BIRMINGHAM – The UAB men’s basketball team beat an SEC team by 14 points on Wednesday. However, the final margin doesn’t truly indicate the convincing nature of the 84-70 victory over visiting South Carolina at Bartow Arena.

In other words, it wasn’t that close.  

UAB’s Jordan ‘Jelly’ Walker opened the game with 10 consecutive points on two regular 3-pointers and an and-one 3-pointer. The biggest lead UAB enjoyed was 23 points and South Carolina (5-5) never whittled the deficit under double digits in the second half.

“It’s not easy for us to get Power 5s to visit the friendly confines of Bartow Arena,” said UAB head coach Andy Kennedy. “I was fortunate enough, through a relationship, we were able to make that happen, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t take advantage of it. I was proud of our guys. They came out terrific. Obviously, Jelly set the tone.”

It may be Jelly that set the tone, but it was K.J. Buffen that took the reins for long stretches of the game. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound senior had a career-high 25 points, eight rebounds, two steals, a blocked shot and an assist. Fifteen of those points came in the first half when UAB hit a lull follow the quick start provided by Jelly. He also hit a 3-pointer, only his second of the season on 11 attempts.

“KJ, you don’t even have to run a play for him and he goes for 25 points,” Kennedy said. “Usually, he’s the facilitator, not the finisher. But, tonight, the way that they were guarding us, I thought we did a great job in the high screen, playing through the mid-post and cutting through the back line.”

Not only did Walker open the game with a scoring spurt, he also closed the first half with seven consecutive points to give UAB a 42-28 lead. At that point, Buffen and Walker had combined for 32 points.

UAB opened the second half on a 10-5 run to take any suspense away. Buffen’s follow shot with 15:47 remaining gave the Blazers a 52-33 lead. Not long after, Buffen got a steal, threw a perfectly placed long pass to Eric Gaines and the athletic UAB guard finished with an impressive dunk.

It was just part of a big night for Buffen.

“I really want to be the most consistent player on the team,” Buffen said. “I just play basketball and the game comes to me.”

It was a solid night for the starting backcourt of Walker and Gaines. Walker finished with 22 points, seven assists and just one turnover in 34 minutes. Gaines had 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 30 minutes.

For UAB, it was the second victory this season against an SEC opponent. That hasn’t been done by a UAB team since the 2009-10 team beat Georgia and Arkansas.

“SEC is kind of important around here, I don’t know if you’ve heard,” Kennedy said. “When you say an SEC team, they kind of perk up. That’s big for us. I think we had our biggest crowd, I don’t know what the official attendance was, but it was a good crowd. I hope that the people, tonight, liked what they saw and they will come back.”

UAB (8-2) returns to Bartow Arena on Sunday afternoon for a non-conference game against Southern. That will mark the end of the non-conference slate for UAB. The Blazers begin C-USA play on Dec. 22 at home against Charlotte.

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