After a heartbreaking home loss to Middle Tennessee, the Blazers travel to Florida for the annual tricky road swing at FAU and FIU.
Since the current 14 team conference group was sloppily assembled in 2013, UAB has gone 2-0 at the Florida schools just one time (2016). I don’t know if it’s the playing down to competition mindset or what, but this trip has yielded some head scratching losses over the years.
This season you could argue that the two Florida schools, Florida Atlantic and Florida International, are as good as they’ve ever been since joining Conference USA. Both have picked up some nice conference wins and each has gotten off to a better start than the year prior.
Now I’m not going to sit here and preach that these two teams are top half of the conference good, or that they on paper have a realistic shot at beating UAB. If the Blazers played even close to their A-game they should beat these teams relatively easily. But, as we know, in conference play — and especially in the Sunshine State — weird things happen.
We’ll break down FIU on Friday, but in the meantime let’s have a look at FAU who currently sits at 6-7 with their best win coming at Florida Gulf Coast (152) in early December. Keep in mind, UAB has yet to record a top 150 win before you scoff at that last sentence.
Scouting the Owls
As I mentioned, the Owls have only one quality win this season and their record isn’t going to jump out at you. I believe this particular FAU team could give UAB some trouble based on what I’ve seen from them this season and their style of play.
The Owls aren’t a heavy 3-point shooting team per se, but they do have two players that can really light it up when they’re on. Senior guard Gerdarious Troutman, who is their leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, has hit 37 3-pointers this season, which is only second to La Tech’s Jacobi Boykins. Troutman is shooting a scorching 45 percent from behind the arc and has had more than three 3-pointers in eight games. Justin Massey, a 6-foot-4 junior forward, has actually attempted more 3-pointers than Troutman, but has only converted 27 of them. For reference, Nick Norton leads UAB with 25. One opposing player seems to always light it up against us, so say a prayer.
FAU’s main guy is their big man Ronald Delph who is one of the few good 7-footers in Conference USA. Delph protects the rim well having blocked 24 shots this season (Lee has 26), and before their loss to FIU on Sunday he had seven straight games scoring in double figures. This is the third year our interior players have seen Delph, and honestly he hasn’t been very effective offensively or defensively against us. I’ll be curious to see if that remains the case sans Tosin Mehinti.
I’d keep it simple versus the Owls by pressuring their guards relentlessly and make them beat us with Delph in the paint. FAU can’t beat us with two’s, but they surely can if they get hot from behind the arc and hit double-digit 3-pointers. If we can keep them under six 3-pointers, UAB should win this one rather easily.
3 Keys To Blazer Victory
- UAB has to find consistent offense when Cokley is doubled and/or having an off night. Against Middle, UAB couldn’t get the early 3-pointers to fall and it kept us from pulling away in the first half. If Nate Darling is going to start he has to produce from behind the arc — simple as that. UAB can’t be a streaky 3-point shooting team if they want to raise a banner at the end of the season.
- We had some really solid defensive moments when we used the 1-3-1 zone on Saturday. FAU is the perfect team to zone as their guards are known to be cavalier with their passes.
- FAU doesn’t have the bodies to double Cokley all night. I’d expect him to produce early and often. The beast is going to be having Owl for dinner Thursday night.