Louisiana Tech Preview: One Final Time
Is this really the last game of the regular season for the 2021-22 UAB Blazers? It seems like just yesterday we were in Bartow for the first tip-off of the season against UNC Asheville. UAB was able to get it done Wednesday night getting an 81-68 win on the road over Southern Miss making it three straight road wins for the Blazers. That win also solidified UAB as the second seed in the West Division of Conference USA, getting the Blazers a much-needed bye to the quarterfinals next week in the tournament. This would make Saturday’s game in Bartow meaningless right? The answer to that question would of course be a big negative.
The first reason, and what should be the only reason, why this isn’t a meaningless game is that this is Senior Day for the Blazers. Quan Jackson, Mike Ertel, and Justin Brown will be recognized before tipoff Saturday afternoon in their last regular season game in Bartow Arena. UAB has been lucky to have all three of these guys this seasons and last, and the team simply wouldn’t be where they are today without them. Ertel aka “Mid-Range Mike” was able to recently surpass the 2,000-career point mark. Jackson aka “Mr. Steal Mill” himself has over 1,000-career points. “Downtown” Justin Brown is also a member of the 1,000-career points gang. There is not enough words to express how much gratitude Blazer fans have for Mike and Quan coming in last season and becoming the great players and young men they have. Also, the homecoming of Justin Brown has certainly been a treat. Let’s all get to Bartow this Saturday to help give them a standing ovation one last time at home. I know that the “Scream Team” led by Quan’s mother Tonia Jackson would love to see as many people as possible in the arena. It’s certainly not a goodbye…we hope to see these young men around the program for years to come following this season.
The second reason why this won’t be a meaningless game is UAB will face off against our rival, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, this Saturday afternoon in Bartow. Although, I’ll always say that Memphis is our biggest true rival and luckily, we’ll be in the same conference again with them by 2023. This UAB-Louisiana Tech basketball series has recently been an intense one. Going back to the 2015 Conference USA tournament where the Louisiana Tech band and fans chanted “We have football!” Or when Hakeem Baxter and Jacobi Boykins got into a fight back in 2017. These teams just simply do not like each other. UAB last faced off against the Bulldogs back in January and defeated them 83-76 to get the Blazers’ first ever win in the Thomas Assembly Center. In that game Jordan Walker led the way for UAB with 36 points going 9/15 from behind the three-point line. Louisiana Tech’s Amorie Archibald had 27 points leading the way for the Bulldogs that day. Let’s go ahead and get to our three keys to victory for UAB to take care of the Bulldogs on Saturday:
1. Stop Kenneth Lofton Jr! Lofton Jr. is simply a great player and one of the best in the country. Yes, we know he gets plenty of fouls called on defenders guarding him, but the man is for real and there’s no denying it. He averages 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. In fact, he scored 24 against UAB back in January. Trey Jemison will be the one tasked with trying to stop Lofton and the good thing for UAB fans is that he has been playing some of his best basketball as of late. Jemison has had 12 rebounds in each of his last three games and has been a force to be reckon with down low on defense blocking and altering shots coming his way.
2. Need to get off to a hot start. One thing that UAB hasn’t really done well lately is getting off to a hot start. On the road the last three games UAB has come out a little sloppy to start games. The Blazers will need to come out energized just like they did the last time they faced the Bulldogs. UAB was able to get off to a 17-4 lead in the first 9 minutes at the TAC. With it being Senior Day and hopefully a good crowd I don’t think this will be a problem for UAB.
3. Free throws. I know we’ve stated this before, but UAB simply must make their free throws to beat good teams. In its last outing Wednesday, UAB made 5 of 14 free throws for an ugly 35.7%. If UAB doesn’t hit at least 65-70% of their free throws Saturday, they will lose this game. Louisiana Tech will get to the line often, especially with Lofton, so UAB will have to hit theirs when they get opportunities. They are called “free” throws for a reason after all.
John Duncan: The Blazers get back to protecting Bartow and send Quan, Justin, and Mike off on a high note. Go Blazers!
UAB 85 LaTech 79
Brad Cummings: This game will come down to two things. Rebounds and free throws. Kenneth Lofton Jr. and Jordan “Jelly” Walker will each get their points. What will everyone else on both teams do is the question? I’m looking for big rebounds out of Quan and Trey but also looking for the whole team to make up for the terrible free throw shooting Wednesday night. Give me the Blazers but in a close game. One more game at Bartow!
UAB 82 LaTech 77