It was harder than it should have been, perhaps, but UAB found a way to stay hot in a cold building during a 79-66 Conference USA victory over UTEP on Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center.
UAB head coach Andy Kennedy quickly went to the stats when visiting with David Crane on his postgame radio interview.
“We had over 21 turnovers, man, it was mind-numbing,” Kennedy said. “Ten from our starting backcourt. In order to overcome that, you’ve got to shoot 54 percent from the floor – check. You got to shoot 84 percent from the free throw line – check. You got to make 53 percent of your 3-pointers – check. As you said, we were down seven (on rebounds) in the first half. At the end we were up seven, so we were plus-14 in the second half off the glass. That’s how you overcome 21 turnovers.”
It was apparent well before the game that Thursday’s night contest would be unique. The Blazers’ staff found on Wednesday night that the heating was out at the Don Haskins Center and would not be back on by game time. Temperatures dropped to the 30s outside the building and probably weren’t that much better inside.
Then, referee Rick Crawford had travel issues and did not make it to El Paso. So, it was a two-man crew that officiated the game.
However, the distractions weren’t the biggest problem. Turnovers were an issue throughout and rebounding was an issue in the first 20 minutes. UAB (19-8 overall, 10-6 C-USA) shot nearly 62 percent from the field and were 5 of 8 on 3-pointers in the first half. Jordan Walker had 10 points and the Brewer brothers – Ty and Ledarrius – each had eight points.
Yet, UAB led only 34-32 at halftime after UTEP (12-14 overall, 5-10 C-USA) closed the half on a 9-0 run. A big reason for that was UTEP had 14 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points.
That was bad, but what frustrated Kennedy more was 10 turnovers that led to 21 UTEP points in the first half. And it didn’t get much better, in that regard, after halftime.
“I got my blood pressure up, I was actually sweating,” Kennedy said. “That tells you how aggravated I was with some of our decision-making. They had 16 steals, they were plus-20 off turnovers and yet we win a road game because we had to be almost perfect in the other areas.”
The second half had some uncomfortable moments – largely because of the turnovers – but UAB had the lead at or near double digits nearly the whole time. The Brewer brothers combined for 24 points, seven rebounds, five 3-pointers and three steals. Trey Jemison didn’t score, but he had eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Javian Davis had six points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot.
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