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UAB (3-1) vs. Illinois State (4-0)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Friday, November 23, 6:05 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS:Site: South Padre Island Convention Center (2,500) -- South Padre Island, Texas. Home Record: UAB 3-0, ISU 3-0. Away Record: UAB 0-1, ISU 1-0. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, ISU 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 0-0, ISU 0-0. Series Record: UAB leads, 1-0.

GAME NOTES: The Illinois State Redbirds look to stay perfect on the young season as they take on the UAB Blazers in the semifinal round of the 2012 South Padre Invitational.

The winner of this contest will advance to face either Northwestern or TCU in the championship game.

The Blazers are 3-1 under first-year coach Jerod Haase, who spent the previous 13 seasons as an assistant under Roy Williams at both Kansas and North Carolina. Haase has already made some big time changes to the program just four games into his reign. The Blazers ran a slow-paced system in 2011-12 and produced only 60 points per game as a result. This season they are running and gunning their way to 80.8 ppg. This will be just the second game outside of Birmingham for UAB, which lost to nationally-ranked Creighton in their first road game. The Blazers beat Navy by 19 points before outlasting Prarie View A&M for a 76-70 in their first two games of this tournament.

At 4-0, Illinois State is off to its best start since the 2009-10 season. First-year head coach Dan Muller has guided his squad to wins over Cal Santa Barbara, Drexel, Delaware State and Fairleigh Dickinson. The Redbirds defeated the Dragons by a score of 86-84 in an overtime thriller in Philadelphia, but all of their other wins have been by an average margin of 36.7 ppg. Illinois State, like its opponent tonight, plays at a very fast pace. The Redbirds have been unstoppable so far with 91 ppg on 54.9 percent shooting from the floor.

This bout marks just the second meeting between these two clubs, and UAB won the first.

The Blazers' uptempo style has given them an average margin of victory of 13.5 ppg. They are also a solid rebounding team once again despite the loss of superstar forward Cameron Moore. Rod Rucker has taken over for Moore as the team's work horse. The junior forward is averaging a double-double with 15.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest. Fahro Alihodzic is also playing well on the inside. The Bosnia native scored 16 points in the team' win over Navy and is one of three players on the team scoring in double figures. Jordan Swing is the go-to-guy for UAB. The inside-outside forward is a perfect 15-of-15 from the charity stripe so far.

The Redbirds' are thriving this season due to an unselfish attitude at the offensive end of the court. They are dishing out 20.3 assists per game to generate the most points per outing in the Missouri Valley Conference. Although Jackie Carmichael is clearly the ring leader, the Redbirds have several different options within their offensive game plan. Carmichael is the first with 18.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but Tyler Brown (15.5 ppg), Bryant Allen (11.3 ppg) and Jon Ekey (10.5 ppg) are all doing their part. Freshman point guard Kaza Keane is the critical piece to the puzzle. Despite receiving interest from programs such as Georgia Tech and Nebraska, Keane elected to become a Redbird, and he is immediately contributing with 5.5 assists in only 20.3 minutes per game.

Both teams have found immediate success under their new coaches. The amount of defense played in this one will rival a casual all-star game, while the offensive production may cause a scoreboard malfunction. Illinois State holds a slight edge as UAB will have trouble stopping him from getting too many easy buckets.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 90, UAB 83

11/23 10:37:25 ET