This one just seemed like it was meant to be, nearly from start to finish. The Miners jumped ahead of the Blazers midway through the first, and despite having to weather a couple of storms led the majority of the way, and got out of Birmingham with a narrow two point victory.
UAB struck first blood, jumping out to a quick four point lead just minutes into the contest. The Miners would respond quickly though, tying the game up just moments later on a Matt Willms dunk.
The Miners would own their first lead at 12-11 when C.J. Cooper knocked down a 16 footer with just under 12 minutes to play in the first half. The two teams would trade leads for the next four minutes, but it was the Miners who would take control in the closing moments of the first stanza.
Trailing 16-15 with about eight minutes to play, UTEP would use a 13-4 run over a six minute span to push their lead to eight at 28-20. The Blazers would score two of the final three buckets of the half, but would still trail by six at 30-24 heading to the break.
UTEP would strike first out of the locker rooms, with Julian Washburn knocking down a jumper to push the Miner lead back to eight. UAB would respond though, scoring six straight to get the game back to a two point margin moments later.
Three straight baskets by Vince Hunter weathered that Blazer storm, and the Miners would continue to weather those storms for much of the second half.
Despite trailing by as many as eight on multiple occasions, the Blazers would continue to fight, and eventually came back to take the lead at 57-56 with 3:40 left in the ball game. But the Miners would not fold.
They regained the lead on the ensuing possession, and despite losing it one more time just two possessions later, they would once again take it right back, this time for good.
A huge C.J. Cooper three with :55 on the clock put the Miners up four, and despite a somewhat wild final minute, the Miners hung on and escaped Bartow arena with the 63-61 victory.
The Miners were led, once again, by their emerging superstar Vince Hunter. He finished the night with 18 points and 9 rebounds. C.J. Cooper, who has come up with some huge shots now two games in a row, had a big night with 17 points and 5 rebounds.
The Miners were able to hold the Blazers to a lukewarm 42.3% from the field, but more importantly, were able to hold the nation's leading rebounding team to just 33 rebounds, compared to 32 for the Orange and Blue.
Tonight's win was another huge one for the Miners. This team continues to rally around each other, play great defense, and just find ways to win. Bottom line, its extremely impressive and inspiring.
The win snapped the Blazers perfect 10-0 mark at Bartow this season, and now improves the Miners to 13-6 overall, and 3-1 in conference play.
Vince Hunter, as previously mentioned, is absolutely an emerging superstar, and that can't be overstated. Yes this team might not have the depth that we'd like to see, but we've got great players that are putting it all out on the floor night in and night out. You can't ask for more.
The Miners will now return home for a short, but much needed break, as they will have Thursday off before taking on UTSA a week from tonight in the Don Haskins Center. Tipoff for the game is slated for 2:00 p.m. MT.
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