UAB Blazers pound it inside to down UTSA, 68-56

Dhieu Deing. UAB beat UTSA 68-56 on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Guard Dhieu Deing came off the bench to lead the UTSA Roadrunners with 16 points Thursday in a 68-56 loss to the UAB Blazers. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners sank six three-pointers in the first half and played the powerful UAB Blazers to within seven points at halftime.

After that, the shots did not fall as frequently as they would have liked.

As a result, the bigger and more athletic Blazers claimed a 68-56 victory at the UTSA Convocation Center, winning their 21st game of the season, while handing the embattled Roadrunners their 20th loss.

It is UTSA’s first 20-loss season in six years.

KJ Buffen. UAB beat UTSA 68-56 on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Forward KJ Buffen led the Blazers with 16 points. He hit 6 of 12 from the field and 4 of 5 at the free throw line. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The Roadrunners dug themselves a hole with 12 turnovers in the first half, allowing UAB to step up the pace of the game.

“We got to do a better job taking care of the ball, getting in the paint better and being stronger with the ball,” guard Erik Czumbel said.

The Blazers dominated the game inside, as they produced a 42-24 margin in points in the paint.

Forward KJ Buffen led UAB with 16 points, and guard Jordan Walker added 14. Guard Tavin Lovan and center Trey Jemison had 10 apiece.

For UTSA, guard Dhieu Deing scored 16 points. Center Jacob Germany had 14 points and seven rebounds. Czumbel added seven points, six assists and four rebounds.

In the first half, the Roadrunners stayed within reach by hitting 6 of 12 on three point attempts. After intermission, they made only 2 of 10 from behind the arc.

Lachlan Bofinger. UAB beat UTSA 68-56 on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA forward Lachlan Bofinger battles 7-foot, 260-pound center Trey Jemison of the UAB Blazers.- Photo by Joe Alexander

The Roadrunners were without high-scoring guard Jordan Ivy-Curry, who left the team on Tuesday and entered the transfer portal.

Ivy-Curry’s departure was the latest in a series of distractions that have haunted the team this season, but Czumbel said players are dealing with them.

“I think we’ve handled it the right way,” he said. “We keep sticking together. We have a bunch of good guys in our locker room. That’s not an issue. We just got to lock in on the basketball side of things.”

With the loss to the Blazers, the Roadrunners fell to 9-20 on the season, hitting the 20-loss mark for the first time since a Brooks Thompson-coached 2015-16 season, when they finished 5-27.

“We just got to stay together, keep being positive,” Czumbel said. “We still have a shot. We have chance to win the tournament. Anything is possible. We just got to get on a roll these next few games.”

UTSA hosts C-USA West Division leading North Texas and a good Rice team next week to close out the regular season.

Darius McNeill. UAB beat UTSA 68-56 on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Conference USA men's basketball at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA guard Darius McNeill produced eight points and two rebounds. McNeill played 33 minutes in the absence of Jordan Ivy-Curry, who has left the team and entered the transfer portal. – Photo by Joe Alexander

“We got tough opponents ahead of us,” Czumbel said. “That’s the good part. We have to face up to really good teams. It’s a challenge every night. I think we can improve and get ready for the tournament.”

First half

The Blazers made the most of their speed and athleticism, scoring 10 points on fast breaks as they assumed a 37-30 lead at intermission. UAB held a 22-10 edge in points in the paint.

Forward KJ Buffen scored 12 on 5 of 9 shooting. Michael Ertel and Jordan Walker scored seven apiece.

UAB took control early in the half with a 13-0 run. The spurt lifted the Blazers into a 26-14 lead when Ertel hit a shot in the paint with 8:35 remaining.

Jacob Germany, Darius McNeill, Dhieu Deing and Isaiah Addo-Ankrah paced the Roadrunners with six points apiece. Addo-Ankrah, Deing and McNeill all hit a couple of three pointers.

Records

UTSA 9-20, 2-14
UAB 21-7, 11-4

Coming up

March 3 — North Texas at UTSA, 7 p.m.
March 5 — Rice at UTSA, 2 p.m.

C-USA tournament

March 8 — Southern Miss vs. UTSA, at Frisco
March 9-12 — TBA

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