Basketball is back in Birmingham and the Blazers got off to a great start defeating Morehouse College 84-69 in front of a pretty solid November crowd.
It felt right. Having Nick Norton back on the court just makes the game better. The junior point guard wore a bulky brace on his right knee but you could hardly tell any difference in his game. Nick hit three 3-pointers in the first half to go along with two timely steals. Sure you’d like your team to be up by more than a point in the first half against a school like Morehouse, but you have to keep in mind we played around with substitutions practically every other possession.
Remember the timid freshman wing who wanted nothing to do with shooting the ball in the first half of the season last year? That guy is gone and the new Swaggy-D is here to stay. Not only did he hit four 3-pointers, he also had a handful of strong drives to the basket and four assists. His defense has improved significantly and I’d expect him to be a starter from here on out.
This kid is the truth. When I watch the blue bloods of college basketball and see their freshman contribute early in their careers, I typically think to myself, “Yeah, that kid is different. That’s why he is at this program.” This is how I feel about Scootie at UAB. He is different, electric and has the confidence we’ve probably never seen from an incoming freshman. He looks like he’ll be a perfect point guard compliment to Nick with the skill to drive to the basket like a young Russell Westbrook.
Championship teams need players like Perry. No offense to Hak, but he looks like he’ll play the roll he had last season but with a much better offensive game. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and you could just tell in his stroke that the perimeter shot is his shot of choice. I expect Ehsan to iron out his substitutions to keep three solid perimeter threats on the court at once. This was a weapon UAB sorely lacked last season.
On To Jacksonville
Morehouse was the perfect exhibition team for UAB. They shot the ball really well and pressured us consistently all night. We needed to be pushed and we ultimately answered the call in the second half.
Don’t fret when you see William Lee’s stat line. In all honesty, we didn’t need him to carry us like we were forced to many times last season. This team is way more balanced and deep offensively than last years. It wouldn’t shock me if you saw a dip in Lee’s points per game as the points get spread around more.
Cokley looked like the beast we need in the front court. He looked bigger, stronger and his trademark touch in the paint is still as great as it has been. I was very pleased to see him take and make three fairly deep mid-range shots. It wouldn’t shock me if he does in fact work the 3-point shot into his game this season.
NEXT GAME: UAB hosts Jacksonville Friday, November 10 at 7 p.m.