BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Elijah Millsap had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and UAB never trailed for the second consecutive NIT game in beating North Carolina State 72-52 on Saturday.
No. 2 seed UAB (25-8), which tied the school record for wins in a season, will host fourth-seeded North Carolina on Tuesday in the tournament quarterfinals. The Tar Heels, last year's national champions, beat top-seeded Mississippi State 76-74 earlier Saturday.The Blazers made eight of their first 11 shots while jumping out to a 19-5 lead. They extended their advantage to 26-7, as the sixth-seeded Wolfpack committed nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes."We wanted to play physical. We're really good when we play physical," UAB coach Mike Davis said. "When we rebound the ball and play physical defense, it's a challenge to play us. They seemed to be back on their heels a little bit by how physical we were at the beginning of the game."UAB led 37-17 at halftime. It was the fewest first-half points scored by N.C. State (20-16) this season."I didn't see that coming. I didn't think it would be like this," said Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe, whose team had won six of its past eight after a five-game skid in midseason. "These guys have done a great job up to this point of playing well, playing the right way and winning tough ballgames. I didn't see us coming out the way we did."The game looked a lot like UAB's tournament opener against Coastal Carolina, in which the Blazers scored the first eight points and led by double digits most of the way.UAB put away the Wolfpack behind Millsap, who scored 16 points in the first 11 minutes of the second half to help the Blazers build a 60-33 cushion."We've really been stressing getting the ball inside and playing off the big guys," said Millsap, who had only five points at halftime. "We did that this time, and it really opened things up for me."They were so focused on [forwards] Howard [Crawford] and [Kenneth] Cooper that they forgot about me. It was so easy to get to the paint after that."UAB's defensive pressure rattled the Wolfpack into 6-of-25 shooting in the first half (24 percent)."They played a very aggressive, physical game," Lowe said. "UAB did a great job of pressuring all the positions, and we were just doing everything a little too fast. They really beat us up in the post."Dennis Horner had 23 points and eight rebounds for N.C. State. He shot 7 of 12 from the field, while the rest of the team was a combined 12 for 41.