BYU NIT preview: Get to know UAB

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UAB senior guard Robert Brown leads the Blazers with 13.5 points per game. BYU and UAB will face off in the first round of the NIT Wednesday, March 16. (Getty Images)

No. 2 seed BYU men’s basketball hosts No. 7 seed University of Alabama at Birmingham, March 16 at 8 p.m. (MST) in the Marriott Center in a first round game of the National Invitation Tournament. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

BYU head coach Dave Rose said UAB resembles the Cougars’ WCC opponents Pepperdine and Pacific.

“(UAB) is long and athletic, hard, tough-nosed defensive guys,” said Rose. “And then offensively, it’s a really efficient team too.”

The Blazers began the season with a record of 4-3 before igniting a 14-game winning streak. They finished the regular season with an overall record of 26-6 and 16-2 in Conference USA play. UAB won nine of its last 10 games before losing 88-77 to Western Kentucky in the conference tournament quarterfinals.

UAB averages 79 points per game and is propelled by four double-digit scoring players. Senior guard Robert Brown averages 13.5 points per game and was named to the All-Conference USA First Team. Sophomore forward William Lee averages 12.7 points per game and earned third team All-Conference USA honors. Sophomore forward Chris Cokley and junior guard Dirk Williams average 11.1 and 10.7 points, respectively. Cokley was named to the All-Conference USA Second Team and leads the Blazers in rebounds with 6.4 boards per game. Sophomore guard Nick Norton leads the team with 5.2 assists and received third team honors.

In the Blazers’ 13 away games this season, they have played against an average attendance of 4,632. The crowd atmosphere at the Marriott Center poses a threat for UAB, as BYU’s average attendance last season ranked 9th in the country with 16,125 per game.

The Cougars are excited to play in front of their fans again and are taking postseason play one game at a time. If they can play together and play strong, BYU will find success.

“For our team, the only way for us to fail is if we stop playing hard, if we stop giving a good effort, if we lose that motivation to play,” said senior forward Nate Austin.

A first-round win would mean a Friday or Monday night second round game against No. 3 Virginia Tech or No. 6 Princeton for the Cougars.

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