Saturday , Mar , 20 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

UAB edges Huskies in first-round shootout

=== UAB edges Huskies in first-round shootout ===

Columbus, OH (Sports Network) – Demario Eddins scored a career-high 26 points
and came up with some big plays down the stretch, leading UAB to a 102-100
victory over Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at
Nationwide Arena.

Morris Finley added 20 points for the Blazers (21-9), who are seeded ninth in
the St. Louis bracket and earned a second-round matchup with top-seeded
Kentucky on Sunday. UAB had lost five straight NCAA Tournament games since a
first-round victory in the 1986 tourney.

Nate Robinson poured in a game-high 27 points for Washington (19-12), which
was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999.

The Blazers won it at the line in the final minutes, making 9-of-13 free
throws to stave off the Huskies.

A pair of misses by Finley with 27 seconds gave Washington some life and
Robinson drove to the basket for a layup to make it a 98-97 game.

Eddins then made two from the line for a three-point lead and Washington again
went for a quick two on a drive, but Eddins blocked Will Conroy’s attempt with
17 seconds to play.

Squeaky Johnson made the second of two free throws for a four-point edge, and
Tre Simmons connected for a three-pointer to pull the Huskies within 101-100.

Finley was fouled with just 1.3 seconds to play and hit the first free throw.
The second was off the mark and Brandon Roy grabbed the rebound. Roy’s
desperation heave from near the foul line hit the top of the backboard as time

Eddins finished 13-of-15 from the line and UAB hit 33-of-44 from the stripe as
a team.

“Everyone has told us that winning the first-round game is the hardest part of
the tournament. I don’t believe that,” said UAB forward Gabe Kennedy. “I think
it is only going to get harder from here on out. I mean, our next game is
against Kentucky and this is going to be the biggest challenge we have ever

UAB opened a 90-84 lead on a three-pointer by Finley with 3:17 to play, but
Washington followed with the next five points to pull within one. A driving
layup by Robinson made it a 90-89 game with 1:54 left.

The Blazers then worked the clock and were running out of time when Johnson
fired up a 25-foot shot that fell through to make it a four-point game.

Conroy followed with a basket to pull Washington within 93-91 with just over a
minute left and Finley hit one free throw at the other end for a three-point

Robinson was then called for a charge, and it came down to free throw shooting
for the Blazers.

“This win further proved we can play in this tournament,” said UAB guard Tony
Johnson. “It’s a great confidence booster for us. Offensively we played great,
our shooting was on and we kept our turnovers to a minimum.”

UAB raced out to a 10-4 lead and held a 19-9 advantage before Washington
scored six straight. The Blazers again pushed the lead to nine, but the
Huskies kept it close and pulled within 38-36 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the
opening half.

A three-pointer and a layup on consecutive Washington possessions by Robinson
tied it at 43-43, and Robinson added a three-pointer moments later to put the
Huskies on top for the first time.

Washington went to the break with a 53-51 lead.

UAB used a 16-1 run early in the second half to turn a four-point deficit into
an 11-point lead at 72-61 with just over 12 minutes remaining.

“We just had some miscommunication as a team,” Robinson said about
Washington’s struggles early in the second half. “I missed a couple of guys
and had a couple turnovers early and that held us down.”

The Huskies closed within five at 81-76 on a Robinson jumper five minutes
later and stayed within striking distance.