The hometown UAB Blazers led by as much as twenty one points in the final two minutes of the game, shooting lights out and forcing Middle Tennessee into ten costly turnovers, all while punching their NCAA Tournament ticket with a 73-60 win in the C-USA Tournament Championship game.
Tournament MVP Robert Brown led the Blazers with 22 points on 6/11 shooting including four three point daggers, also grabbing five rebounds, and handing out five assists.
The champs shot 51.9 percent from the field, and 9/19 from three, William Lee joined Brown in double figures with 13 points, shooting 6/8 from the field and also added six rebounds to his line.
UAB knocked down their first two looks from behind the three point line, starting 3/3 from the field as well and sprinted out to an 9-3 advantage via a 9-0 spur after Perrin Buford's game opening three pointer that started the scoring in the first three minutes of the ball game.
Six seed Middle Tennessee would answer with a 8-0 run sparked by Jaqawn Raymond and Giddy Potts that gave Middle their second lead at 11-9 with 13:37 left in the first half .
A tightly played and championship paced four minute minute stretch saw the teams battle to a 16-16 tie right as things headed to under the nine mark. Then UAB forced consecutive Blue Raider turnovers, exploding on a 11-0 run to take a 27-16 lead, with under six minutes left in the opening half.
The die hard Blue Raiders answered with an 8-2 run after Darnell Harris cut the lead with a three pointer to 29-24 resiliently answering another UAB run.
But Middle turned it over on three straight possessions in the final two minutes of the half, also allowing eight offensive rebounds that led to 10 second chance points for UAB in the first half that helped the Blazers finish on a 8-2 run and take a 37-26 lead at halftime.
William Lee and Robert Brown would combine to score 15 of UAB's first 23 points in the first nine minutes of the second half, eventually pushing their lead to 60-44 at the under 12 timeout with 9:44 left in the game.
Back-to-back threes from from DeVante Jones and Giddy Potts had cut the lead to 46-38 with 14:36 left in the second half, but unable to get stops, and an almost five minute field goal drought in the ten minutes buried the Raiders who shot 41 percent on the afternoon.
Lee scored UAB's first nine points in the second half, and Brown added a pair of threes as UAB opened the second half 4/5 from three that helped fuel the Legacy Arena crowd to give UAB cruising momentum in the final ten minutes to clinch their first ever C-USA Tournament crown.
Three scored in double figures for Middle Tennessee, but UAB out rebounded the Blue Raiders 33-22 and picked apart the tough Middle Tennessee defensive attack with 21 assists on their 27 field goals.
UAB (19-15) fill find out their seeding in the big dance tomorrow, Middle Tennessee (19-16) declined a CBI invite last year, and could possibly draw another invite this postseason.
Make sure to stay tuned to MinerRush for coverage of all things UTEP sports and the Conference USA tournament. Also, make sure to on Twitter and as always don't forget to like our Facebook Page. Picks Up, and Go Miners!