UAB, Illinois State Meet At South Padre Invitational

Rod Rucker has posted a double-double in back-to-back games.

Nov. 22, 2012

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB men's basketball team returns to the hardwood to continue play in the South Padre Island Invitational on Friday by taking on Illinois State at 5 p.m. CT at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.

UAB defeated Navy and Prairie View A&M at home in the first two games of the tournament and will turn around and play either TCU or Northwestern on Saturday in South Padre Island, Texas, following Friday's matchup with the Redbirds.

UAB (3-1) vs. Illinois State (4-0)
Date:  Fri., Nov. 23, 2012
Time:  5 p.m. CT
Location:  South Padre Island, Texas
Venue:  South Padre Island Convention Centre 

Radio:  WUHT-FM 107.7
Talent:  David Saltzman (pxp), Steve Mitchell (analyst)
Live Stats: GameTracker (

Inside The Series
UAB leads, 1-0.
Last Meeting:  UAB 71, Illinois State 60 (12/29/90)
The Blazers and Redbirds only previous meeting came in 1990 at the All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City, Okla. 

The Coaches
UAB:  Jerod Haase (Kansas, '97)
Record at UAB:  3-1, first season
Career Record:  3-1, first season

ISU:  Dan Muller (Illinois State, '98)
Record at ISU:  4-0, first season
Career Record:  4-0, first season

Last Time Out For UAB

UAB 76, Prairie View A&M 70 (Bartow Arena)

Rod Rucker poured a season-high 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Blazers to victory over the Panthers.  Rucker made eight of 12 shots from the floor and he recorded his second double-double in as many games.

UAB struggled shooting from the floor, making just 33.3 percent of its shots. However, the Blazers made up for their off-shooting night by draining 28 of 37 foul shots, including 26 of 34 in the second half.

On The Blazers
• UAB (3-1) has proven that a balanced scoring attack is key.  UAB is averaging 80.8 ppg and in all three of its victories, four or more players have reached double figures in the box score in points.

Rod Rucker has been a workhorse for the UAB front court, topping the Blazers in both points (15.7) and rebounds (10.5) per game.

Jordan Swing (12.8 ppg) and Fahro Alihodzic (12.0 ppg) are also averaging double figures as eight UAB players are averaging more than 7.5 ppg for the season.

• The Blazers lead Conference USA in assists (19.75) and tied for the lead in steals (10.0) per game.  UAB is also the second-best foul shooting team (78.8 percent) and posted the second-most rebounds per game (43.5) in the conference.

• Friday marks just the second road game of the season for UAB.  The Blazers are a perfect 3-0 at Bartow Arena with UAB's lone loss on the season coming at then No. 13 Creighton.

• UAB is led by first-year head coach Jerod Haase, who spent the previous 13 years on coaching staffs under Roy Williams at Kansas and North Carolina.  

On The Redbirds
• Illinois State enters the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record, with commanding home victories against Delaware State and Fairleigh Dickinson as part of the South Padre Invitational.  

• The Redbirds feature one of the top post players in the Missouri Valley Conference in Jackie Carmichael.  A MVC Preseason First Team selection, Carmichael leads ISU in points (18.3) and rebounds (6.0) per game.

• As a team, ISU is averaging 91.0 ppg and shooting at a 54.9 percent clip from the floor. The Redbirds' defense has been equally as impressive as the offense, keeping opponents to only 65.5 ppg and shooting 41.0 percent.

• Friday's tilt will mark just the second game away from home for ISU, where the Redbirds sport a perfect 3-0 record at Redbird Arena.  The lone away game for ISU came at Drexel, which the Redbirds prevailed 86-84 in overtime.

• ISU is led by first-year head coach Dan Muller, who spent the previous 12 years on staff at Vanderbilt under Kevin Stallings.

Facing The Missouri Valley's Best
Through the early portion of UAB's non-conference schedule, the Blazers will have faced two of the premier teams in the Missouri Valley Conference.  Back on Nov. 14, the Blazers lost to No. 13 Creighton, 77-60. Creighton was picked to win the MVC, while Illinois State finished second in the league's preseason coaches poll.

Coaching Staff Connections
UAB and Illinois State have multiple coaching connections between staffs.  UAB assistant coach Jeff Wulbrun spent four years as an assistant at Illinois State from 1993-97 and while with the Redbirds, coached now current ISU head coach Dan Muller. At ISU, Wulbrun saw the Redbirds compete in the NIT twice, NCAA Tournament once and capture the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title in 1997.

ISU assistant coach Torrey Ward is another link between the Redbirds and Blazers.  Ward, a native of Birmingham, was a four-year letter winner for UAB from 1997-2000, where  he played in 110 games and started 74 during his time as a student-athlete.  Ward recorded nearly 800 points and was the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year runner up to Cincinnati's Kenyon Martin back in 2000.  Ward earned his degree from UAB in 2001.

Back In Texas
Three Blazers are back in the Lone Star State after playing in Texas prior to coming to UAB.  Terence Jones was at nearby Texas A&M Corpus Christi for four years, playing for three seasons, while earning his undergraduate degree.  Jekore Tyler, a native of Port Arthur, Texas, and Alexander Scotland-Williamson, each played junior college basketball at Lee College prior to coming to Birmingham.

Excelling At The Foul Line
The Blazers have been in the zone at the foul line so far this season, shooting 78.8 percent (63-for-80), which ranks second in Conference USA.  In all of C-USA, only eight players are perfect from the foul line with at least four attempts, and three of the top four foul shooters are UAB players:  Jordan Swing, Fahro Alihodzic and Preston Purifoy.

1. Jordan Swing, UAB 15-15
2. Max Guercy, Rice 12-12
3. Fahro Alihodzic, UAB 10-10
4. Preston Purifoy, UAB 9-9

Cashing In At Charity Stripe
In the 76-70 victory against Prairie View A&M (11/20), UAB made it count at the foul line.  The Blazers shot just .333 (22-for-66) from the floor, but were able to get to the line 37 times and make 28 shots (75.7 percent).  In the second half vs. the Panthers, the Blazers only made eight field goals, but sank 26 of 34 foul line attempts to help secure the win.

Rucker Brings A Ruckus
Forward Rod Rucker has made his presence felt in his first year with the Blazers.  Rucker is coming off a 25-point, 12-rebound effort vs. Prairie View A&M, marking his second double-double in as many games.  For the season Rucker ranks fourth in the conference in rebounding average (10.5) and his 17 offensive boards are tied with UCF's Keith Clanton for most in the league.  In addition, Rucker is shooting .571 percent from the floor, tied for eighth-best in C-USA.

Surprising Top Stealer
Fahro Alihodzic, who has started at center in each of UAB's four games so far in the 2012-13 season has found an unexpected knack on defense.  Most would suspect the 6-foot-10 post player from Bosnia to be amongst the C-USA leaders in blocks. However, Alihodzic actually leads the Blazers and is fifth in the league in steals per game (2.3).  Through four games, Alihodzic has totaled nine steals, including four swipes in a win vs. Prairie View A&M.