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Today in Blazer History -4 For 40 - Episode 9, Happy Birthday Bartow Arena
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Today in Blazer History -4 For 40 - Episode 9, Happy Birthday Bartow Arena
4 For 40 – Episode 9 – Happy Birthday Bartow Arena

Today is the 30th anniversary of the first game in Bartow Arena. On December 3, 1988, UAB dedicated what was then called UAB Arena. One of Gene Bartow’s goals was to build an on campus arena. For the first ten years, UAB played their games at the BJCC Coliseum, a massive 17,000 seat arena. While the Blazers occasionally sold out the BJCC, for the most part, they averaged 7000-8000 in the adapted hockey arena and there was not much of a home court advantage. By moving on campus, the fans were closer to the action and furthermore, UAB did not have to pay rent and kept concessions sales for themselves. The new arena cost $11 million to build. Initially, it was reported that UAB would play some games at the arena and some at the coliseum, and for the first few years, games like Auburn and other big games were played downtown. However, after a couple of years, all the games were played on campus.

UAB has won 354 and lost 84 games at Bartow Arena, over 80% of the games played.

Here are 4 memorable milestones from that first year in an on campus arena.

1) The First Game
UAB’s first game on campus was against Vanderbilt. The Commodores, coached by former Alabama coach, CM Newton, who had refused to play UAB while he was in Tuscaloosa. Also, when UAB started basketball, he was quoted as saying that he didn’t know why UAB wanted a basketball team since they had one in Tuscaloosa to cheer for. Now he was helping to open UAB’s new on-campus arena. The Commodores were coming off an upset of 13th ranked Louisville earlier in the week. The Blazers were somewhat in disarray because one of their players, Bruce Baker had left the team one game into the season, citing personal problems. The first game at the Arena had a crowd of 8397. UAB started slowly, as Vanderbilt jumped out to a 9-0 start, but UAB came back to tie the game at 11. UAB took the lead for good with seven minutes to go in the game on an Andy Kennedy three pointer (has it been 30 years since Kennedy first wore green and gold?). UAB won the game 76-69. Kennedy led the Blazers with 26 points despite missing his first five three pointers. UAB would only love five games at home during their first four years in the Arena.

2) The First Loss
On January 28, 1989, UAB hosted Charlotte, the defending conference champions in a key Sun Belt game. Charlotte was 8-7 on the season and UAB was 11-7. Alan Ogg was second in the nation in blocked shots behind Georgetown’s Alonzo Mourning. The game was ESPN, the first ever televised game in Bartow Arena and UAB was coming off two consecutive losses.

The game was close in the first half. The Blazers found themselves down at halftime having scored only two field goals in the final 7:37 of the first half. However, they mounted a comeback in the second half, when, Andy Kennedy scored 8 points in 1:28 and UAB pulled to within two, 58-56. However, Charlotte went on a 8-0 run and took the lead with 3:22 to go. Charlotte went on to win 86-72. It was the first loss ever in Bartow Arena. It was also the first time ever that UAB lost three straight conference games in a row.

3) The First sellout
On February 11, 1989, UAB sold out Bartow Arena for the first time. The opponent was South Alabama, led by Jeff Hodge from Birmingham, who had wanted to play at UAB, but had not been recruited by Gene Bartow. South Alabama had beaten UAB four straight times, the last being by 114-84. After four straight losses, the last by 30 points, Gene Bartow and the Blazers wanted revenge against the team down south. The Blazers were tired of Jeff Hodge telling reporters about how he wished UAB had recruited him after he dropping 30 points on UAB. Their chance at redemption came on this date in 1989 when Ronnie Arrow and South Alabama came to Bartow Arena for the first time. This game would be the very first sellout as 8459 fans filled the seats. This game would also be Jeff Hodge’s last game in his hometown.

South Alabama jumped out to an 8-0 start and Jeff Hodge scored 12 of the first 15 points. UAB came back on three point shooting and went ahead 17-15. The lead changed seven times in the first half, and the Blazers took a 45-43 lead to the locker room. In the first half, Jeff Hodge was 6 of 8 for 14 points. However, he was playing defense on Andy Kennedy and had picked up two fouls. He would pick up his third foul and sit down with 17:17 left in the game. In the second half, UAB pushed the lead to nine points with 5:45 to go in the game. However, they were down by 6 with 2:19 to go, as the Jaguars got a pair of turnovers and scored seven straight points. South Alabama took the lead 91-90 with 29 seconds to go in the game. Reginald Turner gave the Blazers the lead six seconds later with two free throws. South Alabama brought the ball down and called timeout. Jeff Hodge checked in, playing with four fouls. Would he burn the Blazers yet again?

