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January 18, 2014

Blazers Fall to UTEP, 63-61

BARTOW ARENA - Two shots in the final seconds of the game were off target, and UAB lost its first home game of the season to UTEP, 63-61. The lost came after the Blazers fell behind by eight points, but the late comeback fell short.

UTEP went into the locker room with the biggest lead of the first half, up 30-24. UAB cut the lead to 38-35 early in the period, but UTEP quickly moved the margin back to eight points 43-35.

UAB cut the margin to 51-50 with 5:37 remaining in the game. UTEP scored the next four points to increase their lead to 55-50. UAB got the next five to tie the score with 4:14 remaining.

UTEP got a free throw to regain the lead, but UAB responded with a basket to get their first lead of the second half - 57-56.

UTEP added a pair of free throws to regain the lead, but Rod Rucker hit a couple on the other end to put UAB ahead again.

UTEP followed with the next five points to take a 63-59 lead with a minute remaining. Two free throws from Rob Williams cut that margin to 63-61.

UTEP seemed to have the game sewed up when they hit a trey with 15 seconds remaining in the game. But the shot was ruled as coming after the shot clock expired, and the Blazers got the ball back - down two with 15.1 seconds remaining.

UAB got two final shots at the basket, but both missed and UTEP left Bartow with a Conference USA victory.

Rob Williams took the final three-point shot that bounced off the rim. He did so with Coach Jerod Haase's blessing.

"If we got a good look on a three, I was okay with taking it," Haase said. "We got that. I wanted us to compete for the offensive rebound, we did, we just didn't get it."

Rucker led the Blazers with 17 points. Chad Frazier tossed in 13, while C. J. Washington added 11.

UTEP was led by Vince Hunter with 18 points. He was joined in double figures by C.J. Cooper with 17 and John Bohannon with 11.

Jordan Swing said the Miners' defense gave the Blazers problems. "It took us too long to figure out what to do with their defense," Swing said. "They run five or six different defenses and mix it up real well. It was just hard to get into a flow on offense."

Haase was disappointed, but still praised his team. "I was proud of our effort and how hard we competed," he said. "We weren't ever able to put together continuous offensive possessions. But we competed on every possession. I was proud of that."

With the loss, UAB fell to 12-5 on the season, and 1-2 in Conference USA. UTEP improved to 13-7 overall, and 3-1 in conference play.

The Blazers next go on the road for games against North Texas and Tulsa. The team returns to Bartow Arena on Thursday, January 30, when they host Old Dominion.

"We have a very resilient group," Haase said. "We just have to prove it and go out and bounce back on the road."



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