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Former Tide teammates reunite in UNCW backcourt

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The UNCW Seahawks are looking to rebound in the CAA standings after suffering through an NCAA-mandated postseason ban last season. Buzz Peterson can use some playmakers after uber-loyal star forward Keith Rendleman finally used up his eligibility.

Rendleman led the Seahawks in just about every category possible last season, save assists per game. That honor went to Chris Dixon (pictured), who made sure to get the ball to Rendleman as much as possible, and backed the big man up with 9.8 points per game. Dixon spend his first collegiate season at Alabama in 2009 before redshirting and heading off to junior college, then ending up in Wilmington.

Ben Eblen, Dixon’s former teammate in Tuscaloosa, actually played three seasons as a backup at ‘Bama, graduated, and decided to play out his final season of eligibility at UNCW, where the two will be reunited in the upcoming season.

Brian Mull of the Wilmington Star-News found out what Eblen will bring to the table.

After graduating from Alabama last December, Eblen spent the spring at home in Isle of Palms, S.C. He liked what Dixon told him about the program and the area, and felt he could help the Seahawks turn around.

“I really like to get after it on the defensive end, keep pressure on the other team’s guards,” Eblen said. “And put offensive pressure on the other team.”

Peterson plans to play the two together, with either capable of pushing the tempo to create scoring opportunities.

This isn’t Eblen’s first look at the CAA, either. He initially committed to Anthony Grant when he, and VCU, were in the Colonial. When Grant left for Alabama, Eblen went with him.

It’s tough to tell who will come out on top in a CAA decimated by realignment, but the Seahawks have to like their chances of an improved showing with an experience backcourt duo in place.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.