Wild win sends UAB to NIT semifinals in NYC

November, 19, 2008

Mike Davis desperately needed a signature win at UAB, one that had lasting significance.

But he had no idea it would come in such a bizarre circumstance.

The Blazers beat Kentucky in Louisville last season, but that was one game without shelf life.

Beating Arizona on Tuesday night -- in one of the more surreal endings you'll see -- catapulted the Blazers into the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals in New York. They'll face Oklahoma and then either Purdue or Boston College next week at Madison Square Garden.

Arizona inexplicably fouled the Blazers twice in the final 30 seconds, even though the game was tied at 71.

The Wildcats caught a break when Arizona freshman Garland Judkins missed the second of a one-and-one at the free-throw line to make the score 71-69. UAB's Robert Vaden grabbed the rebound but couldn't hold onto the ball. Arizona freshman Kyle Fogg got the loose ball and put it in for a layup to tie the game.

But then Fogg immediately fouled UAB's Aaron Johnson. Johnson missed the free throw. Arizona had the ball back with 24 seconds left, called a timeout with 17 ticks left on the clock and for some reason set up a play for Nic Wise instead of Chase Budinger.

The Arizona Daily Star quoted Budinger as saying he would like to be the one to take the shot next time. Wise missed the jumper and the rebound came down to UAB's Paul Delaney III. He had to heave a three-quarter-court shot with one second left.

"He had no chance to make that basket,'' Davis said by phone from Tucson early Wednesday morning.

Yet, for some unknown reason, Arizona sophomore forward Jamelle Horne lunged to foul Delaney, drawing an intentional foul with one second left.

Delaney made 1-of-2 free throws: ball game. UAB won 72-71 (even after the Blazers almost threw the ball away on their inbounds play after getting possession due to the intentional foul).

Davis said the same thing happened to the Blazers in his first season two years ago. One of his players fouled someone on Central Florida as the Golden Knights player was trying to outrun the Blazers player.

"I remember saying, 'What are we doing?''' Davis said.

The expressions on the faces of the Arizona fans, players and coaches showed their dismay over the inability of the players to know the score. Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell was quoted after the game as saying Horne was distraught over the error.

"It was unbelievable,'' Davis said. "This is good for our program, for Conference USA, for us. This will help our program.''

UAB is now off to New York, while Arizona is heading to Georgia for two consolation games next week. UAB gets national television coverage during Thanksgiving week and a much-needed spot on a big stage for what could be a potential NCAA team. Arizona doesn't get any of that.

However, the Blazers have to play at Old Dominion on Saturday first. The Monarchs just beat Charlotte, so UAB could be walking into a trap game. Still, getting to New York could do wonders for a Blazers team that is devoid of size but extremely effective on the perimeter with Delaney III and Vaden.

UAB should challenge UTEP and possibly Tulsa for second place in C-USA, assuming Memphis doesn't falter and wins the conference yet again.

The NIT consolation bracket is set and Arizona will fly to Athens, Ga., for games Monday and Tuesday (since the women have a home game on Tuesday). The Wildcats will play Mississippi Valley State on Monday and Santa Clara on Tuesday.

This marks the first year the NIT is guaranteeing that the 12 teams which don't make the semifinals in New York are ensured of four games in the event.

If the NIT hadn't done this, the tournament would have run the risk of not getting enough teams for the field, since a number of teams don't want to be in events without a guarantee of more than two games.

The other two sites are Davidson -- where the Wildcats will host Florida Atlantic and then Loyola (Md.) -- and James Madison -- which will play Loyola (Md.) and FAU.

St. John's will play Eastern Michigan on Monday and then Loyola (Ill.) on Tuesday. Cornell will play Loyola (Ill.) on Monday and then Eastern Michigan on Tuesday.

Arizona was the only host school in the NIT not to make it to New York for next week's semifinals. Oklahoma, Purdue and Boston College all advanced. The four teams that left their sites winless in two games were Loyola (Md.), Santa Clara (despite John Bryant's 25 points against FAU), Eastern Michigan and Mississippi Valley State.

The Delta Devils' ridiculous schedule continues with games at Montana (Thursday), Arkansas State (Saturday) and now the two in Athens on Monday and Tuesday against Arizona and Georgia. MVSU has already been to Arizona State, Washington State and Oklahoma (to play the Sooners and James Madison).

• The Final Four sites for 2012 to 2016 shouldn't come as a shock. New Orleans got another chance to host in 2012. Atlanta, which was a success in 2007, will host in 2013, newcomer North Texas (i.e. the Cowboys' new digs) will host in 2014, and NCAA host city Indianapolis will host again in 2015. The surprise to me was that Houston got another chance to host in 2016 before the NCAA has an opportunity to see how it handles its site in 2011 at Reliant Stadium. I would have waited to see how it works out before giving Houston another shot. San Antonio has always been a fan, player, coach and media favorite, and yet the Riverwalk was squeezed out for the North Dallas-area and Houston in the state of Texas.

• What a day for the Curry family even with the two losses. Seth Curry scored 18 points in Liberty's loss to UNC-Asheville and then Steph Curry scored 44 in Davidson's loss at Oklahoma.

• With North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough nursing a stress reaction, the player of the year race is open. The two clear candidates after the first week are Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and Davidson's Curry. They put on quite a show in Norman, Okla., on Tuesday night, with Curry scoring the aforementioned 44 and Griffin going for 25 points and 21 boards.

Notable nuggets from Tuesday night

• Keno Davis got his first win at Providence by beating Dartmouth.

Joe Trapani, formerly of Vermont, continues to be a huge hit for Boston College, as he scored 19 in the Eagles' NIT Season Tip-Off second-round win over St. John's.

• Utah followed up the home loss to Division II Southwest Baptist by beating UW-Green Bay at home behind Luke Nevill's 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Jon Brockman continues to look like he'll be in a two-man race with Arizona State's James Harden for Pac-10 player of the year. Brockman led Washington with 23 points and 13 rebounds in a much-needed win over Cleveland State.

• It's hard not to overstate how bizarre it is that Rob Jones, the grandson of the late Jim Jones, leader of Jonestown and mastermind in a mass suicide, led San Diego with 23 points in USD's win over Nevada on the 30th year anniversary of the horrific event.

• Washington State's defense has been phenomenal so far. The Cougars went on a 28-0 run to start the game against Mississippi Valley State last weekend and won 76-25. Washington State then held Fairleigh Dickinson to 33 points in the 22-point win Tuesday night.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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