Tavin Lovan chose to leave home to play college basketball. Obviously, he loves to go back home to play.
Some of his most memorable moments while wearing a UAB uniform came on the campus of Western Kentucky. That continued on Saturday night as he finished out his Diddle Arena career with another big game during the 72-60 Conference USA victory.
Lovan had 14 points, hitting 6 of 9 from the field and 2 of 3 from the free throw line, with five rebounds, four assists and two steals in 33 minutes. He also had the primary coverage on Dayvion McKnight, who torched UAB for 27 points in the teams’ first meeting. This time, with Lovan hounding him, McKnight was scoreless in the first half, scored just four points after halftime, made 2 of 9 from the field and committed six turnovers.
“I thought Tavin Lovan really played well,” said UAB head coach Andy Kennedy. “I know this is important to him. Last time he’s going to play in Bowling Green. He’s got a lot of family and friends here. I thought he was outstanding, man, attacking the rim, keeping balls alive.”
Tavin taking it strong to the rim 💪 pic.twitter.com/9ACTd5bWFl— UAB Men's Basketball (@UAB_MBB) February 26, 2023
It was definitely a team effort for the Blazers (22-8 overall, 13-6 conference) on a night when Jordan “Jelly” Walker finished below double digits in scoring for the second time this season and third time in 58 games over the past two seasons. Walker had eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in 36 minutes.
Eric Gaines had his best overall game in a few weeks. Gaines had a team-high 17 points with two 3-pointers, three rebounds, three assists, two steals, a blocked shot and just one turnover in 27 minutes. Trey Jemison, who battled 7-foot-5 Jamarion Sharp all night, had 10 points, 10 rebounds and an assist.
“Trey Jemison with a double-double,” said Kennedy, whose team outscored WKU, 46-24, in the paint. “I thought he was really good on the defensive glass, most especially in the second half. We weren’t giving them any second chance opportunities.”
UAB scored the final five points of the first half on a 3-pointer by Gaines and a follow shot by Lovan to take a 33-29 halftime lead. The game stayed close early in the second half but UAB strung together a 14-2 run over about a three-minute span that turned a 41-37 advantage into a 55-39 lead with 11:53 remaining. Gaines opened the run with a layup and closed it with a steal and dunk.
The Hilltoppers (15-14 overall, 7-11 conference) never got the lead under nine points after that.
UAB, which has won five in a row and nine of the past 10, takes a break before finishing the regular season next Saturday at Charlotte. The Blazers remain in third place in Conference USA with Middle Tennessee a game behind in the loss column. Middle Tennessee and Charlotte will each play two games next week.
“If there is an advantage, maybe we can rest up a little bit, be totally prepped for Charlotte, which is a difficult matchup,” Kennedy said. “They’re playing good basketball. But, hey, man, five in a row, nine out of 10 now and putting together great efforts.”
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