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UAB battles past LA Tech in overtime to host championship game

Birmingham's home team survived an overtime thriller against the tourney favorite.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

UAB let go of a 16-point second half lead, but withstood a Speedy Smith led late second half charge to escape the semifinals with a 72-62 overtime upset of the top seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Both teams gave the rowdy Birmingham crowd plenty of fireworks in the first 15 minutes of the game.

The lead would change hands 13 times, and the squads tied twice after Dayon Griffin dialed one up from deep to tie things at 20 at the 7:18 mark of the first half.

UAB took a 7-0 run into the half along with a 36-26 lead while LA Tech finished the first half 3/10 from the field in the final seven minutes.

Legacy Arena was rocking after Robert Brown drained a triple at the 15:26 mark of the second half that dug the Dunkin' Dawgs into a 47-31 upward battle.

But we all know Speedy Smith has a beast mode.

The C-USA Player of the Year scored 11 points during a 15-5 run after LA Tech pulled within ten at the 8:40 mark of the second half that would also feature his game tying, and eventual overtime sending three pointer from the top of the key with 1:07 left in regulation.

Hakeem Baxter got the home crowd back into it with an and-one 26 seconds into the overtime session that sent the tone for the triumph and broke the 58-58 tie.

LA Tech went 1/11 from the field in the extra session, while UAB went 8/12 from the free throw line in OT and shot 45 percent in the game.

Robert Brown led the balanced Blazers with 14 points on the evening, Tosin Mehinti recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.  Freshman Chris Cokley and William Lee both added 10 points, Lee grabbed seven rebounds, and also had three blocks.

Smith finished with a team high 13 points, LA Tech shot 36 percent from the floor, including a deciding factor 3/24 from behind the three point line.

Combined, Smith, Raheem Appleby, and Alex Hamilton went 13/40 from the field, despite the Dogs forcing 15 turnovers.  LA Tech should be a lock in as a repeat participant in the NIT Tournament.

UAB will now meet traveling partner Middle Tennessee in the C-USA Tournament Championship game Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Central Time on Fox Sports 1.

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