Men's Basketball

Fight to the finish tilts to UAB in closing seconds

SAN ANTONIO – The American Athletic Conference opener for both teams proved to be an all-out slugfest on Thursday night at the Convocation Center between the UTSA men’s basketball team (6-8, 0-1 AAC) and the UAB Blazers (9-5, 1-0 AAC). Efram ‘Butta’ Johnson gave UAB two leads in the final 40 seconds, including the game’s 18th lead change on a well-covered fadeaway 18-footer with 2.5 seconds remaining to secure the 78-76 UAB win.

Setting the tone early for all the excitement commanded by the league kickoff, the Roadrunners bounced back from missing their first five shots to make a 7-0 run for the first lead change of the night and followed with another 7-0 push to go ahead 16-12 with 11:28 to go in the half. Boosted by seven first-half threes, the Roadrunners edged out to a 32-27 advantage with just 3:34 on the clock. However, Eric Gaines, Johnson and Tony Toney fired off scores on three consecutive UAB possessions to knot the game at 34-all with 1:36 left in the half – the fifth tie of the opening period. Christian Tucker answered with a long fast-break three on the other end. With UAB up two late, Dre Fuller Jr. drained a three down the right side with 30 seconds to half for the 40-39 advantage at the break.

UTSA shot 50 percent from long range in the first half, with the Blazers plagued by Jordan Ivy-Curry, who was 2-for-3 from three and 4-for-9 overall with 10 points in the opening stanza. At half, UTSA had collected six steals out of UAB’s 11 turnovers.

It looked like the long-distance barrage could continue into the second half as Isaiah Wyatt got on the board from the top of the arc just 20 seconds into the second period. However, UTSA went 3:47 without a bucket and missed the next six shots. A pair of free throws from Massal Diouf reset the offense, trimming the deficit to 46-45. Fuller dropped in the next four field goals for UTSA and put the Roadrunners back in front, 56-52. Despite Fuller knocked out of the game briefly with a one-point lead, Ivy-Curry took the reins and scored the next six points for a game-high six-point lead at 61-55 with 9:12 on the clock.

The Blazers battled back, and the next four minutes saw two more ties and four lead changes. Adante' Holiman chipped two off a four-point deficit at the line and Wyatt followed with a steal and drive to the bucket for the 68-all tie. Ivy-Curry put up a pair of free throws to nudge UTSA ahead into the final four minutes. However, as the game veered through three more ties and four lead changes in the closing moments, Johnson scored the final 10 points for the Blazers in a three-and-a-half-minute span. Trey Edmonds muscled his way to the hoop for a tie with 57 seconds to go, and Ivy-Curry tied it once more at 76-76 with a pair at the line, but Gaines found Johnson wheeling toward the baseline with time expiring and his high-arching game-winner was on the mark.

Although Johnson stole the show in the end, it was forward Yaxel Lendeborg who kept UAB in the game – putting up 23 points on an uncharacteristic 5-of-6 from three and 8-of-8 at the line, notching a double-double with 15 rebounds along with seven blocks.

For the Roadrunners, Ivy-Curry tacked on another 10 points in the second half for a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, along with four assists. Tucker and Fuller both added 15 points to the pot.

Up Next
Fully in the AAC schedule from here on out, UTSA will hit the road next, traveling to Houston for a Jan. 6 matchup with Rice. Then UTSA moves on to face the top ranked AAC team, No. 15 Memphis, on the road on Jan. 10.



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