The fourth-seeded Blazers showed little fatigue from their overtime triumph
over regular-season champion Louisiana Tech in Friday's semifinals, shooting
51.9 percent from the field and dominating the Blue Raiders on the boards to
capture the program's first-ever C-USA tourney crown.
William Lee added 13 points for UAB (19-15), which will be going dancing for
the first time since 2011.
Sixth-seeded Middle Tennessee State (19-16) knocked off two of the league's
top three teams in UTEP and Old Dominion to reach Saturday's final, but proved
to be no match for the hot-shooting Blazers on UAB's home court.
'We shot the ball well, but the biggest thing is I thought we defended
physically,' UAB head coach Jerod Haase said. 'Our guys were emotionally into
it. We won the rebounding battle. We did have the benefit of not playing four
days in a row. We were able to wear down Middle (Tennessee) a little bit as
the game wore on. They had a fantastic run and we were fortunate to beat a
Jaqawn Raymond paced the Blue Raiders with 12 points and Perrin Buford
finished with 11 in the loss. Reggie Upshaw, MTSU's leading scorer on the
season, managed just two points while battling foul trouble much of the game.
After an evenly played opening 10 minutes, the Blazers seized control out of
the game's second media timeout. UAB scored on five consecutive possessions
while putting forth an 11-0 run, capped by a pair of Brown free throws after
the Blazers' Tosin Mehinti rejected Marcus Tarrance on the other end, to build
a 27-16 lead with 5:39 to go in the half.
'We lost our identity for about six or seven minutes in the first half,' Blue
Raiders head coach Kermit Davis said. 'We ran no offense, shot it quick, the
ball didn't move and they just pounded us on the glass. That turned the game.'
Middle Tennessee did counter with an 8-2 spurt, bookended by treys from
Raymond and Darnell Harris, but UAB quickly gained the momentum back. The
Blazers scored the next seven points en route to entering the break owning
a 37-26 advantage.
The Blue Raiders were able to cut a 13-point deficit down to eight just over
six minutes into the second half. They got no closer, however, as a pair of
Brown triples around a Chris Cokley jumper had UAB up comfortably at 55-39
with 11:25 to play.
Middle Tennessee never threatened from there, with the Blazers maintaining
separation by hitting 63.6 percent of their field goal tries in the second
half. Their lead got as high as 22 points after Hakeem Baxter drained a triple
with 5:57 remaining to make the score 69-47.
UAB had lost in two previous C-USA Tournament finals, falling to Louisville in
2003 and Memphis in 2006 ... Middle Tennessee, which reached the 2013 First
Four, was appearing in its first tournament championship since being ousted by
Western Kentucky in the 2008 Sun Belt title game. The Blue Raiders' last
conference tournament title came in the 1989 Ohio Valley ... UAB is now 12-0
against fellow C-USA members on its home floor of Legacy Arena this season ...
The Blazers outrebounded MTSU by a 33-22 margin and ended 9-of-19 from 3-point
range ... The Blazers swept MTSU during the regular season, including a 100-95
triple-overtime thriller in Birmingham on Feb. 28.