Survive and advance — that’s what it’s all about it in March. We knew our flaws coming in to yesterday’s game, and we knew that Charlotte would be a much tougher out than our other potential day one match-up — Florida Atlantic. I’ve been talking about Jon Davis all season in our Conference USA podcast, and now you all have had the chance to see how bad that man is. Thank the Lord we don’t have to see him again until next season.
Whenever UAB has a one or two point wins, I like to reflect a day or so after on each and every point scored and their importance. What if Nate Darling’s shots don’t fall? What if Dirk Williams goes MIA like he has at times this season? What if the thorn in my side, Tosin Mehinti, doesn’t score two points? The margin of error is so incredibly thin in these win or go home games. Give this team a ton of credit for holding it together late and getting stops when they had to. I’m proud, and you should be too.
Shifting focus to Louisiana Tech, let’s look at our lone game against the Bulldogs in late January for reference. Before the second half “fight” broke out, UAB practically controlled the game from the whistle up to that point. Dirk had 17 points (he’s the catalyst this week) and UAB held Louisiana Tech to 5-of-24 shooting from behind the arc, including just one in the first half. It was without a doubt one of UAB’s best conference games of the season.
Last night UAB had some issues with Charlotte’s ball movement that led to eventual open looks for three. I’m here to tell you, even the best defenses can only try to somewhat slow down an offense like that when it’s cooking. The 49ers have the best group of perimeter shooters in the conference and it showed late in the game. UAB did what they had to do to counter — score at will in the paint. The staff has their work cut out for them now as they’ll prep for the Bulldogs who not only have one of the best 3-point shooters in the conference in Jacobi Boykins, but they also have one of the best front lines.
On Tuesday I was shocked to find out Middle Tennessee’s JaCorey Williams was named player of the year. In the previous 20 Conference USA seasons a transfer had never won it, let alone a one year player. The man he beat out for the award was Louisiana Tech’s Erik McCree. The senior forward, in my opinion, is the best pro prospect in the conference outside of William Lee and the aforementioned Williams. He’s a walking double-double and has hit more than 50 3-pointers. UAB’s strategy for him will be much like ours was for Jon Davis — hope to corral him when possible, but focus more on stopping the supporting cast, which is easier said than done.
The stakes are higher today and the competition is significantly more formidable. Lee, Williams and Cokley all scored more than 15 points last night and that will need to happen every night going forward if we want to keep this season going. This team is full of upperclassmen, and last night I felt it showed. Let’s kennel these pups and keep the show going.