Hilltoppers fall to UAB in first conference road game 72-62

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- (WBKO) WKU Hilltopper Basketball had opportunities late Thursday at UAB, but couldn’t get over the hump in a 72-62 loss.

The Hilltoppers (9-6 overall, 2-1 Conference USA) cut what was once a 13-point deficit to one with 5:24 to play, but gave up four straight free throws on a shooting foul and a technical foul.

WKU got back within three with 3:39 left, then surrendered a 9-0 UAB run that proved too much to overcome.

“We were battling our butts off,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said

“It wasn’t easy to get points in the paint. Those guys are big, they’re strong – they’re a really good defensive team. It wasn’t easy to drive it into the paint, either, so we didn’t get to the free-throw line as much. I’m proud of the way our guys battled to give ourselves an opportunity, but you have to eliminate those points that hurt our team.”

WKU missed its first seven shots of the game, but still led 13-8 after a 3-pointer by redshirt junior forward Carson Williams.

UAB (10-6, 1-2) went on a 12-2 run to open a 20-15 advantage at the 8:08 mark, then scored the last five points of the half to make it 31-25 at the break.

The Blazers pushed the lead to 13 with 16:39 to play, but WKU went on a 16-6 run to cut it to one possession.

A dunk by junior guard Josh Anderson made it 56-55 UAB with 5:24 left, when freshman guard Jordan Rawls was whistled for a technical after a shooting foul.

The Blazers made all four free throws, then scored nine in a row after junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth brought WKU back within three. The start of that 9-0 run was a hook shot by UAB’s Will Butler as the shot clock expired.

“We had a lot of momentum, and to give them easy points doesn’t help the hole we were digging,” said Hollingsworth, who was also called for a technical. “We just have to learn from that.”

Hollingsworth led WKU with 19 points, while Williams added 12 points and eight rebounds.

Redshirt senior guard/forward Jared Savage (11 points), Rawls (10) and Anderson (10) were all in double figures. Savage grabbed nine rebounds, and Rawls dished out five assists in a full 40 minutes in his first career start.

Graduate senior guard Camron Justice came off the bench for the first time in just eight minutes of action after missing practice all week with a back injury.

Tavin Lovan scored 16 points to pace UAB, which outrebounded WKU 41-29 and outscored the Hilltoppers in the paint 42-16.

“We made some really big mistakes late,” Williams said. “That hurt us big. Small margin for error in a tough conference road game. Small margin for error for those mistakes we can’t afford to have.

The Hilltoppers stay on the road to face rival Middle Tennessee at 5 p.m. CT Saturday in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.