UAB Advances to Las Vegas Invitational Title Game With Win Over New Mexico

LAS VEGAS – The UAB men’s basketball team earned its first-ever victory on Thanksgiving with an 86-73 win over New Mexico in its opening game at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
 
Guard Jordan Walker scored 21 of his career-high 26 points in the second half to help lead the Blazers to victory. Walker went 7-of-10 from the field in the second half, including 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point line to record 21 points in the final 20 minutes.
 
Junior center Trey Jemison also proved pivotal for UAB down the stretch, scoring 11 points and 12 rebounds to notch his second double-double of the season. Jemison paced the Blazers with 12 rebounds as UAB outrebounded New Mexico 41-27 for the game.
 
“I thought we were finally disruptive enough defensively to take them out of a flow and allow us to gain a flow,” head coach Andy Kennedy said. “Our bench play in the first half was tremendous.”
 
With the game tied at 68-68 with 5:16 remaining in the game, Walker knocked down one of his four 3-pointers of the contest to give the Blazers the lead. Walker then found teammate Tavin Lovan, who finished just behind Walker with 12 points scored, for an alley-oop dunk to stretch UAB’s lead to five at 73-68.
 
New Mexico (4-2) trimmed UAB’s advantage to three at 73-70 with a pair of free throws from Jamal Mashburn Jr., who tied Walker with a game-high 26 points. The Lobos, however, would not get any closer as UAB finished the game on a 13-3 run. Another 3-pointer from Walker jumpstarted the run before buckets from KJ Buffen and Lovan helped put the game out of reach.
 
In the first half, UAB used another run to take a lead into the halftime break. Facing a 21-20 deficit with 8:04 remaining, the Blazers scored 11 straight points in just over two minutes to turn a 21-20 deficit into a 31-21 lead.
 
Three straight layups, two of which came from second-chance opportunities, opened the run before guard Jamal Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer to cap off the 11-0 UAB run with 5:52 remaining in the first half. Johnson and forward Rongie Gordon helped the Blazers outscore New Mexico 23-9 in bench points in the first half.
 
New Mexico countered with an 8-0 run of its own to cut the lead to 31-29, but the Blazers responded with eight of the next 10 points to halt the Lobos’ momentum.
 
UAB’s 86-73 win over the Lobos marked the Blazers’ first win on Thanksgiving Day in program history. Thursday’s win also avenged a 97-94 defeat to New Mexico to open the 2013 Charleston Classic, moving the all-time series to 1-1.
 
Head coach Andy Kennedy moved to 25-10 (.714) in multi-team events with Thursday’s win. He will look to record his fifth multi-team event title on Friday when the Blazers face the winner of San Francisco and Towson at 10:30 p.m. CT on FS1.
 

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