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UAB Swarms Past LSU, 82-68

No. 11 Seed Blazers' Defense Stops No. 6 Tigers in 1st Round

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 18, 2005; Page D08

BOISE, Idaho, March 17 -- They come in a swarm of green until it looks like there must be at least 10 of them running across the court. Alabama-Birmingham Coach Mike Anderson learned his basketball at the side of Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, and together they helped to develop a defense so suffocating in the 1990s it was called "40 Minutes of Hell."

Now all these years later he has made another 40 Minutes of Hell, this time at UAB -- darting, racing, leaping over the floor. And to the LSU Tigers Thursday night, the 40 minutes must have felt like 10 hours.

Alabama-Birmingham's Brandon Tobias likes the looks of things as the Blazers upended LSU with a defense that thrives without taking a break. (Douglas C. Pizac -- AP)

Based on the seedings in the Chicago Region, UAB's 82-68 victory was an upset, an 11th seed defeating a No. 6. But, by the way the exhausted Tigers looked trying to keep up with the procession of fastbreaks heading away from them down the court, it didn't feel much like an upset.

LSU simply was not fast enough for this, not the way Anderson's Blazers scamper around the unfortunate person who is left dribbling the ball. Pity LSU's guards Tack Minor and Xavier Whipple; they were overcome by three UAB players seemingly every time they touched the ball.

"Basically they haven't faced pressure like ours," UAB's Donnell Taylor said. "We got in their grille and they were bouncing the ball off their feet."

Hearing this, Anderson laughed.

"Let me give you a definition of the grille," he said. "The grille is getting up in their face. We did that tonight."

The Tigers tried to slow down the game, but to no avail. Every time they missed a shot, two UAB players would sprint toward the other basket while the other three fought for the rebound, then lobbed passes to their teammates already standing at the other end. After a while it became a farce: Twelve minutes in, Alabama-Birmingham led by 11; at halftime the advantage had grown to 12 and was more than 20 midway through the second half.

Anderson uses 12 players in his version of the 40 Minutes of Hell, which was death to LSU whose bench only goes about three deep. This meant there was always another fresh wave of UAB Blazers ready to run, ready to lob fast-break passes down the court while the Tigers were left gasping for breath. Almost no LSU shot went without at least one, and sometimes two, Alabama-Birmingham players jumping to block it.

Even when the LSU players actually made a basket the relief was short-lived. Often they had yet to turn around before the pass was being lobbed down the court. In the end the Tigers made just 35 percent of their shots and had 21 turnovers.

"What a defensive performance from our basketball team," Anderson said. "We were clicking on a lot of good cylinders, I think."

The only reason this wasn't a bigger blowout was LSU's starting power forward, Glen Davis -- a 6-foot-9, 310-pound boxcar of a man. The UAB players are fast but they are not big. And for them, stopping Davis was like trying to tackle a 747. When he got the ball inside they couldn't stop him, as evidenced by his 18 points and 11 rebounds.

• ARIZONA 66, UTAH STATE 53: For a half, the Aggies thought they had a chance at living a dream.

"We felt it all day," Utah State's Nate Harris said of the halftime lead they held fell through their fingertips against the third-seeded Wildcats. "Especially when we went into the locker room at halftime. We were excited, our coach was excited. We thought we could do this."

Then, without warning, the magic died. Arizona, which had gone into halftime losing by three, suddenly came to life. The bigger and faster team, champions of the Pac-10 regular season, played like Pac-10 champions. For almost eight minutes at the start of the second half, the Wildcats kept Utah State from scoring. The 14th-seeded Aggies, their energy spent, seemed to grow slower with every second half step. It was clear they had nothing left.

"What basically happened is they turned up their athleticism big time," Utah State Coach Stew Morrill said.

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