Bulldogs Fall At UAB, 67-57

UAB scoring leader Elija Millsap, held in check for most of the game, sparked a 10-2 scoring run in the final two minutes to lead the host Blazers to a 67-57 victory over Butler in a non-league test at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala. on Tuesday, Dec. 22.  The victory was the tenth straight for the 11-1 Blazers.

The late run by the Conference USA leader ended a Butler comeback attempt that saw the Bulldogs nearly erase a 16-point deficit.  It also saddled the Bulldogs with their fourth loss in 12 outings.

Millsap, who entered the game averaging 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds, battled foul problems and Butler’s defensive efforts through most of the game and managed just five points in the first 38 minutes.  But with the Blazers hanging on to a tenuous 57-55 lead and just under two minutes remaining, the 6-6 guard came up big.  He started the run with a steal, on which he was fouled,  and a free throw.

Following a Butler miss, UAB’s Jamar Sanders scored to make it 60-55, and then Millsap came up with another steal, leading to a conventional three-point play and a 63-55 advantage.  Millsap then followed a pair of free throws by Butler’s Ronald Nored with two free throws of his own to all but settle the outcome.

UAB’s Howard Crawford hit two more free throws with 0:15 left to give UAB its 31st consecutive non-conference win in Bartow Arena.  The Bulldogs missed their final seven shots in the game.

“We can go into a lot details and we can go into a lot of reasons why, but they made more plays than we did and that’s a good basketball team,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens.

Butler struggled against the aggressive UAB defense for much of the game.  The Bulldogs hit just seven of 27 (.259) shots in the first half and connected on just 19 of 56 (.339) shots for the game.  Those shooting woes contributed to a 10-point deficit at halftime, 32-22, and a 51-35 deficit midway through the second half.

But the Bulldogs battled back with a 20-6 scoring run over a seven-and-a-half minute stretch late in the second half.  Guard Shelvin Mack sparked the run with nine points, while senior Avery Jukes added five.  Senior Willie Veasley, sophomore Gordon Hayward and Nored each contributed a pair to close the gap to 57-55.

The Bulldogs had two chances to tie the game or take a lead, but came up empty on both possessions.

Junior guards Jamar Sanders and Aaron Johnson picked up the scoring slack for UAB, while Millsap struggled.  Sanders finished with 18 points, including three key three-point field goals.  Johnson, a 5-8 point guard, posted a double-double with 12 points, all in the first half, and 10 rebounds!

Hayward led the Bulldogs with 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, while Mack finished with 11 points and Veasley added 10.

Butler will take a brief holiday break, before returning to Horizon League play at home against first place Green Bay (10-3, 3-0) on New Year’s Eve.  That game will start at 7 p.m. (ET)