BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Tae Hardy (22 points), Shamar Givance (17 points, season-most 10 assists), Calvin Solomon (campaign-best 16 points, season-high 11 rebounds) and Otis Frazier III (14 points) all hit double figures in scoring and UTEP held UAB to 36.4 percent shooting, but it wasn’t enough as the Miners fell in double overtime, 79-73, inside Bartow Arena Thursday evening.
The Orange and Blue (8-5, 1-1 C-USA) led for 41 minutes of the contest, including being up late in both regulation and overtime, but to their credit the Blazers (11-2, 2-0 C-USA) found a way to pull it out and remain undefeated at home (9-0) on the season.
UTEP won the battle of the boards (53-39) against the C-USA leader in rebounding, aided by a season-high 20 offensive rebounds. The Miners registered 15 assists on 26 field goals made and came up with 12 steals, their third contest this year with 10+ steals. UTEP’s defense also gave UAB fits, limiting it to just 3-24 (12.5 percent) from 3-point range and forcing 16 turnovers that led to 15 points.
The Miners, though, were hindered by 25 giveaways of their own, in addition to going 14-25 at the charity stripe. UAB was 28-38 in the game. Despite that, UTEP was up by one (57-56) in regulation after Givance buried a corner triple with four seconds left. UAB was fouled with just 0.4 seconds to play where Eric Gaines made 1-3 to send the contest to overtime tied at 57.
UAB led, 63-61, with three minutes left in OT before UTEP scored seven in a row to vault ahead by five (68-63) with 52 seconds left. Some missed free throws left the window open for UAB, which took advantage by tallying the final five points in the frame to force double OT.
The Blazers notched the first four points of double OT, and despite the Miners’ best efforts, they could never get closer than two from that point on.
The double-doubles by Givance and Solomon were the first of their careers while wearing the Orange and Blue. Kevin Kalu pulled down a career-high 10 boards to aid the efforts of the Miners winning the glass for the third straight game.
UAB was paced by the nation’s leading scorer, Jordan Walker, with 25 points but he needed 26 shots. KJ Buffen (15 points), Efrem Johnson (14 points) and Gaines also tallied double figures for the Blazers.
“I’m proud of our team’s effort,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “That’s (UAB) one of the best teams in college basketball. They don’t lose here (at Bartow Arena). We had a chance in regulation and in the first OT. We got 20 offensive rebounds and outrebounded them. They only had three 3-pointers.
“We gave ourselves a chance to still win the game because of our toughness,” Golding said. “So, I’m just incredibly proud of our effort. They were playing their butts off. This was a gut punch, and we’ve got recover quickly and get ready for a really good Rice team (on Saturday).”
UAB struck first with a backdoor lay-up but the Miners countered with an 10-0 run. Solomon started it with an old-fashioned 3-point play. After a stop, Frazier III buried a conventional trey from the left wing. The Miners then got lay-ups from Hardy and Givance, respectively, to lead by eight (10-2) heading into the first media timeout.
The home side struck back with five consecutive points to force a UTEP timeout with the advantage cut to three (10-7, 14:07 1H). After another basket from the Blazers made it a one-point affair, UTEP went on a mini 5-1 push to go out by five (15-10, 11:40 1H).
The cushion was three (17-14) before the Orange and Blue created a little breathing room with a 6-0 surge. Hardy accounted for four of the points in the sequence (3-pointer, one free throws), making it 23-14 (7:42 1H).
UAB answered immediately with a 5-0 push to trim the Miner lead to four (23-19, 6:24 1H) before another And-1 from Solomon stopped it. It continued to be back-and-forth over the next few minutes, with UTEP up six (34-28) after an athletic fadeaway putback from Givance with 1:19 remaining in the opening stanza. A late UAB basket made it a four-point differential (34-30) for the Miners heading into halftime.
It was scoreless through the first two minutes of the second half before Frazier III knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game. The basket sparked a 9-2 stretch to commence the frame, which was capped by a dunk for Solomon off a feed by Givance to make it 43-32 and force a timeout by the Blazers.
The edge remained 11 (45-34, 14:11) before UAB scored nine in a row to get within two (45-43, 11:02 2H). A Hardy baseline jumper ended the Miners’ four-minute scoring drought. UTEP then got a stop and Givance buried the transition trey to put the Orange and Blue out by seven (50-43, 9:17 2H). UAB scored four straight to get within three before Frazier III’s dunk put the Miners up five.
The Blazers got another basket to get within three (52-49) before both teams went scoreless for the next two-and-a-half minutes with physical defense taking over. UAB then inched within one (52-51) following a pair of free throws before a Hardy floater ended a 4:30 scoreless stretch and edged the Orange and Blue out by three (54-51).
A foul on a 3-point shot on the ensuing possession gave UAB a chance to tie, but it went 2-3 and UTEP maintained the lead at 54-53. The Miners came up empty on their possession, sending the ball back to the home side. It took advantage with a triple to put the Orange and Blue down two (56-54) with 28 seconds to play.
UTEP had an answer, with Givance draining a corner triple with four seconds left to regain the lead. The home side then was fouled with just 0.4 seconds left on a 3-point shot, but Gaines hit only 1-3 and the contest headed to OT tied at 57.
The two squads traded scores over the first couple of minutes of the extra periods, with UAB up by two (63-61) before the Orange and Blue ripped off seven straight points. Hardy buried a trey to put UTEP up one. After a stop, Kalu slammed home a dunk. UTEP came up with another stop and Givance buried a pair of free throws to make it a five-point affair (68-63).
The Blazers ended the surge with a 3-pointer from Walker and immediately called timeout with the Miners up by two (68-66) with 26.2 seconds left in OT. UTEP misfired on a pair of free throws and the Blazers tied the tilt on an offensive putback with 5.9 seconds left. Givance went end-to-end in search of the game winner but couldn’t get it to go as the game went to double OT.
UAB scored the first four points of double OT, all on free throws, to lead 72-68. Hardy cut the deficit to three (72-69) with 3:15 left. UTEP then got a steal and Givance nailed two important free throws to get the Miners within one (72-71, 2:55 2OT).
The Blazers answered with an And-1 from Walker, putting UTEP down four (75-71, 2:06 2OT). Frazier III scored to cut the deficit in half, but UAB tallied the final four points of the contest to hold off the Orange and Blue. UTEP returns home to play host to Rice at 2 p.m. MT on Saturday with a special 2 p.m. tipoff as part of celebrating New Year’s Eve.