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BIRMINGHAM – The loss to Toledo wasn’t erased on Wednesday night. But, the UAB men’s basketball team did take a positive step forward with a 92-61 victory over Presbyterian at Bartow Arena.

“I told them there’s nothing that anybody can do to get that one back,” said UAB head coach Andy Kennedy, whose team lost to Toledo, 93-85, last Friday in Philadelphia. “The only thing that we can do is respond from it. Hopefully, tonight was a step showing we made some adjustments. We have to understand who we are. We have to be disciplined to stay who we are.”

Guard Eric Gaines took a step forward after struggling in the loss to Toledo. Gaines had a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists and added four rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals in 32 minutes. He had five turnovers, an improvement over his performance against Toledo.

“It started off in practice,” Gaines said. “Coach was on us about the L. He don’t like losing. So, when we got back in practice, he just told us we just needed to be focused in on small details. We just had to clean up some things. Coming into this game, I feel like we did that. We still need to work on turning the ball over less and rebounding more.”

UAB (2-1) had 12 turnovers as a team with Gaines being the only Blazer with more than one turnover. However, Kennedy was still pleased with the play of Gaines.

“I thought he was outstanding,” Kennedy said. “He’s a point guard, he’s a guy who can get other guys shots. He’s so athletic. I thought he did a great job with his speed, getting separation and he really did a good job with our big guys of setting them up inside.”

UAB got solid minutes inside from KJ Buffen (14 points, six rebounds), Javian Davis (13 points, five rebounds) and Trey Jemison (six points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots). Those three drew 10 fouls from Presbyterian and were a combined 11-of-18 from the field and 11-of-17 from the free throw line.

Buffen was particularly active for the Blazers.

“He’s important for us,” Kennedy said. “He’s like our defensive coordinator, because he’s got a great basketball IQ and he’s got a good voice. Trey has got a loud voice, as well, and they both see it well. The guys in the back have to say the most because they see the most. When we got Trey and KJ really engaged, I think we’ve got a chance to be a really good defensive team.”  

UAB, which led for all but 19 seconds in the game, limited Presbyterian to 34% shooting from the field and the Blazers scored 25 points off 19 turnovers. UAB outscored Presbyterian, 54-32, in the paint and 23-7 on fastbreak points.

Jordan Walker had 15 points and four assist with just one turnover. He was 4-of-9 from the field, made 2-of-6 on 3-pointers and hit all five of his free throws.

UAB played without Tavin Lovan and Rongie Gordon, who were held out because of sickness.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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