Dec. 18, 2013
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By: Steve Irvine, UABSports.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as last Sunday but the UAB men’s basketball team used another strong first half conclusion to propel itself to another non-conference victory. This time, the Blazers scored 15 of the final 17 points of the first half and eventually cruised to a 67-52 victory over Chattanooga on Wednesday at Bartow Arena.
Obviously, that wasn’t as impressive as Sunday when a 26-0 run over the final seven minutes of the first half was the difference in an 84-62 victory over Georgia Southern. Those types of runs are nice, according to UAB head coach Jerod Haase, but he would love for his team to get started a bit more quickly.
“Hopefully the trend is we just play better for longer periods of times,” said Haase, whose team improved to 9-2. “I do like the fact that we finish the halves on a stretch like that but I do want to start games better. I told the team life has a way of repeating lessons unless you learn them. So we need to learn how to start better in a game.”
The Blazers, who were playing without injured starting forward C.J. Washington, led, 10-4, after five minutes but couldn’t get the offense working for most of the first half. Chattanooga (4-8) eventually built a 25-20 lead after Greg Pryor’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left in the half. UAB responded quickly with Chad Frazier’s six points keying a 9-0 run that ended with a short jumper by Gee McGhee. Rod Rucker then scored back-to-back buckets and Fahro Alihodzic ended the first half scoring with a left-handed shot in the paint to give the Blazers a 35-27 halftime time.
“We came out slow, they jumped out on us,” said UAB senior Jordan Swing
, who had a game-high 17 points and was 6-of-8 from the field. “Then we turned it on, got settled in. I felt we really played well in the last part of the first half.”
Swing played well when he was on the floor but his minutes were limited due to foul trouble. He had eight points, on 3-of-4 shooting with two 3-pointers, in just eight first-half minutes, and fueled the second-half offense before once again encountering foul trouble. Swing drew two quick fouls midway through the second half and left with UAB leading 48-44.
Rucker stepped up in Swing’s absence to score seven of the team’s next eight points and his short jumper gave the Blazers a 56-46 lead with 3:38 remaining.
“Seizing the moment, when you start to make plays or step up to make plays,” said Rucker, who later hit his first 3-pointer in a UAB uniform. “They play a zone so I knew (the middle) would be opening up, so I took advantage of it.”
Haase said Rucker was the key to solving Chattanooga’s zone in the second half.
“In the middle of that zone, he can be a very effective passer, scorer and driver,” Rucker said. “He did that certainly in the second half.”
Chattanooga’s head coach Will Wade also felt that UAB’s zone defense in the second half was an important part of the game.
“We were doing a good job early on just penetrating to get to the rim,” said Wade, whose team was playing without injured leading score Z. Mason. “They changed up the zone and we changed our ball screen stuff against their zone. It was a good chess match back and forth and their length in their zone is a little bit challenging.”
Alidhozic and Robert Williams each had 11 rebounds for UAB as the Blazers outrebounded the Mocs, 46-30.