Coastal Carolina (28-6) vs. U-A-B (23-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 16th, 8:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bartow Arena (8,508) -- Birmingham, Alabama. Television: None. NIT Record: Coastal Carolina 0-0, UAB 12-10. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina take part in their first postseason NIT tonight as they tangle with the Blazers of UAB in the first round of the event at Bartow Arena.
The Chanticleers, one of three programs to take part in this event after also being involved in the 2009 NIT Season Tip-Off, along with UConn and Arizona State, are making just their third all-time appearance in the postseason and their first since 1993 when they bowed to top-seeded Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, 84-53. In terms of this season, the squad was expected to contend for the Big South Tournament title, but after beating both VMI and UNC Asheville, the Chanticleers were bounced in the championship game 10 days ago by Winthrop in a 64-53 final.
Under the direction of Cliff Ellis, who was named the Big South Conference Coach of the Year, Coastal Carolina won the regular-season title in the league and finished with a record of 15-3 in conference action and 28-6 overall, earning the school the seventh seed in this tournament.
As for the Blazers, they are heading to the NIT for the 11th time in school history and the third time in as many years. The second seed in the Mississippi State region, UAB posted a 23-8 record this year, marking just the second time in school history that the Blazers have managed to win at least 20 games in three straight seasons.
UAB began 2009-10 with a run that saw the program win 18 of the first 20 contests. But then the group lost two straight and three of four against Conference USA opponents. Down the stretch, the Blazers closed out the regular season with back-to-back defeats and then bowed to Southern Miss in the conference tournament, 58-44.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the hardwood, with the winner set to take on the survivor of the NC State/South Florida matchup in the second round.
Joseph Harris and Chad Gray are the two players to watch for the Chanticleers after both were named All-Big South Conference First-Team members. Harris, named to the team for the second straight year, has played almost 31 minutes per game and leads the squad in both scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.7 rpg) and also came away with a team-best 63 steals over the course of his 34 appearances. The all-time leader in rebounds, blocked shots, field goal percentage and games played, Harris is also the first and only player in Big South history to score over 1,300 points and collect 1,100 boards. Like Harris, Gray has been a solid shooter from the floor this season at 52.1 percent, although his mere 29.4 percent beyond the arc is very suspect, as is his 60.7 percent at the free-throw line. Nevertheless, Gray is also good for 14.4 ppg, followed by Mario Edwards with 12.1 ppg and Kierre Greenwood who is responsible for 9.1 ppg and 113 assists as the latter earned all-freshman team honors.
The Chanticleers will have to gear up to defend junior guards Elijah Millsap and Aaron Johnson for UAB at this meeting. In Millsap the Blazers have an All- Conference USA First Team selection who not only led the league in rebounding with almost nine and a half per game, he was also fifth in the league with 16.0 ppg. The brother of former Louisiana Tech star and now Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap, Elijah is cut from a similar mold as he led C-USA with 15 double-doubles. Johnson, an All-Conference USA Third-Team pick, was fourth on the team in scoring with his 9.9 ppg, but added plenty more to the offense with close to five assists per outing to pace the program in that department. Howard Crawford (12.0 ppg) and Jamarr Sanders (10.4 ppg) were key contributors to the team's success as well, the latter leading the way with his 63-of-169 shooting behind the three-point line as the team made just 31.4 percent out on the perimeter.
Coastal Carolina hurt itself this season with poor free-throw shooting and should this meeting be close down the stretch, the Chanticleers might not be able to make it through to the next round because of that ineffectiveness at the charity stripe.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UAB 71, Coastal Carolina 62
03/16 10:39:28 ET
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