UAB returns home to the friendly confines of Bartow Arena after a successful road trip going 2-0, with a chance to make history. The Blazers put a halt to Old Dominion’s home win streak at 32 with a dramatic 72-71 victory in overtime. Then on Saturday they traveled to the Halton Arena to play Charlotte and it looked like they were going to run away with it after being up as much as 16 points, but needed a late Robert Brown floater to seal the victory 74-72.
The opponent Thursday is the Rice Owls with a record of 6-12 (1-4). One of the youngest teams in Conference USA, the Owls are led by Freshmen guard Marcus Evans averaging 20.3 points a game. Coming to Birmingham and playing a red hot UAB squad will be a tall task for the Owls.Rice is coached by Mike Rhoades, where he previously coached under Shaka Smart at VCU, who is now the head coach at Texas.
William Lee has really come on as of late for the Blazers, and is playing like many excepted him to play this year. Lee hit 5 three-pointers and finished with a career-high 28 points against Old Dominion, and was awarded the Conference USA Player of the Week for his play over the road trip.Point Guard Nick Norton continues to amaze with his turnover/assist ratio where he ranks third in all of college basketball.
The depth that UAB has is proving to pay dividends when matching up with conference opponents. On the road trip you could tell the experience this team has is paying off as well. When Old Dominion went on a run to tie the game late in the second half, no one on the Blazers got rattled. They stuck to their game and forced overtime and ultimately won. Against Charlotte, after blowing a huge lead, the team did not panic, they did not fold, but they did what good teams do, they found a way to win.
For those of you counting, the two wins on the road trip pushed the Blazers win streak to 12 games, which is the second longest winning streak in the NCAA behind only SMU. A win on Thursday would make that winning streak 13 games in a row, which would tie the school record for most wins in a row during a season. Also, it would be the 20th win in a row at Bartow Arena dating back to last season, which would set the school record for most wins in a row at Bartow.
Gang Green, the UAB student section, is putting on a tailgate for students before the game for the second time this year. The last time that they did this more than 1,447 students attended the game. It has also been announced as #GoldRushThursday as fans have been encouraged to wear gold. Could we possibly see the gold jerseys with Birmingham across the chest? With school back in full swing, except #operation1072 to be in full force.
If you are in Birmingham on Thursday night, Bartow Arena will be the place to be. This team deserves a big game atmosphere and hopefully that’s what it will be. Look for UAB to strike gold, and continue its historic season.