Jan. 30, 2013
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Jordan Swing scored a career-high 24 points, including 18 after halftime, to help the UAB men’s basketball team erase a 15-point second-half deficit and rally past UTEP, 78-72, in overtime at Bartow Arena on Wednesday night.
A total of four Blazers scored in double figures, as Rod Rucker (18), Fahro Alihodzic (12) and Robert Williams (11) joined Swing with 10-or-more points. Rucker finished with a team-best nine rebounds and Swing also added a career-high six steals.
Both Rucker and Swing shot an identical 8-for-16 from the floor as UAB connected on 58.8 percent (20-for-34) of its attempts in the second half and overtime. The Blazers also made 10 of their final 12 free throws on the night.
The win snapped a six-game skid for UAB to give the Blazers their first win in conference action of the season, improving to 9-12 overall and 1-5 in Conference USA play.
“I am elated, excited, and proud of our guys,” head coach Jerod Haase said. “We talked a lot over the past few games about making winning plays down the stretch. Just because we are playing hard does not mean that we are a true team yet. To be a winning team, we have to buy into a different level. We feel good after this win tonight.”
The game marked the third time in the last five matchups between UAB and UTEP that went to overtime. In fact, the last four meetings between the two schools have been decided by six points or less.
UAB jumped out to the early lead when Terence Jones hit a 3-pointer to give the Blazers a 7-4 lead. That lead would be short lived as UTEP’s McKenzie Moore came right back with a three to start a 10-1 run for the Miners.
UTEP (11-8, 4-2) pushed its lead to as many a 10 in the first half after Konner Tucker made a pair of free throws with 2:57 remaining to make the score 26-16.
The Blazers closed the half on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to 28-24. Swing scored five points during the rally and Rucker knocked in a mid-range jumper at the buzzer to pull UAB within four heading into the locker room.
UAB struggled out of the gates to start the second half going 0-4 from the field and committing four turnovers on its first eight possessions that allowed UTEP to extend its lead to 37-24.
The Blazers inched their way back into the game using a 22-7 rally to finally tie the score at 50-all when Rucker made one of two attempts at the line with 6:08 left.
Trailing by six with 2:32 remaining, Preston Purifoy hit a 3-pointer to bring the Blazers within three. Tucker came back with a trey on the other end for UTEP to give the Miners a 62-56 advantage.
Swing and Williams made four consecutive free throws for the Blazers in the final 1:02 to close the deficit to one, 63-62. After Julian Washburn made one of two at the line for UTEP with 27 seconds left, Swing was able to drive down the lane and lay one in with five seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Alihodzic started the extra frame with a layup to give the Blazers their first lead since the 16:37 mark in the first half when they were up 7-4. On the ensuing possession, Swing picked off a pass at midcourt and threw down a dunk to extend the advantage to four points.
Jacques Streeter converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 2:13 remaining to bring UTEP within one, 71-70.
Over the final two minutes of action, UAB made five of its last six free throws and Alihodzic put in a layup to help preserve the 78-72 overtime victory.
“I wanted our defensive pressure and energy to be a factor in the game,” Haase said. “It was more so a factor in the second half of the game. We stopped and told the guys to relax and just play basketball. We have good players, and they need to go back to the days they simply enjoyed playing basketball when they were seven and eight years old. We have to learn how to play more consistently throughout the game, and not get down early in the game.”
In total, UAB’s pressure defense forced UTEP to commit 21 turnovers, 14 coming after halftime, leading to 25 points for the Blazers.
UTEP was led offensively by McKenzie Moore who finished with a team-high 18 points.
The Miners shot 50 percent from the floor overall and made 10-of-19 attempts from behind the arc.
The Blazers return to Bartow Arena on Saturday to host Southern Miss at 7 p.m. CT. The contest will be televised by CSS.