BACK TO THE DESERT
Good morning from El Paso, where UAB will close out the regular season road schedule tonight against UTEP. It has been a wild week for the Blazers...the emotional night at Bartow Arena last Thursday...the quick turnaround and trip to East Carolina on Saturday...Robert Vaden going scoreless for 60+minutes...a second-half romp over the Pirates...returning home for a fun, albeit quick, snow...and now heading west in search of a sweep of the Miners.
Looking back on all that's happened since last we "blogged"...THANK YOU once again for making the Memphis game at Bartow Arena such an amazing night. I'll put that atmosphere up against anything or anyone else in the country. One of these nights we'll all get to leave happy! It was another great game, especially the second half, between unquestionably the two best teams in Conference USA, but Memphis showed why they will likely be another national #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the closing minutes. I know everyone was disappointed, especially the players, who desperately wanted a win for the fans, but the season isn't over, and I truly believe the NCAA Selection Committee is in for a wild ride figuring everything out.
The Blazers may have fallen off the radar a little after the Memphis game, but it was good to see the players realize there is still plenty to play for. It took a little while in Greenville, but the second half saw Robert Vaden find his touch, the defense really come to life, and Cameron Moore play like a seasoned veteran. The freshman was simply amazing as he nearly recorded his second double-double of the year. The key for him is consistency, and it all starts on the practice floor. The 20-point win over East Carolina was a nice salve for the Blazers, and they aren't quite as irritated now as they were in the first half of that game.
After a snowy Sunday and a chilly Monday, Mike Davis loaded his team up and headed west. Temperatures are in the 80s here in El Paso, and it certainly feels like spring has sprung in Texas. UAB goes for a sweep of the regular season series with the Miners after having knocked them off at Bartow Arena in late January. You don't suppose Robert Vaden is excited about tonight's game, do you? A year ago at the Haskins Center, Robert poured in 41 points and hit nine three-pointers in helping UAB to a big road win. The 41 points tied the school record for points in a game and was the most ever scored by a Blazer on the road. The nine threes was a school record, also. After his scoring spree in the second half at East Carolina, I'm looking for a big night from Robert. UAB will need it and a lot more to get out of here with a win. UTEP will be honoring its two seniors tonight. One of them, thankfully, is Stefon Jackson, the all-time leading scorer in Conference USA. He and Randy Culpepper have led the Miners in scoring in every single game this season, and there's no reason to think tonight will be any different. The duo combined for 50 in the game at Bartow earlier this year.
Tonight's game, simply put, is huge. The Blazers must win to keep hope alive for an NCAA Tournament bid. A victory would lock up an opening round bye at the Conference USA Tournament next week in Memphis. I know coach Davis isn't concerned about these things, but in my mind, the fewer games the Blazers have to play on consecutive days, the better off they'll be. Call me crazy, but I prefer only having to win three games in three days on the Tigers' home floor to capture the title...but enough about next week.
There is business to tend to before we worry about a return to FedEx Forum. It starts tonight against the Miners. We'll be on the air at 7:30 PM central time with pre-game, and tip time is set for 8 PM here at the Haskins Center. Then it's back home tomorrow to start getting ready for the final game of the regular season. Can that really be true? Didn't we just get back from Arizona? I hope you are making your plans to be with us on Saturday afternoon when the Blazers close things out against Marshall. It's another "must win" for the Green and Gold, and it's another chance to sweep a league foe after finally winning again in Huntington. It will be Senior Day at Bartow Arena, and it may very well be your last chance to see Mike Davis, Jr., Paul Delaney, III, Lawrence Kinnard, Channing Toney and Robert Vaden in uniform at home. Coach Davis hadn't quite decided (as of Monday night) just how the festivities would go on Saturday. With five to honor, they may wait until after the game. We'll know something a little closer to game time, but PLEASE make your plans to be there to root on the Green and Gold and also say, "Thanks," to those five guys. Tip-off is set for 2 PM, and we'll be on the air at 1:30 PM. Tickets do remain, so order yours today. Order online here at www.uabsports.com or call the ticket office at (205) 975-UAB1.
Just about everything else last weekend got interrupted by severe weather on Friday and the snow on Sunday. Events were either totally wiped out or drastically shortened because of Mother Nature. Baseball had a tough go of it, and they'll look to rebound this weekend at a tournament in Waco, TX. Softball opens their Conference USA schedule at home versus Southern Miss...weather should NOT be an issue this weekend, so get out and enjoy some UAB action.
Well, time for a workout and maybe some TexMex for lunch...hard to turn that down in El Paso. I hope you'll be listening tonight...Steve Mitchell, Jon Gentile and I will be ready to go at 7:30 PM central time.
Have a great week...be there Saturday...and GO BLAZERS!!!