With 15 seconds to go, he took a shot from right of the foul line, but missed. Jack Kramer for UAB got the rebound and was fouled. He missed the front end of the one and one with 6 seconds to go. Hodge missed the winning shot again and Dylan Howard was fouled on the rebound with two seconds to go. He made the first shot, but missed the second. Tempers flared on the rebound and five minutes went by before the officials stopped the shoving matches. When the smoke cleared, UAB had won 93-91 and had held Jeff Hodge to 26 points, which was lower than the usual 30 he scored against the Blazers. Andy Kennedy tied a scoring record with 34 points. Barry Bearden had 15 points and Reginald Turner had 13. Alan Ogg had 8 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks, which gave him the Sun Belt record for most blocks in a season at 94.

The First Postseason game:
At the end of the 1988-1989 season, UAB had an 18-11 record and 4th in the Sun Belt. An NCAA invitation was not expected, so UAB was invited to the NIT Tournament. They were awarded a home game against Georgia Southern. This was their first invitation to the NIT in nine years, after going to the NCAA tournament seven years straight and missing postseason play in 1988. Georgia Southern had won the regular season of the Trans America Conference and had finished 23-5. They were led by future first round pick, Jeff Sanders, but all five starters had shot better than 50% from the field during the season.

This game was a matchup between Sanders and Reginald Turner. In the first half, Sanders won the matchup. He had 15 first half points and Turner had 9 points. Although the rest of the team was struggling, Alan Ogg kept the Blazers in the game in the first half with ten points and leading a 7-0 run which put UAB up 34-28. UAB led at halftime 38-37.

At halftime, Coach Bartow told Reggie Turner that it was up to him or this was going to be the seniors last game of his career. In the second half, Turner responded with 20 second half points on 9 of 12 shooting. He had three steals and a key blocked shot. Turner scored three baskets in the first minute of the second half and set the tone for the rest of the game. UAB led the entire second half, but Georgia Southern cut the score to 66-64 at one point. However, Sanders got in foul trouble and had to leave the game. UAB went on an 8-0 run and pushed their lead to 74-64 with 3:44 remaining in the game. That run was enough for the Blazers and they won the game 83-74, giving UAB Arena its first post season win. Reginald Turner was the leading scorer in this game with 29 points. Barry Bearden had 16 points (11 in the second half). Alan Ogg had 12 points and Larry Rembert had 10 points and 14 rebounds. Jeff Sanders, in his last college game had 24 points. This 1989 team would advance all the way to Madison Square Garden in the NIT, finishing in third place.

UAB fans have witnessed a lot of good times and some bad at Bartow Arena. We have seen the Blazers knock off #3 Memphis and Cincinnati and suffered the heartbreak of almost beating #1 Memphis. Bartow Arena has welcomed speakers such as Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and President Barack Obama. It has even hosted a heavyweight title fight. It is also the home of Women’s basketball and UAB Volleyball.

Many UAB graduates have spent their last celebratory minutes of their college days at Bartow Arena as they went through the commencement ceremonies. It was at Bartow Arena that UAB fans celebrated the return of UAB football in 2015 when it was announced that the fight to bring back football had been successful. Bartow Arena has also witnessed sadness as we said goodbye to Coach Gene Bartow at the first game following his death in 2012. The funeral of Blazer great Torrey Ward was held at Bartow Arena in 2015. Most recently, UAB fans welcomed the 2018 CUSA football champions when they arrived home from Murfreesboro at Bartow Arena.

Bartow Arena is the life center of UAB athletics. As it has aged, it has updated. New video boards, locker rooms, and seating has kept it from showing its age. Named for the man who started it all 40 years ago, when it is packed, it is one of the most formidable places in the country to play. Happy 30 years old, Bartow Arena, Home of the Blazers.
12-03-2018 09:38 AM
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BlazrDawg Offline
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RE: Today in Blazer History -4 For 40 - Episode 9, Happy Birthday Bartow Arena
Another A+ historic post !
12-03-2018 06:53 PM
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