TROY — In an ear-splitting start to basketball season and the Scott Cross era, Troy went from 12 points down to five points up before UAB spoiled the party in the final seconds.
The Blazers’ Makhtar Gueye hit a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining that lifted the visitors to a 76-75 victory that opened the season for both teams.
Troy’s Darian Adams dribbled nearly the length of the court and drew hard contact about 10 feet from the basket, but there was no call and his shot hit the backboard and bounced away at the buzzer.
Until the last 10 seconds, it looked like the Trojans would win behind an inspired comeback.
UAB’s Zack Bryant nearly won the game by himself. Bryant, who co-led UAB with 17 points along with teammate Jalen Benjamin, drilled a 3-pointer from left wing that cut a five-point lead to 73-71 with 1:04 remaining.
He then got a steal near midcourt and took it in with a big jam that tied the game with 44 seconds to play.
Troy’s KJ Simon, who finished with a game-high 21 points, brought the raucous crowd that included the full Sound of the Sound Band to its feet with a driving layup along the left baseline that put Troy on top 75-73 with 34 seconds to play.
Troy trailed 61-49 with 8:46 remaining. Adams and Ty Gordon sparked a comeback down the stretch. Gordon, who scored 18 points, hit consecutive 3-pointers during that run that pulled Troy within 61-60. He then drew a foul and made one of two free throws to tie it with 6:17 left.
Adams, who also finished with 18 points, hit a 3-pointer and then broke a 64-all tie with a driving layup with 4:41 remaining.
The Trojans outscored UAB 19-3 and led 68-64 with four minutes remaining.
The first four minutes foretold a typical season opener with a lot of rust and some questionable shot selection. Both teams were 1 for 6 from the field and both teams put up five 3-pointers in that span.
But those opening minutes also indicated a close game. Both had five rebounds, two offensive boards two turnovers and the score was 3-3.
The Blazers settled down first and opened some daylight over the Trojans. Benjamin, who scored 10 points in the first half, got hot. His 3-pointer put the Blazers up 23-11 with 7:25 left in the first half.
But that was the last field goal by the Blazers before halftime. Troy responded with Simon getting the comeback started with a layup. A thunderous dunk by Davion Thomas on a nice assist from Gordon made it 24-17. Thomas returned the favor as Gordon cut down the lane for a bucket with 3:09 left in the half.
Adams drilled a 3-pointer with 1:55 left that cut the deficit to a basket, 24-22. Simon came up with a steal in the backcourt and laid it in for the tie.
UAB’s Makhtar Gueye made one of two foul shots after an offensive rebound. But Gordon sent Troy to the locker room with momentum when he made consecutive 3-pointers for a 30-25 lead.
Tavin Lovan hit another foul shot that pulled the Blazers within 30-26 at halftime. The Trojans outscored UAB 19-3 over the final 7:25.