LAS VEGAS — The UAB men’s basketball team will travel to Las Vegas over the Thanksgiving holidays for a pair of matchups in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational held at the Orleans Arena. The Blazers will open the tournament on Thursday against New Mexico (4-1). Tipoff for Thursday’s game is set for 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).
With a win, the Blazers will then play in the tournament’s championship game against the winner of Towson and San Francisco on Friday night on FS1. Tipoff for the championship game is 10:30 p.m. CT, while the consolation matchup is slated for 8 p.m. CT on Fox Sports 2 (FS2).
On Thanksgiving Day, UAB (4-1) will look to avenge its 97-94 defeat to New Mexico from the 2013 Charleston Classic. Head coach Andy Kennedy, who has won regular-season tournaments as a collegiate head coach, will look to win UAB’s first regular-season tournament title since 2019’s St. Pete Shootout. The Blazers knocked off Alabama State and Duquesne to go 2-0 in the December 2019 tournament.
UAB HEADS TO VEGAS TO CONTINENTAL TIRE LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL
UAB will head west over the extended Thanksgiving holiday for a pair of games in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. The Blazers will open the tournament on Thanksgiving Day against Richard Pitino’s New Mexico Lobos at 6 p.m. CT on FS1. UAB will then play either San Francisco or Towson on Friday to close out its time in Las Vegas. UAB’s game against the Lobos on Thanksgiving Day will be just its third game on Thanksgiving in program history and the first since 2018.
The Blazers put together a dominant second-half performance in a 45-point victory over Alabama A&M on Sunday, outscoring the Bulldogs by 35 points in the second half. UAB poured in 56 points in the final 20 minutes, using a 24-2 run to put the game out of reach. Five Blazers reached double figures in the win, highlighted by Jamal Johnson’s 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting from behind the 3-point line. UAB’s defense also forced more than 20 turnovers in a game for the fourth time this season and did not allow an opposing player to reach double figures in scoring for the first time since a 75-44 win at Florida Atlantic on Jan. 4, 2018.
NEW MEXICO LATELY
New Mexico, who enters its first season under head coach Richard Pitino, holds an identical 4-1 record to UAB. The Lobos opened the Pitino era with a 99-92 victory over Conference USA opponent Florida Atlantic in Albuquerque, where Arizona State transfer guard Jaelen House erupted for 30 points and six assists in the season-opening victory. UNM then dropped its first game of the season when the Lobos fell 87-76 at Colorado. Since its loss in Boulder, New Mexico has reeled off three straight victories in The Pit, earning wins over Grambling State, Montana State and Western New Mexico. House and sophomore guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. pace the Lobos in scoring with 19.5 and 18.4 points per game, respectively. On the glass, Gethro Muscadin leads UNM with 6.0 rebounds per game.
COMMON OPPONENTS — NEW MEXICO
The Blazers and Lobos share three common opponents this season — Florida Atlantic, Grambling State and UTEP. The Lobos are 2-0 against these shared opponents, opening the season with a 99-92 win over FAU before defeating Grambling State 86-61 on Nov. 15. UAB will play Grambling State on Dec. 14 before opening Conference USA play against UTEP on Dec. 30.
LOOKING FOR A THANKSGIVING FIRST
As UAB enters its 44th season of college basketball, the Blazers have only played on Thanksgiving Day twice in program history. The Green and Gold are 0-2 in Thanksgiving Day contests, dropping tournament matchups to Florida in 2014 and Florida State in 2018. UAB fell 56-47 to No. 16 Florida in the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis before dropping its Advocare Invitational opener to No. 13 Florida State in 2018. A win over New Mexico on Thursday would not only avenge a narrow defeat to the Lobos from the 2013 Charleston Classic, but it’d also give the Blazers their first win on Thanksgiving in program history.
After opening their season 4-1, the Blazers were ranked sixth in the Field of 68’s most recent Mid-Major Top 25 poll. UAB fell just behind Loyola Chicago, Drake, San Francisco, Saint Mary’s and Ohio. Fellow Conference USA school Louisiana Tech (No. 18) also made the publication’s Top 25.
With 23 steals in Nov. 14’s win over Rhodes College, the Blazers tied a school record for steals in a single game. UAB tallied 15 of its 23 steals in the first half, helping the Blazers tie their single-game steals record for the first time since 2005. UAB has recorded double-digit steal tallies in all five of its games so far this season, posting 12 or more in each contest. The Blazers rank first nationally with 15.0 steals per game and tied for third nationally with 75 total steals. UAB is the only team in the nation who has played five games or fewer with a steal total of more than 70.
