On Tuesday night, UAB was able to get a victory over former conference rival Southern Miss 88-60 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The Blazers started the game off sluggish, turning the ball over 7 times in the first five minutes and turning the ball over 19 times for the game. Luckily for UAB fans, the Blazers did everything else right especially in the second half to help get the blowout victory over the Golden Eagles. UAB led for almost 28 minutes of the game and led by as many as 28 points at the end of the game. The Blazers were able to play well defensively, rebound the basketball, and dominate points in the paint to get the victory over Southern Miss.
After giving up 38 points in the first half, the Blazers played really well defensively in the second half. Southern Miss only made 7 of its 30 field goals in the second half for an abysmal 23.3% after shooting 48.4% in the first half. UAB was also able to force Southern Miss into 24 total turnovers and the Blazers scored 30 points off of those turnovers. Southern Miss forced UAB into 19 turnovers but was only able to convert those turnovers into 8 points. UAB also outscored Southern Miss in fast break points 16 to 4.
Another big reason UAB was able to get the win over Southern Miss is the Blazers dominated the glass. UAB outrebounded Southern Miss 48-32 overall and 19-11 on offensive rebounds. Those offensive rebounds were huge and allowed the Blazers to get 18 second chance points. The offensive rebounds also really helped UAB when they were struggling shooting the ball early on in the game.
UAB not only dominated Southern Miss in rebounds but also dominated scoring inside the paint. The Blazers scored 50 points in the paint Tuesday night compared to just 18 points for the Golden Eagles. Trey Jemison got some really nice looks inside and ended up with 14 points going 7 of 9 from the field. The Blazers were really aggressive and attacked the rim Tuesday night.
Andy Kennedy spoke with the media after the game about his team’s performance Tuesday night: “We were great off our offensive glass, we have 19 big offensive rebounds, points in the paint +32 that’s the difference in the game…We just had to accept attack attack attack…once we started doing that we took control of the game.”
KJ Buffen was huge for the Blazers Tuesday and led the way with a career-high 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists. Buffen was 11 of 21 from the field and was a key reason why the Blazers were so aggressive and attacked Southern Miss in the paint. Buffen spoke to the media immediately following the game on his excitement playing in Bartow one more time: “It felt great playing in front of the home crowd. I knew a couple of the players and coaches from the other team so it was good playing against my family. It felt great especially being back in Bartow with the fans.”
The win over Southern Miss brings UAB’s overall record to 26-9 and was Andy Kennedy’s 75th win at UAB. This was also UAB’s first win in the NIT since 2010. The Blazers will move on to the second round of the NIT and play the winner of the Clemson/Morehead State game. If Clemson wins then UAB will travel up to Clemson to play the Tigers but if Morehead State wins UAB will get to host another game in Bartow Arena. Here’s a look at the official NIT bracket.