Two comfortable wins in Florida keep UAB near the top of the pack early in conference play. 

The often sour Florida road swing thankfully resulted in two sweet victories and some much needed confidence in mid-January. While the comfortable wins were nice, know that the competition is about to get significantly tougher.

The win over FAU was especially enjoyable given it was the third largest margin of victory ever for UAB on the road. Per it was the Blazer’s second most efficient game this season — only behind the win over Chattanooga.

Against FIU I saw a team that expected to win before they ever touched the court. I predicted the Panthers’ large wings would give us trouble, but we played with confidence and poise from the tip, jumping out to an 18-2 lead early in the game. Despite FIU’s barrage of deep 3-pointers in the second half, our extremely efficient offense continued to keep the margin comfortable.

Through the first three conference games, UAB has held their opponents to the lowest field goal percentage of the 14 teams. Sure you can attribute this to the quality of our last two opponents, but what I’ve seen is a better collective understanding of our schemes. With Zack Bryant and Makhtar Gueye seeing significant minutes, it was going to take some time for things to gel.

We’ll see just how far our defense has come this week when we’ll see two offenses that rank in the top half in the conference in Southern Miss and La Tech.

Scouting the Golden Eagles

Southern Miss has started Conference USA play 2-2 with road losses at WKU and Marshall and home wins over UTEP and UTSA. The win over the Roadrunners was arguably their best of the season as UTSA has been playing very well this season.

Offensively the Golden Eagles play guard heavy and at a very methodical pace. They’ll typically run multiple screens for their wings in pursuit of a good look behind the arc or a slash to the basket. For the most part they have no frontcourt offense to speak of. Their lone contributing big man is 6-foot-11 Tim Rowe who is nothing more than a space filler and occasional rebounder.

Southern Miss is third in the nation in offensive turnover percentage and fourth in steal percentage. Their guard heavy line up is small, quick, and extremely careful with the ball, and very pesky defensively. They’ll often have four guards on the court at a time that are all very capable shooters. Their 6-foot-1 wing Kevin Holland was 7-of-7 from behind the arc against UTSA, which is bananas. In their 93-83 win over UTSA every single point was scored by a player under 6-foot-5.

UAB destroyed Southern Miss at home last year 87-43 against a team that’s going to look and play very similarly to the one we’ll see tomorrow.

3 Blazer Keys to Victory

  1. Taking care of the ball should be UAB’s number one priority tomorrow. The Blazer’s only lose this game if they beat themselves.
  2. Speaking of Cokley, this is a game where he could score 30-plus. Expect the big man to eat early and often.
  3. Our guard depth will be tested and we’ll need solid contributions from Jalen Perry and Deion Lavender. We’ll be bigger at every position, but they’ll be quicker. Sound and smart defense will be a must.