The Blazers have leaned heavily on Chris Cokley’s play in the paint, but he will be tested against a staunch Monarch interior defense Saturday.

Chris Cokley was an unstoppable force against Charlotte Thursday night. We knew going into this game that the 49ers didn’t have the roster to match-up with the Savannah senior, and the Blazers took full advantage of it. His 11th double-double leads C-USA and is 14th best in the country.

UAB struggled from behind the arc hitting just 3-of-15, and for the first time this season I saw Zack Bryant really struggle. He’s had trouble with fouls at times, but last night he couldn’t find his groove offensively, which is hopefully just an anomaly and not a future trend.

Nate Darling laid a goose egg from three, which practically deems him useless given his inability to guard athletic wings. But his shortcomings gave Deion Lavender the opportunity to come in and score 10 points off the bench. Lavender reminded fans how effective he can be at scoring near the rim. Let’s hope he continues to be a spark plug off the bench for the Blazers.

Last night we beat a bad team with what I feel was our C-game. If we want to walk away with a win Saturday night in Norfolk, we have to bring our A-plus game for 40 minutes or we’ll be run out of the gym like we were against the Monarchs in Birmingham last season.

Let’s take a look at ODU who is 16-5 and 7-2 in conference play.

Scouting the Monarchs

The Monarchs dropped a close game at home to Middle Tennessee Thursday night 66-59 after they were tied at 33 at the half. ODU, in my opinion, is the most physical and deepest front court team in this conference. They’re led by 6-foot-10 junior forward Trey Porter who could probably start for many power conference teams. He is nearly a skilled a scorer as Chris Cokley and a more impactful defender.

Since Jeff Jones has been at the helm at Old Dominion they’ve featured a methodical offensive tempo combined with a suffocating defense similar to Virginia. They are seventh best in the country in 2-point defense and will be keen on making UAB beat them without Cokley’s help. We only win tomorrow if Sullivan, Lee, and Gueye play their best games of the season.

I could spill a gallon of ink talking about all the key pieces for ODU. They are very similar to Middle Tennessee in that even if you focus on eliminating an aspect of their game they are so balanced and deep that they can absorb it. Expect an active and near capacity crown at the Ted Constant Center as well. Norfolk loves it’s basketball.

3 Keys to Blazer Victory

  1. Three-point shooting. UAB has to hit more than eight tomorrow to have a chance — simple as that.
  2. We will be tested offensively and defensively in the paint. How we produce in that area will be a storyline to follow.
  3. This game is an opportunity for Chris Cokley to get ahead of Nick King in the player of the year race. If he can have a dominating night, he’ll be the front-runner.