#24 UAB coming to town

Bennett: ‘A very good test’

Story by Chris Graham

Alabama-Birmingham comes to the John Paul Jones Arena Wednesday night for a game against Virginia as a newly-minted member of the Associated Press Top 25.

At 11-1, and owning wins over Cincinnati (64-47 on Dec. 16) and Butler (67-57 on Dec. 22), the Blazers are looking to add to their NCAA Tournament resume with a win on the road over an ACC team.

“They’ve had some impressive wins. They really handled Cincinnati. Their last win against Butler was impressive, South Alabama. They’re playing really well. Lost one early, and pretty much have – they beat my alma mater, Green Bay, so that hurts – so they obviously have played good basketball,” said first-year UVa. coach Tony Bennett, whose 6-4 Cavs are themselves in search of a signature win.

That 6-4 record is a bit deceiving, to say the least. Virginia’s strength of schedule is rated 284th among the 347 Division I teams to date according to ratings analyst Jerry Palm, and the highest-rated team that the ‘Hoos have managed to vanquish thus far in the 2009-2010 season is 121st-ranked Oral Roberts.

Bennett might get some punch back in the frontcourt with the expected return of junior forward Mike Scott, who has been walking wounded the past several weeks with a high ankle sprain. Bennett said Scott has been able to practice the last three days back-to-back-to-back for the first time since suffering his injury earlier this month.

“Certainly he’s not at full strength, but he lasted the majority of practice the last three days. I don’t know with a high-ankle sprain how long it takes. My hope is that as you compete or the adrenaline gets flowing as you get into games that you can unleash it a little more and go full-blast,” Bennett said of Scott, who is averaging 13.1 points per game and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game this season.

Scott and the Cavs will have their hands full with UAB, which is led by do-everything guard Elijah Millsap (15.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and post player Howard Crawford (11.7 ppg). Point guard Aaron Johnson also impresses, putting in 12 points and snaring a game-high 10 rebounds in the Blazers’ win over Butler last week.

“It’s a team of completeness,” Bennett said of UAB. “Their fours and fives can put it on the floor and shoot it. Their guards are very athletic. They’re defending and making it hard for people to score. They have looked, again, very impressive and will be, I think, a very good test as we’re heading into conference play.”



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