Rucker leads UAB past Louisiania-Monroe 76-69

Robert Williams (left) chipped in 12 points in the victory over the Warhawks. (

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - {}Junior forward Rod Rucker finished one rebound shy of a double-double and was one of five Blazers to score in double figures as the UAB men's basketball team defeated ULM, 76-69, Thursday evening at Bartow Arena.

The victory kept the Blazers undefeated at home, 5-0, and {}evened up their overall record to 6-6 on the year, while the Warhawks fall to 1-7.

UAB grabbed the lead midway through the first half and held on to that advantage the rest of the way, despite ULM's strong 50-percent shooting performance and 10 made 3-pointers on the night.

"Obviously, it is great to get a win as we head into the Christmas break," head coach Jerod Haase said. "We had really good practices coming into this game, and I thought we did some things well. I also see a few things we need to work on as we move forward."

Rucker, who tallied 22 points and nine rebounds, finished just three points shy of his career high, while teammates Robert Williams and Preston Purifoy scored 12 each along with Jordan Swing's and Terence Jones' 11 point outputs.

For Rucker it was the second time he surpassed 20 points this season, while Purifoy reached double figures off the bench for the fourth straight game.{} In addition, Swing extended his double-digit scoring streak to 14 contests, including all 12 games this season.

"Rod was a bright spot for us tonight," added Haase. "For him, it is a lot more than just the 22 points he scored. He helped everyone out by setting up his teammates and giving our guys some good looks. That was part of our plan tonight, and Rod did a good job of executing."

The two teams battled back and forth in the first 10 minutes of the game as the lead changed hands on four different occasions. UAB then used a 12-0 run from the 11:27 to 9:40 mark to claim the lead for good.

Led by 12 first-half points and three 3-point plays from Rucker, the Blazers built a sizable advantage with the score at 37-25 with two minutes to go before the break. ULM stormed back on a 6-0 run in the final minutes of the half as junior R.J. McCray knocked in a 3-pointer to shrink the halftime score to 37-31.

UAB grabbed the advantage at the break despite the Warhawks' 46 percent shooting performance in the first 20 minutes of action. The Blazers did score 10 points off nine ULM turnovers during that time frame, while knocking in 7-of-10 from the free-throw line. {}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

Williams extended the Blazer lead to open the second half, scoring the first five points to make it 42-31 in favor of UAB with 18:10 to go.

Building as much as a 15-point lead, the Green and Gold had to stave off a late ULM rally down the stretch as the Warhawks stormed back to within six points in the final minute, before the Blazers held on for the 76-69 win.

UAB forced 19 turnovers in the victory, while the Warhawks shot just above 38 percent from the free-throw line in the loss.{} In contrast, the Blazers shot 80 percent at the charity stripe, sinking 16 of 20 attempts and commited only 12 turnovers.

The Blazers now have a brief holiday break before hosting Northeastern at Bartow Arena on Saturday, December 29 at 2 p.m.