BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)Eric Gaines, Jordan ”Jelly” Walker and UAB figured out a way to end the nation’s longest winning streak.
Gaines scored 21 points, Walker returned from an injury with 13 points and six assists and the Blazers ended No. 19 Florida Atlantic’s 20-game winning streak with an 86-77 victory on Thursday night.
The Owls (21-2, 10-1 Conference USA) hadn’t lost since falling 80-67 to Mississippi on Nov. 11 and made their debut in the AP Top 25 2 1/2 weeks ago.
”I don’t say we’re glad it’s behind us, because we wish it was behind us after the season was over,” Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May said. ”Now, we’ll fade back into a really good team instead of a media darling.”
Walker returned from a foot injury that had sidelined him since Jan. 11. He came in averaging 23.8 points a game and the Blazers (16-7, 7-5) had averaged just 62 points in their last three outings, while winning two of them.
”When he’s on the floor it’s just as important with the spacing he creates to allow others to finish,” UAB coach Andy Kennedy said. ”He goes for a very pedestrian 13 but we score 86. That’s usually two games’ worth without him. It’s good to see us scoring the ball efficiently.”
The Blazers closed the first half on a 14-2 run capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Walker and Ty Brewer for a 43-30 lead.
Tavin Lovan added 10 points for UAB.
Nick Boyd led Florida Atlantic with 18 points. Johnell Davis added 17 on 5-of-19 shooting. Vladislav Golden had 13 points and seven rebounds, scoring 10 in the first half.
FAU outscored the Blazers 10-2 in the first 3:28 of the second half to get within three points. UAB regained control and twice built 16-point leads. The last one came with 4:55 left following five consecutive points by Walker.
Florida Atlantic made one last push after falling behind 78-62, starting with an 8-0 run. Davis hit a pair of 3s and made two free throws – and Boyd also made a 3 – to cut it to 80-73 with 1:49 left.
The Blazers didn’t let the Owls get any closer. May wasn’t surprised that Walker was back in the lineup.
”We prepared for Jelly to play,” he said. ”Obviously, he’s been day-to-day, game-to-game for a couple of weeks. With the number next to our name, the winning streak, he’s a good player that’s very competitive.
”We felt like the adrenaline would probably push him over the top.”
Florida Atlantic: Despite the late 3-pointers, it was a bad night outside the arc for the Owls. They made 8 of 36 (22%). FAU will have to wait to set the program’s single-season win record.
UAB: The Blazers, who have struggled at the free-throw line in some losses, were 26 of 31 from the line (84%). Gaines was 10 of 11. They also made 27 of 60 shots (45%) from the field.
Florida Atlantic visits Charlotte on Saturday.
UAB hosts Florida International on Saturday.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25