(Video above: UAB interviewed after upset victory over Iowa State)
The No. 14 seed UAB Blazers became the 2015 NCAA tournament’s first Cinderella story on Thursday by upsetting No. 3 seed Iowa State in a 60-59 nail-biter that came down to the very last play of the game.
Iowa State had the ball down by 3 with 7.5 seconds left on the clock. A defensive breakdown for the Blazers allowed the inbound pass to make it into the hands of Naz Long, a sharpshooting guard who had shot over 40 percent from three-point range on the season. Long’s three came up short, however, before being tipped in with under a second to go, leaving the Cyclones still down one with no chance to regain possession.
The win marks the Blazers’ first tournament victory since the 2004-2005 season.
The Cyclones had trouble hitting shots throughout the game, going just 6 of 23 frown three point range. But even though Iowa State had an off night, UAB deserves a lot of credit for playing with a fierce tenacity throughout the game, and their Cinderella run may just be getting started.
“UAB has busted a lot of brackets already, but it might not be done,” declared ESPN’s Brian Bennet. “This team is playing with no fear and nothing to lose and it has a red-hot hand in (Robert) Brown. The junior guard was the Conference USA tournament MVP. It’s got a pair of big guys in Mehinti and Lee, who combined for 18 rebounds. The winner of the SMU-UCLA game had better be wary.”
UAB was just 16-15 on the season before ripping through the Conference USA Tournament and earning a bid in the Big Dance.
They went down 12-2 early on Thursday before storming back, thanks in large part to a tremendous effort on the boards. UAB out-rebounded Iowa State 52-37. William Lee was particularly clutch down the stretch, hitting a mid-range jumper in the final moments, then sinking two free throws to put the game out of reach.
“It’s unbelievable how proud I am of our guys,” said UAB coach Jerod Haase. “We played great… We played extremely hard. Pride is the emotion, my feeling toward these guys.”
(Below: William Lee’s big shot)
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) December 3, 2014