After getting off to a great start winning their first three games against inferior competition, UAB fell back to their old ways dropping critical games they should have won.
Aside from the putrid shooting start against Richmond, UAB put themselves in position to win in the second half against both Buffalo and Iowa. We hoped and expected an experienced and deep team would put their foot on their opponent’s neck when the momentum swung our way late in both games but it never happened. Let’s a take a look at some of the reasons why UAB has gotten off to an inconsistent start early this season.
Having depth is great but knowing how to use it is key
Let’s look at the Buffalo game first. With 19:05 left in the second half Chris Cokley made a basket to give UAB a 48-40 lead. It wasn’t until 15:19 that the Blazers would score again while Buffalo scored 13 unanswered. During that stretch UAB missed three “lay-ups” and turned it over four times. Nick Norton was on the court the entire time and Jalen Perry and Lewis Sullivan came in for William Lee and Nate Darling. This group of players we shuffled around are going to win us a lot of games this season but they must learn how to work in-and-out of the lineup seamlessly first.
One thought that came to mind was if we knew that Nate was struggling offensively and Buffalo was going to continue to penetrate aggressively with their guards why not start the second half with Perry who during this trip was better offensively and defensively? It seems like we missed a good opportunity to put our foot on the gas and continue to build on our lead. Great teams make critical second half adjustments.
I know we can’t just point our fingers at a few players offensive outputs because at the end of regulation UAB scored 82 points. We scored more than enough to win this game but our defense has some major issues that need to be addressed with none being more important than face up guarding in the back court and denying drives in the paint that lead to kick outs. I feel like I’ve been writing that sentence for three seasons.
The Iowa game while disappointing wasn’t so much UAB giving the game away as it was the Hawkeyes taking advantage of UAB’s weaknesses when the opportunities arose. Iowa forced our front court in to fouls repeatedly once they recognized the referees weren’t going to let the big guys defend aggressively. Give them credit as they hit 27 of their 35 free throws which was their best offense for most of the game.
Much like the Buffalo game, UAB really struggled defending the 3-point shot but in this game is was Bohannon shooting over our lax on-ball defense in the second half. For whatever reason we thought it was fine to give him a five foot cushion the entire night. But again UAB scored more than 80 points which should have been plenty if we could have maintained some kind of consistent pressure defense on Bohannon.
That’s the last time I’m going to talk about those games as we shift our sights to the next portion of our non-conference slate.
I’m really hoping UAB laid all their eggs early and are now ready to hatch some wins against good teams. To a certain degree the next two weeks could greatly affect how UAB performs the remainder of the season. I’ve heard the talk about what we do in Dallas in March is all that matters but that’s a shortsighted view that I have no interest in partaking in.
Assuming we win today (please) the next three games will give UAB a great opportunity to regain some confidence and fine tune their rotations. On paper we are a better team than Memphis but that means absolutely nothing in this particular series. However, If the Blazers can get this 800 pound gorilla off their back it could do wonders for the area between their ears.
A follow up road win at Troy, which is far from a given, would set up a juicy in-state “rivalry” match-up at Auburn that will be one of UAB’s toughest tests of the season if not the toughest. This Tiger team may be missing two all-conference pieces but they are still with out a doubt the most talented Auburn roster we will have faced in the past three seasons.
UAB dropped the ball early but now has a chance to pick it up and finish strong going in to conference play. We’ve bragged about our experience and we’ve touted this core group’s successes but it’s time they put out their best product consistently.