Previewing Alabama-Birmingham

Fresh off an ACC victory over Miami, the Blue Devils return to action in a non-conference tilt against UAB. Duke will be looking to move to 14-0 on the season while finding a more balanced offensive attack against the Blazers. The game will be broadcast by ESPN2.

Alabama-Birmingham (10-2) vs. Duke (13-0)
Durham, N.C. -- Cameron Indoor Stadium
TV: ESPN2 7:00 PM EST (Mike Patrick & Len Elmore)
MEET THE BLAZERS

Head Coach: Mike Davis (5th Year)
Record at UAB: 95-50
Record v. Duke: 1-1

Projected Starters:
?1 Aaron Johnson (5-8, 185 Sr.) – 10.1 ppg, 8.3 apg
4 Jamarr Sanders (6-5, 210, Sr.) – 17.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg
5 Robert Williams (6-4, 210, Fr.) – 3.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg
32 Ovie Soko (6-8, 210, So.) – 10.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg
22 Cameron Moore (6-10, 230, So.) – 17.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg

Top Reserves:
25 Quincy Taylor (6-0, 185, Fr.) – 2.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg
24 Preston Purifoy (6-5, 210, Fr.) – 2.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg
23 Dexter Fields (6-2, 205, So.) - 7.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg
3 Anthony Criswell (6-9, 230, Fr.) - 1.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg


Series History: This will be the third meeting between the two programs, but the first game played on either team's home court. The previous two meetings - both won by Duke by double digits - came in the mid-1980s with the Blue Devils winning 76-62 in the '84 Trojan Classic in Los Angeles and then the following year in the preseason NIT Duke earned a 66-54 decision.

Against teams currently in Conference USA, the Blue Devils own an all-time record of 32-2 and have won 15 straight against members of that conference. Under head coach Mike Krzyzewski the Blue Devils own an 18-1 mark against CUSA opponents.

UAB Roster: Click Here
UAB Statistics: Click Here
UAB Schedule: Click Here


PRE-GAME NOTES:

""I don't feel we need to have a perfect game to beat Duke. I feel like if we do things right more times than they do, then we've got a chance to win the game." - UAB guard Aaron Johnson

"They are really, really, really good. It's hard to find a weakness when you scout them and watch them. I don't see one. We have to come to play. They're not going to beat themselves." - UAB head coach Mike Davis

Season To Date: The Blazers enter Cameron Indoor on a four game win streak that has seen UAB winning games by an average 13.0 points per game. On the season UAB is sitting at 10-2 with losses coming to Georgia by two and Arizona State by three. Perhaps the signature victory on the season came against Arkansas on the Razorbacks' home court in overtime, 70-65.

Last time out the Blazers throttled George Washington on December 27th at home by a 79-44 victory. The 35 point win was the largest margin of victory since beating UL-Lafayette by 35 on January 19, 2009. In that game Jamarr Sanders scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Aaron Johnson added 12 assists against no turnovers as UAB shot 55 percent from the floor including 14-of-29 from the perimeter. Off the bench UAB got a boost from Dexter Fields who scored 17 while Ovie Soko added 14 and Cameron Moore 10.

Unstoppable Force versus the Immoveable Object: The Blue Devils enter the game ranking third in the country in three point shooting, hitting an incredible 43.6 percent from the perimeter through the first 13 games of the season. However, that percentage will be severely challenged tonight as the Blazers pride themselves in defending the perimeter jumper and have held their 12 opponents to just 26.7 percent from behind the line and 38.6 percent from the field as a team.

Blazers Must Avoid..: A slow start. In the first 12 games the team has averaged 71.1 points per game, while holding opponents to just 58.6 points per night. Still, at halftime Davis' team is scoring just 30.3 points. In the second half, however, the Blazers have a history of picking up the scoring and tempo, averaging 39.7 after intermission. Such a start in Cameron could spell disaster as very few teams are able to rally against the momentum of Duke's explosive offense and the added boost of the home crowd.

Getting The Point: Senior point guard Aaron Johnson leads the country in assists per game with 8.3 per contest. Considered the "heart and soul" of the team by Mike Davis, Johnson ranks fourth in school history and sixth in C-USA history in total assists (524). He is just 77 helpers away from setting the all-time school record. Johnson became the first player in school his- tory to record three consecutive double-digit assist games. He had 10 assists at MTSU (11/17), 12 at Arizona State (11/20) and 10 vs. South Alabama (11/23).

The Chicago, Ill. native is also making his mark on the defensive end of the floor. A member of the C-USA All-Defensive team a year ago, Johnson leads the team with 24 steals and 20 charges drawn this year.

On A Streak: In addition to Johnson's strong play over the last few games, the Blazers are getting strong play from Jamarr Sanders who is coming off back to back 20 point games including a career high 29 in the victory over VCU. During this four game win streak the senior is averaging 21.0 points per game. The preseason all-conference honoree leads the team in scoring at 17.3 points per contest.

Toetal Focus: Duke will once again be without freshman point guard Kyrie Irving who is out indefinitely with an injured toe. Irving will undergo a series of tests this week to determine a better timeframe of if or when he will be able to return to action.

Duke Noteables: The Blue Devils will be looking to move to 14-0 on the season against UAB, but there are some additional notes worth following:

  • Mike Krzyzewski continues to inch closer and closer to his coaching mentor, Bobby Knight on the list of all-time winningest coaches. Krzyzewski enters the game with 881 career victories.
  • The Blue Devils have won 23 consecutive games dating back to a 79-72 loss at Maryland on March 3, 2010. Duke has won 31 of its last 32 games overall.
  • The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 84 consecutive non-conference home games. The last home loss against a non-conference opponent for the Blue Devils was on Feb. 26, 2000 against St. John's, 83-82. Duke has won 49 straight home games against unranked opponents. The Blue Devils' last loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium to an unranked opponent was to Florida State on Feb. 4, 2007.
  • Duke has won 39 consecutive games against teams outside the traditional power conferences (Big Ten, Big East, SEC, ACC, PAC 10, Big 12). Virginia Commonwealth's 79-77 win over Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament was the Blue Devils' last loss to a team from a non-power conference.
  • Senior Nolan Smith has scored 20 or more points in four consecutive games. He is averaging 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, while shooting 66.7 percent (34-of-51) from the field and 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from three-point range in that span.
  • Smith was named ACC Player of the Week after averaging 27.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game in wins over UNC Greensboro and Miami. He shot 63.0 percent (17-of-27) from the field, including 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from three-point range, and had a 7.0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio for the week.
  • Kyle Singler is five points shy of becoming the 11th player in Duke history to score 2,000 or more points. He would also become just the sixth Blue Devil with 2,000 points and 800 rebounds in a career.


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Blazers and head coach Mike Davis present an interesting change of pace for the Blue Devils with their tough defense and experienced roster. Johnson may be the best pure point guard the team has seen to date and will make Duke pay if he's able to get into the lane and distribute. With a smaller lineup it'll be interesting to see which team dictates the match-ups. Will Duke go small and move Kyle Singler to the power forward position or will the Blue Devils force the Blazers to go bigger?. Most likely the Blue Devils will also be looking to help Seth Curry rebound from a poor outing against Miami in the opening conference tilt. Given UAB's trend of starting slow, look for Duke to be in a tight contest until a mid-half spurt provides some breathing room before intermission. It will be crucial to establish an inside game and to control the boards where UAB isn't overly prolific.

Prediction:
Duke - 81
UAB - 64


Blue Devil Digest Top Stories