BIRMINGHAM – The blueprint came to life for the UAB men’s basketball team on Saturday.

The Blazers burst to a 25-point halftime lead, made things difficult on the defensive end for Middle Tennessee, got scoring throughout the lineup, and cruised to a 92-69 Conference USA victory over the Blue Raiders on Saturday in the Gene Bartow Classic at Bartow Arena.

“That’s what it’s supposed to look like,” said UAB head coach Andy Kennedy, “That’s what we thought it would look like. Came out, man, great approach. Terrific offensively, best we’ve played, without question in 2023. We might have had one or two early in December where we were moving the ball like that. Twenty-one assists, 32 made field goals, plus-17 on the glass, contributions across the board, really good effort.”

At the forefront was 6-foot-7 forward Ty Brewer, who set a season-high with 24 points. Starting for the first time in the past 11 games, he was 11 of 18 from the field and two of three on 3-pointers. He also added 12 rebounds, two blocked shots, two steals and an assist. And it started quickly with Brewer scoring six of the team’s first 11 points.

“I ran like the first three plays for him,” Kennedy said. “We ran some action to get him on the block. He knocked down a couple, then he knocks down a three and he’s excited. When the ball goes in, it’s amazing how much quicker guys move and it’s amazing how much better they listen.”

Brewer said the shots helped him get going, but he also had a big blocked shot and some defensive stops early in the game.

“I really feel like it’s the defense, the steals, that really get me going early on,” Brewer said. “But, seeing those go in, after what we’ve been through, kind of made me feel good.”

By halftime, Brewer had 12 points and the Blazers (18-8 overall, 9-6 C-USA) had a commanding 47-22 lead. Eric Gaines had six of his 10 assists in the first half, and the Blazers had 12 assists on 17 made baskets before halftime. The Blazers also harassed Middle Tennessee (15-11 overall, 8-7 C-USA) into 10 first half turnovers, and the Blue Raiders shot 28% from the field and missed all eight 3-point attempts.

Middle Tennessee beat UAB, 74-73, in overtime on January 16. There was no end-of-the-game drama this time. UAB never let Middle Tennessee back in the game, even though the Blue Raiders made seven of 11 3-pointers in the second half.

Jordan "Jelly" Walker led the offense in the second half, scoring 19 of his game-high 25 points after halftime. His only two first half points came on a pair of 3-pointers. He added five more 3-pointers in the second half and was seven of 14 from outside the stripe overall.

“We had hurt them off some slips to the basket off some actions,” Kennedy said. “Trey (Jemison) finished a couple. (Javian Davis) finished a couple. It opened up a little bit of space and that’s all Jelly needs. It is great to see him get back, seven 3s, 25 points. Hopefully, now, he’ll get a little pop back because we’re certainly going to need him to end things the right way.”

Gaines and Walker each had just one turnover, which was huge for the Blazers. Gaines finished with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to go with 10 assists. Jemison, Davis and KJ Buffen combined for 22 points, 14 rebounds, four blocked shots and five assists.

Put it all together, and the Blazers led for 39 minutes and 44 seconds to avenge the loss from earlier in the season. It also broke a tie for third place in the Conference USA.

“We knew the importance of the game,” Kennedy said. “And, not to mention, it was the Gene Bartow Classic. We can’t lose in the Gene Bartow Classic.”

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