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Fresh from UAB's upset victory, Turner Battle watches for Bulls to do the same

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The West Virginia Mountaineers are relentless. They lead the nation in steals and offensive rebounds.

You know who the University at Buffalo could use Friday afternoon?

Turner Battle.

"Oh, I don't know!" Battle said by phone Friday from Louisville. "Shannon Evans is doing a hell of a job, a great job. He's making No. 11 look really good right now."

Efficient point guard play will be crucial to beating West Virginia.

Alas, Battle's college eligibility expired long ago. The slick playmaker and UB Hall of Famer was the first in school history to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.

He's an assistant for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The South Regional's 14th seed stunned No. 3 Iowa State on Thursday and will play No. 11 UCLA on Saturday in Louisville.

But this afternoon, Battle will be hunkered down in his hotel room to watch his beloved Bulls.

Do not disturb.

"I'm excited for those guys and for the program," said Battle, a UB assistant for six seasons under former coach Reggie Witherspoon. "I coached a lot of those guys. It's special, hearing from those guys and knowing they're playing in the tournament.

"It's great for the UB, Buffalo and Amherst communities and all the people who've supported the program."

Battle is biased, but he likes the matchup against West Virginia.

"I think UB has a great chance," Battle said. "West Virginia presses, and they're very deep. But I think UB's guards are just as good if not better than theirs.

"The key will be rebounding. West Virginia is very big, long and athletic. If UB can limit them to one shot, then UB will have a really good chance of winning the game."

Battle has watched UB's first March Madness appearance with at least a twinge of regret. He came seconds away from advancing to the NCAA tournament his senior season, but UB lost the Mid-American Conference championship to Ohio University at the buzzer.

And in Battle's perfect world, Witherspoon would be experiencing March Madness. UB fired Witherspoon two seasons ago and replaced him with Bobby Hurley.

"I wish that it could have happened with Reggie," Battle said. "He's the face of the program, the one that turned that job into one of the better jobs in that conference. He took it from scratch, and I would have loved it.

"He deserved this. It's hard to know that didn't happen, but deep down he knows he's a part of what they've done this year. He knows that, and a lot of people in the community know."

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