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UAB races back to defeat Canisius men’s basketball

Scott Hitchon


Game Recap
The UAB Blazers erased a 15-point deficit in the first half and outscored Canisius 37-23 in the second half to record a 68-58 win over the Golden Griffins Sunday afternoon in the seventh-place game of the 2018 AdvoCare Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. UAB moves to 4-2 on the year with the win, while the Griffs slipped to 1-5 with their fifth-straight defeat.
Canisius sophomore Takal Molson scored a team-high 15 points in the loss, while fellow sophomoreScott Hitchon added a career-high 13 points to go with a career-best five rebounds. After opening the game shooting 50.0 percent from the field (9-for-18) in the game's first 12:16, the Griffs went cold, and ended up making just 7-of-35 shots (20.0 percent) for the remaining 27:44 of the contest. For the game, Canisius shot 35.8 percent from the field, 20 percent from 3-point land and 80.0 percent from the free-throw line.
UAB sophomore Zack Bryant scored a game-high 26 points, with 14 of those points coming prior to halftime. He also added five boards, four assists and seven steals in 37 minutes off the bench. Jeremiah Bell was good for 15 points for the Blazers, who shot 48.1 percent from the field, 29.4 percent from 3-point range and 73.3 percent from the charity stripe. Jalen Perry chipped in 11 points and senior big man Lewis Sullivan scored two points to go along with nine rebounds and three blocked shots before fouling out of the contest.
Canisius opened the game red-hot, using a 24-7 run over the span of 10:11 to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 24-9 lead with 7:44 left before the halftime break. After a UAB timeout, the Blazers answered Canisius' opening run with a 22-7 scoring spurt of their own, fueled by 12 points from Bryant. Canisius junior Malik Johnsonscored the final four points in the closing 7.2 seconds of the first half to send the Griffs into the locker room up 35-31 at the break.
UAB came out of the locker room after intermission and took control of the game, however, as the Blazers outscored the Blue and Gold 13-2 in the first 3:17 of the second session to take a seven-point lead at 44-37. The UAB lead ballooned to as many as nine midway through the second half before a pair of free-throws by senior Jibreel Faulkner with 4:42 left on the clock made the score 56-54 in favor of UAB. Canisius again trimmed the UAB cushion to two points at 58-56 with 2:28 remaining when Johnson sank a pair from the charity stripe, but a 3-point field goal by Bell and two free-throw makes by Perry stretched the Blazers' hold back to seven at 63-56 with 1:43 left to play.
Sanks scored a season-high nine points in the loss for Canisius, while Johnson and fellow junior Isaiah Reese scored six points, apiece. Junior Kejuan Johnson-Alls added five points, three boards, a blocked shot and a steal to the losing effort as the Griffs dropped their fifth-straight games for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign.
UAB ended the game with a 37-28 advantage in rebounding, the fifth-straight game where the Blue and Gold has lost the rebounding battle. Canisius forced UAB into 22 turnovers, but the Griffs turned it over 20 times on their own, and the teams ended the game even at 22-22 in points scored off turnovers.    
Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon's Postgame Comments
"I thought we came ready to play, and we jumped on them early, but we settled for too many tough 3-pointers in the first half and that allowed them to get right back into the game. This was another game where we were dominated on the boards. We knew coming in that teams are really going to focus on hitting the offensive glass. They had nine offensive rebounds in the second half and those turned into seven points in their favor."
"I hope that we can come out of this and not be totally discouraged as a team. We've had segments in all of our games down here where we have played well, we just have not been able to sustain that level of focus, intensity and execution for long-enough periods of play. No one is going to feel sorry for us, we need to get back home and really focus on ourselves as we move forward."
Game Notes
• This was the second all-time meeting between Canisius and UAB, and the first since the 1999-00 season. UAB has won both meetings.
• The Griffs were credited with nine steals in the losing effort, the fifth time this season the Blue and Gold have recorded five or more steals in a game.
• Hitchon's 13 points on Sunday was his second double-digit scoring effort of the season. He had a previous career-high of 10 points in the loss to Albany Nov. 17.
• Molson extended his streak of scoring 10-or more points in a game to nine straight, dating back to last year, with his 15 points against UAB. He's been the team's leading scorer in four of the six contests to date this season.
• Johnson's three assists on Sunday gives him 315 in his career, which ties him with former guard BinkyJohnson for 14th in program history.
• Sanks' two makes from 3-point land on Sunday marks the second time this year and the 14th time in his career where he has connected on multiple 3-point field goals in a game.

Up Next
Canisius will return to New York State and travel south to Olean, N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 28, when the team takes on long-time rival St. Bonaventure. Tipoff in the Reilly Center is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN+. The radio call can be heard on WECK-Radio Buffalo, GoGriffs.com and the TuneIn app.

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