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January 21, 2009BIRMINGHAM, ALA. - Aaron Johnson's layup with 7:47 remaining triggered a crucial late run that sent UAB to a 78-73 win over UTEP on Wednesday at Bartow Arena.
The Blazers (12-7, 2-2 C-USA) trailed 53-52 after UTEP's Tavaris Watts buried a three pointer with 8:03 to go. But Johnson's bucket jump-started a string of six consecutive points that left the Miners playing catch-up the rest of the night.
UAB was victorious for the 22nd time in its last 23 games at Bartow Arena, while winning its fourth in a row over the Miners (11-7, 2-2 C-USA).
UTEP spotted UAB a 9-0 lead in the first two and a half minutes, but rallied to within a point (36-35) at halftime. The Miners took their first lead of the game, 41-40, on a layup by Stefon Jackson with 16:57 to play. It was the first of four one-point leads that UTEP would enjoy in the second half, although the Miners could never widen their margin.
After Johnson gave the Blazers the lead for good, they built a couple of eight point leads before a late rally by UTEP came up short.
The Miners cut the deficit to three points twice (74-71 and 76-73) in the final 30 seconds, but UAB responded by hitting free throws each time.
Randy Culpepper (26 points) and Jackson (24) combined to score 50 points for UTEP. Culpepper had the hot hand in the first half, going 5-for-6 from the field, 3-for-3 from outside and 3-for-3 from the line.
Culpepper's 16 first-half points offset the 18 scored by the Blazers' Robert Vaden, who was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc prior to intermission. Vaden finished with 21 points.
Howard Crawford (19 points), Channing Toney (17) and Paul Delaney III (11) joined Vaden in double figures for UAB.
Both teams shot 47 percent from the floor and 88 percent from the line, and UTEP outrebounded UAB 35-25. But the Blazers made six more free throws and forced 21 turnovers.
The Miners will host Tulsa on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. MST.
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