Basketball season is back and the women’s team exploded in their first exhibition match against the University of Montevallo.
After a 15-15 record last season and a heartbreaking loss in the conference tournament, the ladies looked to fire on all cylinders early. After just one quarter, UAB was up 32 points and eventually shut out Montevallo in the second quarter to take a 56-point lead into halftime. The second half was much of the same for the Blazers as they would eventually win 113-20.
UAB was led in scoring by sophomore forward Katelynn Thomas. Thomas racked up 22 points in 16 minutes of play. She also grabbed nine rebounds including six offensive rebounds.
Before the game, Norton said they were still trying to figure out lineups and work on some schemes according to Blazer247. So let’s break this down.
The defense looked stout. That could be a combination of Montevallo being Division II and UAB being much larger. However, UAB looks like they have 10 solid defenders they can put in at any point to get stops.
UAB finally has a lot of size on the inside to really bother opposing interior players. Of the forwards listed on the roster, only one, Rachael Childress, is listed under 6-foot. Angela Vendrell saw a significant amount of playing time with Thomas. The combination of those two in a lineup together could really bother other players. Thomas provides a true bruiser inside and can really move people off the block. Vendrell is as skinny as a stick, but has a long reach to redirect shots on the inside.
On the perimeter, all of UAB guards showed to be quick and have good basketball IQ to get in space and deflect passes. Deanna Kuzmanic proved to be extra pesky as she accounted for four steals and three blocks. UAB gains Maya Garland back from a torn ACL last season. She saw 23 minutes of action and had one steal, but was incredibly close to adding a few more steals to her belt. It seems her leg was not bothering her.
Again, the added size of this roster is going to be important for this team. We know that they can shoot the lights out from behind the ark. However, to have a good perimeter game, you have to have a good inside-out game. UAB ran many set plays to get the ball into the paint and get high quality looks from under the basket. Thomas was effective in sealing off her defender and getting easy lay-ups. All of the forwards looked to have improved coordination in catching passes and immediately going up to finish the play.
The guard play will be critical for UAB this year. Last year they were shaky against pressure and were often forced into too many turnovers. They had 12 turnovers against Montevallo, but they could not capitalize on UAB’s mistakes. The unselfishness of the guards will be seen again this year. UAB turned in 23 assists on 42 made baskets. Miyah Barnes picked up from last year and led the team in assists. Vendrell was right behind her. Vendrell has the ability to stretch the floor to play interior and exterior.
Norton mixed and matched a lot in the first game, but here is a guess at a possible lineup for the first game.
He looked to keep the same starting guards from last season together with Kuzmanic, Barnes, and Childress. On the inside, he started Thomas and Vendrell together. I like this combination on the inside as Thomas provides a good rebounder and Vendrell adds length to redirect interior shots.
Off of the bench, Norton seemed to toy around with a lineup of Singleton, Lewis, Garland, Johnson, and newcomer Talia Roldan. Both Singleton and Lewis played important roles coming off the bench and were very comfortable in their roles. Johnson provides a different look on the inside as she looks to get to the line on a regular basis. The newcomer, Roldan, is the tallest girl on the team listed at 6-foot-4. She used her floor time effectively showing she has solid hands and good moves inside to create easy buckets for herself.
I expect this team to play in a lot of tough, close games. Last season the ladies lost so many close games. However, it helped the younger members build, and it looks like they are ready to play this season. Come out to support your women’s basketball team this season.