When the C-USA schedule came out over the summer I was immediately concerned. Three consecutive road games to start conference play was going to be a monumental task, even for a veteran team.
Fast forward months later, after a lack luster see-saw November and December, I found myself sitting in the stands of the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee watching the Blazers make the same mistakes and under performing in the same way as they had in the prior 13 games.
It was January 1. It was a new year and new start as the optimist say. However, It didn’t work that way for the Blazers that afternoon as they were stymied offensively on the conference’s hottest team’s home court. Fans were concerned. I was concerned.
Insert Zelly Buckets.
The win over Iowa State in the NCAA tournament seems like it was a decade ago. Seeing Denzell Watts play significant minutes seems like a decade ago. The Flint native hadn’t logged more than 20 minutes in a game since the Auburn loss in early December, but, that didn’t stop him from bringing a fresh new look and energy to a left-for-dead team in need of some momentum. Veteran players make veteran plays and this was a big one.
UAB is now 2-1 to after the #1 ranked toughest slate to start conference play. The Blazers won’t have a two game road swing against top 200 teams until the head to Marshall and WKU in mid-February. Alas, there is finally some hope and breathing room.
We’re all assuming that we’ll see Watts start at the point with Lavender coming off the bench in relief or together at times. Deion is going to benefit from the this restructure more than anyone on the team and last night was proof.
Lavender’s 13 points were a season high but it was his 4 steals and aggressive defensive play that stood out the most. I’d expect more of the same from him now that he’s able to access and implement his more natural instincts offensively and defensively.
Both Lee and Cokley bounced back and found their rhythm offensively after poor outings at MTSU. They are going to have opportunities to shine most every night here on out. The Blue Raider’s front court is very very good and the reality is there aren’t any other C-USA teams with that type of skill and experience in the post. The two juniors should have many big nights between now and March.
UAB returns home for the first time since December 28 when they host WKU this Thursday. They return home with new confidence, hope, and the chance to prove they aren’t ready to give up with their crown just yet.