LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Robert Vaden scored a career-high 33 points including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:15 to play as UAB rallied past Kentucky 79-76 on Saturday.
Walter Sharpe added 16 points and Reggie Huffman had 10 points and 12 rebounds as the Blazers (8-4) ruined Kentucky’s annual visit to Freedom Hall, home of archrival Louisville.
The Blazers trailed by 14 but surged ahead on a 16-0 run fueled by Vaden as the Wildcats finally cooled off. UAB held Kentucky scoreless for more than five minutes, eventually taking a 66-64 lead with 5:22 remaining.
Though the Wildcats (4-4) managed to tie the game four times in the final minutes, the red-hot shooting that carried them to the lead abandoned them in the end.
Ramel Bradley led Kentucky with 23 points and six rebounds and Patrick Patterson added 18 points and seven rebounds, but Kentucky couldn’t overcome 18 turnovers and the scintillating play of Vaden.
The Indiana transfer scored 28 points in the second half as UAB coach Mike Davis was able to do something he rarely did while coaching at Indiana: beat the Wildcats.
After a sluggish first half, the Blazers shot 70 percent from the floor in the second half. Vaden led the way, hitting from all over the floor no matter how the Wildcats tried to guard him. Kentucky’s Michael Porter was the primary defender, but Vaden simply shot over the smaller Porter, hitting on an array of jumpers.
Still, Kentucky had its chances. Joe Crawford hit a difficult reverse layup to pull the Wildcats to 77-76 with 37 seconds left. Aaron Johnson hit two free throws for UAB, but Crawford’s awkward 3-point attempt clanged off the rim with 5 seconds left and the Blazers were able to run out the clock.
The rally seemed unlikely for the game’s first 30 minutes. The Wildcats, who had struggled all season shooting from the perimeter, couldn’t miss early.
Kentucky built a 12-point halftime lead behind Bradley and some torrid shooting, a welcome development for a team that has struggled from 3-point range all season.
Bradley hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 9-0 run that gave the Wildcats an early 17-9 edge, and they got hot again late in the half. Porter finished the half with a running 3-pointer at the buzzer, the crowd roaring its approval as Porter leapt in the air before sprinting to the locker room.
The Wildcats were able to hold off an early second-half surge, expanding the lead to 64-50 on a 3-pointer by Crawford with 10:49 remaining.
After a difficult stretch in losses to North Carolina and Indiana, the Wildcats seemed to finally develop the rhythm they’ve been lacking. But Vaden simply wouldn’t let the Wildcats run away. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers — both with hands in his face — during the 16-0 run that gave the Blazers their first lead since the opening minutes.