Eric Gaines scored 21 points as Alabama-Birmingham ended the nation’s longest active win streak at 20 games by downing No. 19 Florida Atlantic 86-77 on Thursday night in Birmingham, Ala.
Florida Atlantic (21-2, 11-1 Conference USA) hadn’t lost since a Nov. 11 visit to Mississippi.
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Jordan Walker, the UAB scoring leader (23.8 ppg) who hadn’t played in a few weeks because of a bruised foot, returned to action and finished with seven of his 13 points after halftime. The Blazers (16-7, 7-5), winners of three games in a row, also received 10 points from Tavin Lovan.
Nicholas Boyd racked up 18 points, reserve Johnell Davis posted 17 points and Vladislav Goldin had 13 points for Florida Atlantic.
UAB was boosted by a 45-37 rebounding edge and by 26-for-31 shooting on free throws. Gaines made 10 of 11 of his foul shots.
Walker played for the first time since Jan. 11. He was used as a reserve, but limited to one field goal on six attempts in the first half.
Florida Atlantic used a 12-2 run to cut its deficit to 45-42 early in the second half.
Florida Atlantic was within 54-50 before UAB went on a 14-2 tear that ended with Walker posting five points in a 21-second span, ending with about nine minutes remaining.
The Owls scored the next six points, but their comeback efforts continued to stall. When Gaines made four consecutive free throws in a 33-second span, UAB was in a good spot in the last five minutes.
UAB put together a 13-2 run to close the first half to take a 43-30 lead to the break. That included Florida Atlantic’s scoring drought of almost four minutes during UAB’s 8-0 spurt.
While Florida Atlantic had two players — Goldin and Boyd with 10 points each — with double-figure scoring in the first half, UAB didn’t have any player at that level. But the Blazers had nine players with at least three points apiece.
The Blazers held a 15-6 edge in first-half scoring on free throws. Florida Atlantic was 2-for-15 on 3-point attempts in the opening half.
–Field Level Media
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