The UAB men’s basketball team turned over its latest chance to win a game on a big stage.
Eleven first-half turnovers helped the Blazers fall into a nine-point hole, and they finished with 19 turnovers in the 81-70 loss at West Virginia on Saturday night.
West Virginia turned those turnovers into 25 points, outscoring UAB by 12 points in that category during the 11-point win over the Blazers.
“I could sit here and quote scripture and verse of all the things we did wrong,” said UAB head coach Andy Kennedy, whose team fell to 7-2 and saw a six-game win streak snapped. “We’re a team that we have to win in a number of different areas, and we lost every one of them. I feel fortunate it was only an 11-point game if you judge it based on our path to success through nine games. We’re a group that has to win the turnover battle, and we’re minus 12 as it relates to points off turnovers.”
Jordan ‘Jelly’ Walker turned the ball over seven times for the second year in a row against the Mountaineers. Walker, the nation’s leading scorer at 25 points per game, made 6 of 17 shots from the field and 4 of 11 on 3-pointers to finish with 19 points. Kennedy sat Walker down for good after a turnover with 3:40 left in the game.
That was just the start of the problem for the Blazers, who were outscored on second-chance points, 13-6, and were doubled up, 22-11, on made free throws.
“West Virginia has got a good basketball team, and [they win] 93% of non-conference games in this building under Bob Huggins,” said Kennedy. “We knew the enormity of the task. That’s why these games came to UAB. I thought they wanted these moments. Honestly, I didn’t think the moment was too big. I just think we weren’t good enough. We’ve got to get better.”
West Virginia led 40-31 at halftime, but UAB played well early in the second half. Walker’s 3-pointer in transition tied the score at 45 with about 15 minutes remaining. Ledarrius Brewer scored on a fastbreak layup a few seconds later to give UAB the lead. Both baskets were set up by a good defensive play by KJ Buffen, who also assisted on both buckets. West Virginia took the lead back with 13:50 left and led the rest of the way.
A bright spot for UAB was the play of backup big man Javian Davis, who had 19 points, nine rebounds and an assist in 25 minutes. He was 7-of-9 from the field.
“JD, he’s got a feel and ability to put the ball in the basket,” Kennedy said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of getting him angles. His body is just as big as the kids at West Virginia.”
UAB has to regroup quickly, with South Carolina coming to Bartow Arena on Wednesday night.
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