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March 10, 2006
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Marvett McDonald scored 15 points and Squeaky Johnson added 12 points and six assists Friday to lead No. 24 UAB to a 63-60 victory over UTEP in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament. The second-seeded and 24th-ranked Blazers (24-5) will face No. 5 Memphis in Saturday's championship game. The top-seeded Tigers defeated Houston 68-54 earlier Friday.
The Miners trailed 62-59 with 4.6 seconds left when Kevin Henderson was fouled on a 3-point attempt by Lawrence Kinnard. Henderson, who made two 3-pointers down the stretch to pull UTEP within one possession, missed the first free throw. He made the second, then deliberately missed the third shot. Will Kimble's tip bounced away, and the Blazers survived to move into the championship game.
"Wow, what a game," UAB head coach Mike Anderson said. "That is what March Madness is all about. I thought Jason Williams was going to will UTEP to the win, but we found a way to get it done. To struggle like we did against UTEP and win today was huge. I am very proud of our basketball team. They hung in there and persevered and found a way to win."
UTEP's free-throw shooting spelled its doom as the Miners shot 12-of-24 from the line.
McDonald led UAB with 15 points, but was 4-of-10 from the floor, a surprising stat since the Blazers shot 58 percent for the game and were 11-of-16 (69 percent) in the second half. Johnson made all four of his field goals, including three outside the arc.
Paul Delaney added 13 and six rebounds for the Blazers, who upset Memphis in Birmingham on March 2, 80-74.
"Coach (Anderson) did a great job not letting us look past this game," Johnson said. "Everybody had their mind focused on UTEP. Coach showed us a tape of our last game with UTEP and it helped me and the rest of the team get focused. I don't think we looked past this game at all."
Jason Williams led the Miners with 20 points, while Henderson scored 12, including 3-of-7 outside the arc. Miguel Ayala added 11 points and Stefon Jackson scored 10 points.
UAB's offensive output was much better than its earlier game against the Miners, which UTEP won 65-37. In that Feb. 8 game, the Blazers trailed 34-18 at halftime. UAB already had surpassed that 37-point performance four minutes into the second half Friday.
UAB maintained the lead, but could never shake the Miners despite hitting 10 of its first 13 shots in the second half. Still, Henderson's 3-pointer from the right wing brought the Miners within 52-51 with just under seven minutes left.
"The whole game was summed up at the free-throw line," UTEP head coach Doc Sadler said. "Both teams played very hard. It came down to the last few seconds. If you're going to go 50 percent at the free-throw line, you're not going to have a chance to win against a good team like they are."
The Miners are playing without second-leading scorer and top rebounder John Tofi, who injured his knee injury late in the season. They ran most of their offense through Williams, particularly in the second half, when he scored 14 points.
In the first half, the Blazers led 17-10 on Johnson's 3-pointer. But the Miners answered with a 10-2 run that gave them their first lead of the game when Williams connected on a jumper.
UAB closed the half with five straight points and led 29-26 lead at the break.