GAME NOTES: The UAB Blazers' perfect mark at Bartow Arena will be put to a serious test on Saturday, as the Memphis Tigers visit for a Conference-USA matchup.
Josh Pastner's Tigers coasted to a 67-54 decision over the East Carolina Pirates in their Conference USA opener on Wednesday for their fifth win in a row. The Tigers enter Saturday's game with a 200-65 all-time Conference USA record, making them the winningest program in league history. Memphis is at or near the top of a multitude of C-USA statistical categories, including scoring offense (74.3 ppg) and third in field goal percentage (.479), first in blocked shots (5.4 bpg), third in assists (15.8 apg), second in steals (10.1 spg), second in turnover margin (+2.1) third in assist/turnover ratio.
First-year head coach Jerod Haase made his C-USA debut on Wednesday, but his Blazers fell to 8-8 overall after they were defeated, 64-48, by UCF on the road for their second consecutive loss. After battling it out in defensive minded, slow paced battles last season, the Blazers have established a new run and gun identity under Haase. They are third in the league in scoring at 74.9 points per game, but last in scoring defense (72.8 ppg).
Memphis holds a sizeable 34-10 all-time series lead over UAB thanks to its 13 straight victories over the Blazers. The Tigers completed a 79-45 rout of UAB the last time they were in Bartow Arena.
Memphis held a sizeable 41-23 edge in the rebounding battle and converted 18 ECU turnovers into 19 points to push past the Pirates this week. Joe Jackson tallied a team-high 15 points, Shaq Goodwin provided 12 points, and D.J. Stephens made an impact on the glass with 11 rebounds. Jackson leads a balanced attack, dropping in 13.8 ppg, making him one of the four Tigers averaging in double figures. Joining him are Geron Johnson (10.3 ppg), Tarik Black (10.4 ppg) and Adonis Thomas (10.4 ppg). Stephens (6.4 rpg) and Goodwin (5.6) are the primary rebounders on the team.
It was hard to tell UAB had a revamped offensive system in its last appearance as it shot just 26 percent from the field, making 20 of 77 shots, and going 0- for-23 from 3-point range. It marked the first time in 538 games that the Blazers were held without a 3-point basket. Rod Rucker posted his sixth double-double of the year with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Terence Jones chipped in 10 points. Rucker is on top of the Blazers' leaderboards with 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest, while Jordan Swing is providing 14 points and six boards per tilt. Jones has reached double figures in five straight games to lift his scoring average just over the 10-points per game mark.
The Tigers have dominated the C-USA in recent years and this season is no different. Memphis has a physical and athletic edge over UAB, which will have trouble with Goodwin inside. The Blazers may be perfect at home so far, but they have yet to face anyone nearly as talented as the Tigers there.
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