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UAB Wears Down UTEP 87-80

It could have gotten real ugly early in the second half, but the Miners kept fighting in a 87-80 loss at UAB.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

UAB led by as much as 19 in the opening stages of the second half, and William Lee provided 18 points, and 12 rebounds leading four Blazers in double figures to win their 10th in a row, and 19th in a row at Bartow Arena with a 87-80 win over UTEP.

The experienced Blazers executed their winning ways from the opening tip, out rebounding UTEP 48-40 in the game, getting to free throw line for 36 attempts, and weathered a UTEP run in the final ten minutes to solidify themselves as the team-to-beat in Conference USA.

Things started fast for both teams as the game went back-and-forth for the first five minutes.

Omega Harris completed a three point play that tied things at up 12 six minutes into the game, then at the under 12 minute media timeout UAB held a 19-17 lead despite a 1-for-9 stretch from the field by the Blazers.

UAB would hit all rim during a 2-of-18 stretch from the field, while UTEP was shooting 50 percent from the game at that point, but the Blazers held a 23-22 lead at the under eight timeout with 7:24 left until halftime.

The Blazers shot just 29 percent from the field in the first half, but did all the little things to give themselves a 40-31 halftime lead.

UAB out rebounded UTEP 27-20 in the first half, with 15 offensive rebounds, and cashed in 10 points off  of six UTEP turnovers in the first frame.

UTEP didn't score in the final 3:09 of the first half, while UAB finished the half on a 6-0 run, and went 15-of-18 from the free throw line.

The second half saw UAB flex their muscle, but the Miners showed no quit.

Chris Cokley also recorded a double-double with 14 points, and 11 rebounds, and slammed home a fast break dunk after a UTEP turnover to polish off a 15-6 run out of the half time break giving UAB a 55-36 lead at the 14:37 mark.

It looked like things were about to get really ugly, but Earvin Morris got hot from three point land.

Morris scored 18 second half points, and hit back-to-back three's answering back-to-back buckets by UAB to cut the lead to 67-60 with 8:20 left in the game.

Jake Flaggert had an open look from three rim out two possessions later with the score still 67-60, then UAB's Robert Brown had his inevitable moment of production.

Brown knocked down a three, then made a circus layup off an inbound play to put UAB back up by 10.  On the next UAB possession William Lee capped off a 7-2 run via a jumper with his foot on the three point line putting UAB in front 74-62 with 5:30 left.

Down double digits again in the second half, UTEP had one more run in them.

Jake Flaggert knocked down back-to-back three pointers, and Omega Harris finished off a fast break chance with a euro-step layup to bring UTEP within five at 77-72 with just under two minutes left to play.

Brodricks Jones hit a pair of free throws after an offensive board and tip in by Lee to bring UTEP back within five (79-74) with 1:19 left, but some crucial mistakes in the next 30 seconds put this one ice.

UAB easily broke UTEP's press on the ensuing inbound after the free throws with Norton assisting Cokley for an easy layup to put UAB 81-74.

Then a UTEP mishap on their ensuing inbound led to a steal by Norton who was fouled and hit a pair of free throws giving UAB a 83-74 going away lead with a minute left.

The Blazers hit their last six free throws of the game, and finished the afternoon 27-of-36 from the free throw line.

Morris ended the afternoon with 23 points on 5-of-6 shooting from behind the three point line as five Miners reached double figure scoring numbers.

Dominic Artis chipped in 12 points, and 10 rebounds, nine coming on the defensive end, Jake Flaggert also reached double figures with 10 points.

While Morris' effort was key, Hooper Vint's was just as inspiring.

Vint scored 14 points, with seven rebounds, and six blocks before fouling out late in the second half, he was also 6-of-9 from the field.

UTEP shot 46.8 percent from the field in the game, compared to UAB's 38.2 percent, but UTEP turned it over 13 times, and allowed 20 second chance points as the Blazers size wore down on UTEP down the stretch.

Part of that was due to a hobbled Terry Winn who was limited for UTEP with a rolled ankle.

Winn was questionable heading into the game, and played 10 minutes in the first half, but did not play in the second half.

Nick Norton had a solid floor game for UAB with 13 points, and seven rebounds as UAB led from wire-to-wire.

At one point, it appeared UTEP was headed to the woodshed for a severe beating, but UTEP's senior leaders stepped up on both ends to make things interesting.

In the end, too many costly mistakes for the second straight game on the road will doom you, a lesson surely learned four games into the conference schedule.

UTEP will get a few days off to recover from the bumps and bruises on the road, and will head to San Antonio next weekend for a road date with UTSA.