January 30, 2013
Blazers Upset UTEP in Overtime, 78-72
BARTOW ARENA - It may have been UAB's best game of the season, particularly in the last 15 minutes. The Blazers fought back from a 15-point deficit Wednesday night to tie the game in the final minute of regulation, and then out-fought the Miners for a 78-72 win in overtime to claim the first Conference USA win for new head coach Jerod Haase.
UAB went through a stretch of six minutes without a field goal in the first half and only trailed by four points. Still, UTEP used a second cold streak by the Blazers to pull out to a 20-13 lead with 5:48 remaining in the half.
UTEP had the advantage for the rest of the half, but UAB struck late. Rod Rucker had a short put-back as time expired to cut the Miners lead to 28-24 at the half.
UTEP countered by scoring the first nine points of the second half. Fahro Alihodzic ended the drought with a hook from the right side with 15:09 remaining in the game. Still, UTEP held a 15-point lead with 13:56 remaining.
UAB nibbled away at the lead. Jordan Swing got a layup with 9:42 left to cut the margin to under double-digits - 47-39. Another layup by swing and a short jumper from Rucker cut the score to 50-45 with 7:14 remaining.
Swing quickly followed with another jumper and the score was within three points. A steal by Swing and a pass to Rucker led to another basket and a one-point lead.
The defense followed that by forcing another turnover and drawing a foul. Rucker got one of the foul shots, and the game was tied.
UTEP scored the next five points to regain the lead - 55-50 - with 4:57 remaining. UAB cut the margin to four points - 62-58 - with 1:41 remaining and called a timeout.
The defense held, UAB got the ball, Jordan Swing got fouled and sank two free throws. The score was 62-60.
UAB tried to steal the ball on the next play and got called for a foul. But UTEP's Jacques Streeter missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Blazers got the ball, but Swing's three-point attempt missed.
The Blazers fouled, UTEP sank one charity toss, and UAB got the ball again. Rob Williams got fouled and sank both free throws. The score was 63-62 with 36.6 seconds remaining.
UAB fouled again, UTEP sank one, and the Miners led by two points with 26 seconds remaining. UAB took the ball down the court and called timeout with 13.9 seconds remaining.
Jordan Swing tied the game with a layup down the middle. UTEP tried a long-range shot at the buzzer, but missed, and the game went to overtime.
Alihodzic got a layup on first possession. Jordan Swing followed with a steal and a dunk, and UAB had a four-point lead with 4:21 remaining in overtime.
UTEP fought back and cut the margin to 71-70 with 2:12 remaining. An exchange of fouls and free throws left UAB with a 75-72 lead with 1:10 remaining.
Alihodzic got free again down the middle for another layup. UAB led 77-72 with 20 seconds remaining.
Terrence Jones hit one-of-two free throws for a six-point lead. UTEP got off one more shot, missed it, and UAB left Bartow Arena with a 78-72 win for their first conference victory of the year.
Jordan Swing led all scorers with 24 points. He was joined in double figures by Rob Rucker (18), Fahro Alihodzic (12), and Rob Williams (11). Rucker also led the team in rebounds with nine.
UTEP was led by McKenzie Moore with 18. He was joined in double-figures by Konner Tucker (16) and Julian Washburn (12).
The difference turned out to be free-throw shooting, particularly in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime. UAB hit 66.7 percent (14-for-21), while UTEP managed only 48.3 percent (14-for-29).
The Blazers won the battle of the boards against the taller UTEP team, claiming 38 rebounds to 32 for the Miners. UAB also won the turnover battle, forcing 21 from the Miners while making only 15 miscues themselves.
"I'm elated, excited and proud of our guys" coach Haase said after the game. "They really competed."
"We talked a lot about making winning plays down the stretch," he added.
Haase highlighted the importance of the 21 turnovers created by the Blazers. "Twenty-five points off of turnovers is big," he said.
UAB improved to 9-12 overall, and 1-5 in Conference USA. UTEP fell to 11-8 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
The Blazers next host Southern Miss at Bartow Arena in a 7:00 p.m. game Saturday.
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