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Conference USA Tournament: UAB Wins over Middle Tennessee State for Title

The 4-Seed Blazers take home the conference championship, and advance to their first NCAA tournament since 2011. UAB won their first conference championship since winning the Sun Belt in 1987.

Tyler Madison helped UAB slam Middle Tennessee.
Tyler Madison helped UAB slam Middle Tennessee.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The seas parted so to speak for the Blazers, starting with the tournament being in Birmingham, and Middle Tennessee did a lot of the heavy lifting for them.

MTSU edged out Charlotte in the first round, 63-60. The 49ers shot over 50 percent from the field, but they couldn't find a way to upset the Blue Raiders. Later in the week, Charlotte big man Mike Thorne, Jr., announced he would transfer for his senior year.

In the quarterfinals, MTSU and their defense ground out a win over 3-seed Old Dominion. Perrin Buford, who had 14 points and five rebounds against Charlotte, came through again with 17 points and five rebounds against ODU.

On the other side of the bracket, 5-seed Western Kentucky led the UAB Blazers 50-46 with just over a minute to play. Nick Norton, who led UAB with 11 points, hit a big 3-pointer to get close and UAB came back for the win, 53-52.

UAB rode the momentum into the semifinals, where they took a 36-26 over 1-seed Louisiana Tech into halftime. The Blazers led 58-47 with just over five minutes to play, but LA Tech scored the last 11 points to force overtime. UAB outscored the Bulldogs 14-4 in overtime for a final score of 72-62. Robert Brown had 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists for UAB and Tosin Mehinti added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Again, Middle Tennessee pulled an upset behind their defense, knocking of 2-seed UTEP 53-50. DJ Jones had 17 points of the bench for the Blue Raiders, who had six blocks and four steals in the game.

MTSU entered Saturday's game against the hometown Blazers, facing their fourth game in four days. UAB jumped out to a 37-26 point lead at halftime and the lead got as high as 69-47 as MTSU ran out of gas.

UAB, behind 22 points and four assists from Robert Brown, went on to win 73-60. The Blazers finished 9-for-19 from 3-point land and out rebounded MTSU 30-21. Perrin Buford had 11 points for MTSU.

UAB won the championship with four sophomores and three freshmen in their nine-man rotation. Seniors Robert Brown and CJ Washington played big roles on the team, but UAB has a lot coming back looking ahead toward the next two seasons.