Ty Brewer knew it was good the moment it left his sweaty and palmy hands.
Unfortunately, the ball separated from his fingertips a split-second behind the final buzzer and the game-winning shot was waived off before a protest could be mounted.
Eric Gaines and Trey Jemison scored the first two baskets of the final five minutes but the Blazers went cold until the final non-shot in a 74-73 overtime loss to Middle Tennessee State, Monday, Jan. 16, at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“Disappointing,” UAB head coach Andy Kennedy told David Crane on Blazer Sportsline postgame. “That’s four games. Can you believe that? We just don’t make the plays, that’s what it comes down to. I’ve been doing this a long time and ultimately we’re not making the plays.”
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UAB entered the game at 74 in the NCAA NET but has dropped four of its last five games in falling to 13-6 overall and 4-4 in C-USA.
The Blazers shot 31.6 percent overall, 35.7 percent from 3-point range (5-of-14) and 18-for-25 at the charity stripe, and had 21 second-chance points and a plus-12 advantage on inside scoring. MTSU was 43.3 percent overall and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc but UAB enjoyed a plus-13 edge in rebounding, including a 27-9 advantage on offensive boards, and forced 16 turnovers that resulted in 22 points.
“When you miss 54 shots, there’s going to be some rebounds,” Kennedy said. “Luckily for us, it’s kept us in the game just with our will and determination. But you can’t come on the road and shoot 31 percent from the field. We only had 12 turnovers but the timing of those 12…oh my goodness. We got miles to go.”
Jordan “Jelly” Walker, the nation’s second-leading scorer at 23.8 ppg, was not available for a second straight game due to a minor foot injury.
Eric Gaines picked up the scoring slack for a second straight game, finishing with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals, but Trey “The Mayor” Jemison was a force on the inside in producing a career-high 18 points, along with 11 rebounds , and 3 blocks, to secure his fourth double-double of the season and third in the last four games
Tavin Lovan continued his strong play with extra minutes to spare, finishing with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals, and KJ Buffen had 10 points and 5 rebounds. Buffen scored 5 straight points to pull the Blazers within a single point with less than two minutes remaining in regulation but fouled out midway through the overtime period.
“I know and I’ve seen it,” Kennedy said. “It was good to see him get downhill and finish some at the rim.”
Neither team held the advantage following the opening period but MTSU broke the stalemate with an 8-3 run to take a 39-34 lead over the Blazers. UAB reclaimed the lead, 43-42, on a 9-3 run with 14:11 remaining in regulation, but the Blue Raiders responded with their own 6-0 run and held the lead until the final seconds of the second half.
Buffen scored on a layup and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions to pull within a single point, but the MTSU’s Eli Lawrence nailed a 3-pointer to put the Blue Raiders back up 66-62 with a little more than a minute remaining. Jemison knocked down a pair of free throws and Tony Toney came up big late on the defensive end, for the second straight game, and forced a turnover on an in-bounds pass from the Blue Raiders.
“Our fight was tremendous,” Kennedy said. “Tremendous.”
“Think about the foul trouble that we have dealt with,” he added. “The thing that frustrates me, and it’s completely my responsibility, is we’re the most emotionally unstable team that I’ve been a part of in my 30 years of doing this. We talk about it daily but when those lights come on, we start running our mouths and doing things that I don’t UAB to represent. We spot them 4 points and we lose by 1.”
Gaines was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit both free throws to tie the game and send it to overtime.
UAB surged ahead to a 71-66 lead in the opening moments of overtime but did not make a field goal in the final 3:51 of the game. Meanwhile, the Blue Raiders closed out on an 8-2 run and made their only two shot attempts of the overtime period.
Toney finished with 3 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, Javian Davis had 6 points and 2 rebounds and the Brewer Brothers, Ledarrius and Ty, combined for 7 points and 8 rebounds. Efrem “Butta” Johnson contributed 2 points.
The Blazers return home to face North Texas, Saturday, Jan. 21, at Bartow Arena in Birmingham. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 pm CT on Stadium.