EFFICIENCY IS KEY
In 2020-21, the UAB defense led the Blazers to a 22-7 record and a league-best 13 C-USA victories. So far this season, both the offense and defense have fueled UAB’s success, ranking first in the nation in turnover margin (10.8) while ranking tied for 24th nationally with 86.8 points per game on offense. The Blazers also rank sixth nationally with 110 total turnovers forced this season.
SAN FRANCISCO LATELY
San Francisco, who has opened the season 6-0 with wins over Davidson, Samford and Nevada, will kick off its time in Las Vegas against Towson on Thanksgiving Day. The Dons’ hot start to the season not only has them ranked No. 38 in the latest KenPom ratings, but they also earned two votes apiece in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll and Coaches Poll. Graduate guard Jamaree Bouyea leads the Dons in scoring with 19.2 points per game while shooting 54.4% from the field. On the glass, Yauhen Massalski and Josh Kunen tie for the team-lead in rebounds with 5.5 boards per game. A matchup between the Blazers and Dons would be the first meeting between the programs in school history. Head coach Andy Kennedy is 1-0 against San Francisco in his coaching career.
Towson holds a 3-2 record this season with wins over Albany, Hampton and Penn. The Tigers earned a 15-point victory over Penn on Tuesday before heading West for the Las Vegas Invitational. Three Tigers average more than 10 points per game this season, highlighted by senior guard Cam Holden, who is averaging 17.6 points per game to go along with 11.6 rebounds per contest. Holden has posted three double-doubles in just five games this season, which includes a 20-point, 19-rebound effort in Tuesday’s win over Penn. Towson ranks No. 195 in the latest KenPom ratings, which is sixth-best in the Colonial Athletic Association. A matchup between the Blazers and Tigers would be the first meeting between the programs in school history. Head coach Andy Kennedy is 1-0 against Towson in his coaching career.
AK IN REGULAR-SEASON TOURNAMENTS
Head coach Andy Kennedy has found success in regular-season tournaments dating back to his time at both Cincinnati and Ole Miss. Kennedy is 24-10 (.706) as a collegiate head coach in regular-season tournaments dating back to his one year at Cincinnati in 2005-06. AK’s teams have won four of these tournaments, including the Las Vegas Invitational in 2005-06. Kennedy has also led his teams to tournament championships at the San Juan Shootout, Barclays Classic and the Emerald Coast Classic.
Blazer men’s basketball games are set to air on 100.5 ESPN JOX 2 with David Crane and Murry Bartow on the call. With Crane remaining in Birmingham for UAB’s final home football game of the 2021 season on Friday, Kyle Schassburger will fill in for Crane on play-by-play duties throughout the Blazers’ time in Las Vegas.
In addition, Crane will host Blazer Sportsline every Tuesday beginning Dec. 28. The show takes place live from Iron City Grill in downtown Birmingham and features men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy and women’s basketball head coach Randy Norton.
The nine-episode show, airs from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Blazer Sportsline can be heard on 100.5 ESPN JOX 2 and fans will be encouraged to tweet questions to @UABLearfield.
Fans may also follow the Blazers this season by downloading the free TuneIn Radio app, online through Blazers All-Access at UABSports.com, or on the UAB Gameday mobile app.
Thursday’s game will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports 1 (FS1). If the Blazers win their opening game against New Mexico, then UAB will again play on FS1 in its final game on Friday. With an opening-round loss, UAB will play its second and final game of the Las Vegas Invitational on Fox Sports 2 (FS2).
MEN’S BASKETBALL TICKET INFORMATION
UAB men’s basketball single-game tickets start as low as $12 and can be purchased by clicking here or calling the UAB Athletics Ticket Office at (205) 975-UAB1. Season tickets are also still on sale and provide the most cost-effective way to attend games during the 2021-22 men’s basketball season with individual season tickets starting as low as $100 within Blaze’s Corner. Season ticket holders also have access to the best seating locations in Bartow Arena. You can request more information or purchase by clicking here.
Discounted group tickets and fan experiences are available for a minimum purchase of 15 tickets to any home basketball game during the 2021-22 season. Groups are encouraged to complete the UAB Basketball Group Ticket Request Form or call the UAB Athletics Ticket Office for more information.