UAB Blazers (21-4, 11-1)
Louisiana Tech (18-6, 7-4)
Series Record: 6-2, UAB
Game Time: 1 p.m. Central
TV/Live stream: Fox Sports Network (FSN)
Radio: David Crane, 99.5 FM
RUSTON, La. — Rarely when these two teams meet on the court are fans left void of entertainment. The pair met three times last season with UAB winning two in Birmingham and dropping a three-point game in Ruston. Most notable of the games, the Blazers defeated the Bulldogs in overtime at the Legacy Arena in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament. That match featured an 11 point run by La Tech in the final 5:26 of regulation to force overtime. The extra time was dominated by the Blazers who out scored the Bulldogs 14-4.
Scouting the Bulldogs
First year Coach Eric Konkol has taken over a La Tech team coming off back-to-back Conference USA regular season titles and a stellar combined record of 56-17. It’s also worth mentioning La Tech won the Sun Belt regular season title in their final season as members before joining the Conference USA two seasons ago.
Former head coach Mike White, who is now with the Florida Gators, built the Bulldog program around potent defense, high flying dunks, and deadly accurate perimeter shooting. The Bulldogs recent success can be attributed to the three seniors who broke a cornucopia of records and graduated last year–Kenneth”Speedy” Smith, Raheem Appleby, and Michale Kyser.
Fortunately for Coach Konkol, the pantry was not left completely bare for his inaugural season. The Bulldogs are anchored by their star senior guard, Alex Hamilton. The senior is averaging 18.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game. To put his paramount statistics in perspective, he and LSU freshman phenom Ben Simmons are the only two players in the NCAA averaging better than 18/5/5.
Complimenting Hamilton is a myriad of long, lean, and athletic forwards and guards. The Bulldogs aren’t a large team in terms of height, but, with what they lack in inches they make up with superb defensive skills and high basketball IQ’s.
Putting the Dogs in the Doghouse
The Blazers and Bulldogs rank second and third in Conference USA in points per game with 79.2 and 78.7, respectively. La Tech and Marshall are the only teams in the conference with three players who have attempted more than 100 three-pointers. Despite attempting over 500 three pointers, the Bulldogs do a good job distributing their points with three-pointers only accounting for 27 percent of their attempts (UAB, 28.5 percent). La Tech is second in Conference USA in free throws attempted with 619, which is well over 100 more than UAB’s 504.
The key to beating La Tech starts with Alex Hamilton. UAB likely won’t keep the senior guard below his scoring average and most teams rarely do. Through 24 games, Hamilton has failed to score in double-digits only one time. Hamilton doesn’t tend to look for his points behind the arc where he has been unable to covert more than two in a game this year. La Tech is at their best when he is driving to the basket and getting fouled or dishing it out to an open teammate. I’d expect to see a good bit of zone from the Blazers in hopes of keeping Hamilton out of the paint.
Sophomore forward William Lee has totaled 81 blocks through 25 games, which ranks second in the NCAA. He is 1 block shy of the number one spot held by Oregon senior forward, Chris Boucher. As a team, the Blazers have compiled 164 blocks, which is second only to the University of Washington who has 168.
UAB 78 La Tech 75