AU, UAB doing what’s necessary; big games await

Published 9:23 pm Thursday, February 19, 2009

Last week, I said Auburn and UAB would have to finish the season nearly perfect if they want to have a chance to go dancing. So far, they are living up to that challenge.

Both state schools got wins in games this week even though it wasn’t always pretty. UAB probably had the biggest scares of the week. The Blazers jumped out to a large advantage against SMU and then had to hang on for dear life. Then on Wednesday, they fell behind significantly to Tulane only to scrap and claw their way back to eek out a win in New Orleans.

The significant thing about both of these wins is that the Blazers hit a combined 57 free throws in these contests. That shows me that UAB is trying to go to the basket more, and it has paid off.

In some games, the Blazers have been content just to be a jump shooting team. Granted, they don’t have any post play, but they are at least trying to get more points in the paint. Jump shots will help you win games, but when you’re cold, you have to manufacture some offense. Fortunately, UAB is producing just enough.

But this week is the true test. The Blazers play Southern Miss and then No. 10 Memphis. This is a key week. Two wins this week, and I think UAB might just wrap up a tournament bid, provided they do win all their other games.

Auburn couldn’t afford to slip up last week, and they didn’t, winning by double-digits in both games. Now comes the big game at No. 23 LSU. The Bengal Tigers haven’t been dominating the past few games, but they keep winning.

I do think Auburn has a chance tomorrow night in Baton Rouge, and they will have to rely on their rebounding. They have to at least break even against LSU while forcing the home team to commit turnovers. LSU has been careless at times, and Auburn could take advantage of that.

But the bottom line is Auburn must do better at the foul line. The Tigers are the worst in the conference at the charity stripe, hitting only half their shots. If Auburn can extend its winning streak to five or even six games, they must hit more free shots.

We’ll see how our teams stack up again next week.