BIRMINGHAM – The UAB men’s basketball team closed the non-conference portion of its 2022-23 schedule with a 92-66 victory over Southern University at Bartow Arena.
It wasn’t 40 minutes of saving the best for last. The final 20 minutes, in fact, were far from pretty. However, the first 20 minutes were pretty darn impressive.
UAB led 60-28 at halftime. At that point, the Blazers had played 11 players and 10 had at least one bucket. UAB outrebounded Southern, 32-11, in the first 20 minutes and led, 17-3, in second chance points. And they did this with KJ Buffen sitting all but five minutes because of two quick fouls.
“I thought we were terrific out of the gate,” said UAB head coach Andy Kennedy. “Obviously, the second half, I wish we all could hit fast forward and we’d be home by now.”
So what did Kennedy, specifically, like about the first half?
“We were really aggressive,” Kennedy said. “They play aggressively, I knew tempo wasn’t going to be an issue. I thought we executed great. We got them spread, we were doing what we wanted to do, we were protecting the ball. I thought the first 20 minutes was outstanding.”
It took Jordan “Jelly” Walker a while to get going in the first half. Once he heated up, he was hard to stop. At halftime, he had 17 points, six assists and four 3-pointers.
The second half was not nearly as crisp and got chippy at times. Part of that, from a UAB perspective, was Kennedy spread the minutes out. Eric Gaines, who had 10 points and four assists, played the most minutes for the Blazers in the game and he was on the floor for just 25 minutes and 13 seconds. Walker had 25 points and six 3-pointers but played 22 minutes, which is 11 minutes below his season average.
UAB outrebounded Southern, 55-32, overall and 16-8 on the offensive boards. Javian Davis had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and Trey Jemison tied his career high with 14 rebounds to go along with six points. UAB had 21 second chance points and limited Southern to eight.
For UAB, it’s now time to look forward. The Blazers, who finish non-conference play with a 9-2 record, play host to Charlotte in both teams’ Conference USA opener on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Bartow Arena. Kennedy said he gives his team a solid grade of B for their non-conference performance.
Kennedy said he was disappointed by his team’s loss to Toledo early in the season and knew, at that point, that playing at West Virginia later in non-conference play would be tough. He said he set an internal goal with his team following the Toledo loss. He pointed out to his team doing that meant finding a way to beat South Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
“We got to find a way to scratch and claw to get to 9-2, which, thankfully we did,” Kennedy said.
Now they begin working toward winning a conference title.
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