to crawl back into the game.
“I told the guys I’d been in that locker room too many times, I knew they were going to come back and they did,” said Haase, an assistant under Williams at North Carolina from 2003-09.
UAB’s biggest lead in the final five minutes was six points and the Tar Heels had the deficit down to one point – at 58-57 – following Marcus Paige’s three-point play with 41.2 remaining. But UAB countered with two free throws by Frazier with 36.1 seconds left and a huge defensive play by Alihodzic on the following possession when the 6-foot-10 senior hustled into the corner and deflected a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Paige.
The Blazers then sealed the game at the free throw line with two free throws by Swing and another by Robert Williams.
“This is great fun, this is fun, this is exciting, but it’s not a season-defining win, it’s not a university –defining win,” Haase said. “It’s a nice deal and it does kind of show where we are going as a program.”