Sophomore guard Deion Lavender defends the ball against an MTSU player. Photo by Ian Keel/Photo EditorSophomore guard Deion Lavender defends the ball against an MTSU player. Photo by Ian Keel/Photo EditorConnor Gentry
Sports Reporter

The UAB Men’s Basketball team squared off against the No. 1 team in Conference USA, the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, on the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 26. The Blue Raiders had a regular season championship title on the line with this matchup.

The Blue Raiders (25-4, 15-1) came into this game comfortably seated in the top spot in the conference. They looked to hold their lead as well as to clinch the regular season championship for the conference.

MTSU took 59 shots throughout the course of the game and converted 26 of them for 44.1 percent. Senior forward Reggie Upshaw led the Blue Raiders in scoring and rebounding. Upshaw tallied 19 points and pulled down six boards while shooting 57.1 percent, eight of 14 from the floor and three of four from 3-point range. MTSU redshirt senior forward and Birmingham native JaCorey Williams chipped in 15 points and five boards of his own.

The Blue Raiders outrebounded UAB 33 to 26, but the most telling part of this statistic was that they out offensive rebounded UAB 12 to four. This allowed the Blue Raiders to score 11 more second-chance points than the Blazers.

UAB converted 22 of their 45 shot attempts for 48.9 percent and were led in scoring by junior forward Chris Cokley. Cokley scored 22 points on six of 12 shooting and made all 10 of his free throws. Junior forward William Lee tallied 17 points of his own on seven of eight shooting. The Blazers committed eight turnovers in the first half of the game but only gave up one in the second half.

The Blazers’ bench players outscored the Blue Raiders’ bench 26-17, with almost all of UAB’s points coming from Cokley.

Cokley passed the late Cameron Moore for twentieth on the all-time scorers list at UAB with his performance. Moore played for the Blazers from 2008-2012 and was honored before the game. He passed away in October of 2016 while training overseas in Macedonia.

The game was tied with less than a minute left when Tyrik Dixon drove down the lane and connected with JaCorey Williams, who knocked down a 17-footer to put the Blue Raiders ahead by two with four seconds left in the game. The Blazers inbounded the ball and got it to senior guard Dirk Williams. Williams had a good look for a game-winning 3-pointer, but it rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.

The Blazers lost by a final score of 66 to 64. They have two home games remaining in the regular season against Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University.

Connor Gentry can be reached at zcgentry@uab.edu and on Twitter @zcgentry.