UAB 67, No. 20 Butler 57

BY foxsports • December 23, 2009

The UAB Blazers shrugged off a furious rally, picked up another double-digit win over a ranked team and remained awfully hard to beat at Bartow Arena.

Jamarr Sanders scored 18 points and the streaking Blazers held off cold-shooting Butler to upset the 20th-ranked Bulldogs 67-57 on Tuesday night. It was their 10th straight victory and second win over a ranked opponent in six days.

``We beat a basketball team that just beat Ohio State and Xavier,'' UAB coach Mike Davis said after improving to 23-0 against nonconference opponents at home. ``We played a bigtime basketball team. They may not lose another game this year. We look forward to playing teams like this in our home gym.

``Our confidence has been sky-high since we beat Middle Tennessee (by one point on Dec. 2).''

Butler (8-4) shot 34 percent from the field, including going 5 of 20 on 3-pointers, but still managed to cut a 16-point deficit down to 57-55 in an 8-minute span.

Gordon Hayward's two free throws with 4:02 left capped a 20-6 run. The Bulldogs couldn't score on their next six possessions, though, and the rally ran out of gas.

``We just tried to pick up our intensity,'' said 5-foot-8 Aaron Johnson, who had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for UAB. ``Our intensity and our effort had dropped a little bit when they were making that run. And we started letting them get easy buckets coming off that ball screen. We made some adjustments to come off the screen and started forcing them into things they wouldn't normally do.''

UAB got consecutive fastbreak layups by Sanders and Elijah Millsap. Millsap had a steal, layup and free throw to make it 63-55 with 44 seconds left.

The Blazers, who beat then-No. 25 Cincinnati last week, defeated a team that had been 11-1 in nonconference road games under coach Brad Stevens. They won the two games by a combined 27 points.

``They turned it up in the last few minutes and boy, it felt like they were all over the place,'' Stevens said. ``It felt like there was more than five guys out there. They can really, really play defense.''

He said defensively UAB is ``one of the best in the country.''

Sanders was 7 of 10 from the field, including three 3-pointers, and had five assists for the Blazers, while Millsap had 11 points and four steals. Kenneth Cooper also had 11 points. All of Johnson's points on the court came in the first half. He added one after the game about what the win might do for the Blazers' NCAA tournament hopes in a couple of months.

``This win is huge,'' Johnson said. ``It's a great win for our resume. Butler has some good wins and for us to beat them, that sends a message that we're competitive around the nation.''

Hayward had 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting and 15 rebounds. He had scored 70 points over his last three games.

He didn't get much help on the boards, with his teammates collecting a combined 18 rebounds and fellow post player Matt Howard fouling out in the final 2 minutes. UAB held a 41-33 edge on the boards.

Shelvin Mack scored nine of his 11 points during that final comeback attempt. Willie Veasley added 10 points, but had his time limited after picking up his fourth foul with 13 minutes left. Howard finished with six points, half his season average.

Butler had survived a 69-68 win over Xavier on Saturday on Hayward's basket with 1.2 seconds left that wound up ending the game after officials ruled the clock had been stopped inadvertently for 1.3 seconds during the Bulldogs' final possession.

There was no such fortunate finish this time.

Butler had cut a 10-point deficit in half a few minutes into the second half, before UAB rebuilt a double-digit lead. Millsap's steal, dunk and free throw highlighted a 15-4 run, and Sanders' jump shot made it 51-35 with 12:38 left.

``We got off to a good lead in the second half, and then maybe we celebrated a little too much,'' Davis said. ``I knew they'd come back. They never give up.''

Another costly part of that sequence was that Veasley picked up his third and fourth fouls.

Then Mack scored seven straight points and Avery Jukes hit a 3-pointer when he was so wide-open that he had time to hesitate before launching it.

Then came four missed shots and two turnovers for Butler.

The Bulldogs were even colder in the first half, making 7 of 27 shots and trailing 32-22.

``In the first half when we got down, we weren't playing with purpose,'' Hayward said. ``In the second half, we started doing that a little bit and got back in the game.

``We turned it up a notch and they turned it back up on us.''

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