BIRMINGHAM – Ty Brewer hit a jumper and a layup on the first two UAB possessions in Sunday’s NIT second round game against Morehead State. He had a rebound on each of Morehead State’s first two possessions.

It was just the start of a huge game for Brewer, who scored a season-high 25 points and came up one rebound short of a double-double in UAB’s 77-59 victory over the Eagles.

“Every time he’s in, I call (plays) for him early,” said UAB head coach Andy Kennedy, whose team plays at Vanderbilt in the NIT quarterfinal on Wednesday at 6 p.m. “I felt like we were going to have a definitive size advantage. You know, I’d been starting him. I changed it and went with (Eric Gaines) just based on matchups. This was just strictly scouting. I’m looking at Morehead, they’re small in their backcourt positions. I knew we’d have an advantage and we could get it to him early. That’s why I did what I did and, boy, did he respond.”

By halftime, Brewer had 17 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the field. He scored from all areas of the court. He had 3-pointers, several mid-range jumpers and a follow dunk. In the second half, he was 4 of 6 from the field. It was his best overall offensive game in a UAB uniform, topping his performance against Middle Tennessee when he was 11 for 18 from the field and scored 24 points.

It all started with those first two shots.

“I’d say they’re very important,” Brewer said. “I’d say the first couple of shots really pick the momentum. When they go in, I just got it started. I thought, ‘I got to keep it going, so I can keep us going.’ That’s just what’s going through my head. I feel like those were some important shots.”

Brewer’s early offense triggered an early 10-0 run. Morehead State surged back but the Blazers used a 13-0 run to take a 29-11 lead with 6:40 left in the half. Brewer had seven points during that run, including a step-back 3-pointer.

Even with the lead, though, Kennedy didn’t want his team to get too comfortable against a Morehead State team that erased a 15-point first half deficit in Wednesday’s 68-64 win at Clemson. The Eagles whittled the lead down to 39-27 at halftime and hit a 3-pointer to begin the second half. But every time, the Eagles made a small push, the Blazers pushed back.

A big part of UAB’s success was the ability to overcome a tough day shooting for Jordan "Jelly" Walker, who was 2 of 12 from the field and 1 of 8 on 3-pointers.

“I thought he had good looks tonight and just didn’t make them,” said Kennedy, whose team won a school-record 27 games for the second consecutive season. “For us still to beat a team that just went in and won at Clemson, by 18, just shows that we’re more than that. We got contributions from a bunch of different guys, obviously led by Ty.”

Trey Jemison finished his Bartow Arena career with yet another double-double. Jemison had 11 points and a career-best 16 rebounds. He has 10 double-doubles this season. He also played a big role in UAB outrebounding Morehead State, 44-30, and outscoring the Eagles on second-chance points (15-4) and points in the paint (40-30).

Gaines had a solid game with 11 points, seven of the team’s 16 assists and just one turnover. As a team, UAB had just six turnovers with no one committing more than one. Tony Toney came off the bench to score eight points, dish out three assists and block a shot.

One of the big parts of the game was UAB limiting OVC Player of the Year Mark Freeman to 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting from the field and 2 of 8 on 3-pointers.

Now it’s on to an NIT quarterfinal game at Vanderbilt with the winner advancing to play in the NIT Final Four in Las Vegas.

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