Hilltoppers set for road challenge against UAB

Matthew Stewart

Thursday evening, the WKU men’s basketball team (9-8, 3-1 C-USA) will take on the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers (9-7, 2-1) in Birmingham where Head Coach Rick Stansbury and company will be looking to get back on track against the defending regular season C-USA champions.

The Tops are coming off a loss to the third ranked team in C-USA, Old Dominion, while the Blazers look for their third straight conference win.

The Tops are 12-21 all time in matchups with the Blazers. Stansbury is 2-0 against UAB, but the first-year WKU head coach knows his team will have its hands full on Thursday.

“Well they’re good,” Stansbury said. “They are big, their back line is probably as big as anybody in this league. From what I’ve seen there’s Middle [Tennessee] and UAB and Marshall and probably Old Dominion seem to be the four better teams in the league.”

The Blazers have three players averaging double figures this season in Chris Cokley, William Lee and Dirk Williams.

The bench players for both teams have had major impacts in many of the games this season. The bench matchup will be something to watch for and see how the Tops can adjust when the UAB second wave comes in.

“The thing I notice about them, they got good depth in those perimeter spots,” Stansbury said. “The two guys they got coming off the bench add a whole lot to them. That Williams (Javien) kid and Lavender (Deion). Those are good players. They got two or three guys who can really put that ball on the floor and get to the rim.”

This year’s UAB team has a new point guard as junior Nick Norton was burdened with a season ending injury. The Tops will have to plan for a different face running the Blazer offense.

“Obviously I know Nick Norton in and out and unfortunately he’s been plagued with a bit of injury this year, but seeing this new guy come in it’s gonna be interesting to see how we can adapt to his great performances so far,” senior center Ben Lawson said.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and can be seen via live stream on Campus Insiders and on Twitter. WKU will be back in action Saturday to take on Middle Tennessee. That game will begin at 5 p.m. in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Lawson and the WKU players are excited for the opportunity to get back to their winning ways, they said.

“I just remember the rivalry,” Lawson said. “It’s always been a great game. We have had some tough wins, some tough losses. I’m excited to see some of the faces come back. Obviously it’s always a game that we really scout and concentrate on so I do know the guys really well. I’m interested to see some of the new guys.”