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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For the first time since Nov. 8, 2013, the UAB men’s basketball team is 1-0 after putting away a hot perimeter shooting Arkansas Pine Bluff squad in the second half.

An extremely entertaining first 10 minutes full of alley-oops and stifling Blazer defense was brought to a halt when junior guard Nick Norton went down mid-court grasping his right knee near the eight minute mark.

Nick’s status is uncertain at this time.

On a brighter note, senior guard Tyler Madison made a very clear statement that his final season will be no resemblance of last year.

Per UAB Athletics:

Madison, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound swingman, opened his final college season with 16 points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes to spark the Blazers to an 86-66 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Robert Ehsan’s regular season head coaching debut at Bartow Arena.

Madison hit 5-of-6 shots from the field, 6-of-9 from the free throw line and added two assists and a steal. Four of his rebounds came on the offensive end.

“As a fan, you can see the energy, emotion and the physicality,” Ehsan said when asked what Madison brings to this lineup. “(The physicality) is one thing this team lacked. Two years ago, when he played more of a role, we shot a whole lot more free throws. One of the reasons was Tyler played a lot. He’s around the rim, he gets the loose ball, he’s physical. He can rebound. I mean, 16 and seven in 15 minutes, I didn’t realize it was that good, but I’m not surprised. He’s been practicing well, he’s a senior, he’s worked incredibly hard and is in a very good spot in the rotation right now.”

I’d attribute Madison’s new found success on the hardwood to the Blazers’ pressure defense that is forcing opponents into a quicker pace and in turn is giving UAB turnover transition opportunities.

When Tyler plays the 4 like he often has been this season he is most effective when the offense is moving quickly rather than a half-court set. I suppose you could say the “pick-up game” style is what fits him best. Chaotic and a bit disorganized, which allows him not to be locked into a back-to-the-basket type of role.

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Blazer Breakdown

Javien Williams ¦ 

The freshman is blowing my mind. Please forgive the hyperbole, but, his play has been the surprise of the early season so far.

He and Deion Lavender led the team in steals with three to go along with his 11 points and 3 rebounds off the bench in 24 minutes of play.

His active hands and instincts lead to plays like this …

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Tyler Madison ¦ A+

As you read above, the senior from Columbiana is in the midst of a basketball renaissance.

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William Lee ¦ B+

Six blocks to start the season is setting the bar pretty darn high, but that’s what to be expected of the Mayor of Blockingham this season.

I would have liked to see Lee attempt some shots from behind the arc. In fact, other than two dunks, he only made one other shot. Given the flow of the game, and the opponent, there is certainly nothing to be concerned about though.

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Chis Cokley ¦ A

Cokley checked off all the boxes for me tonight. He defended well, he rebounded, and per usual, he was unstoppable once he was established under the basket.

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Dirk Williams ¦ B

Shooting 0-of-5 from three is not going to cut it. This team is designed for him to be a consistent outside threat.

With 13 points he obviously didn’t have a terrible offensive night. The senior was able to find his opportunities, and I’m really enjoying seeing his offensive prowess expand.

Tosin Mehinti ¦ B+

Tosin needs his own stat category to keep up with how he alters shots and dictates how the opponents offense can be run in the paint. He appears to have a more confident and psychical presence defensively this year.

If you’re waiting for his offensive game to break out, stop now. Sure garbage offensive rebound put-backs will be expected, but that’s going to be about it.

Hakeem Baxter ¦ A

Is there a player on this team that gets less spotlight that deserves possibly the most? Hak’s game has taken a considerable step forward already from last season.

He is more confident offensively, especially from behind the arc, and his shutdown defense is suffocating on what’s usually the other team’s best backcourt player.

Deion Lavender ¦ B

Lavender is still getting his feel for his place on this team. After Norton went down he ran the point for the remainder of the night, often getting lost on offense, which is understandable.

The team as a whole looked fantastic defensively, and Lavender was one of the best with 3 steals. He and Hak are probably the two best guard defenders on this team.

Thomas Smallwood ¦ C+

In just 5 minutes of action it’s almost unfair to give him a grade. He is becoming more and more comfortable at this level of play. I’m looking forward to see his progression throughout the season.

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Nate Darling ¦ B

In the post-game press conference Coach Ehsan commented that he was very happy to see that first three go down for Darling. The Nova Scotian is a rhythm shooter and it’s just a matter a time before we see him knock down three or four like he did in the scrimmage.

Photos of the night

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