By David Brandt/The Associated Press
HATTIESBURG — Preston Purifoy nailed a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining to lead UAB to a 67-66 victory over Southern Miss on Wednesday night.
With the Blazers trailing by two, Purifoy was open and let loose a high-arching shot that rolled around the rim before falling through the net. UAB’s Jamarr Sanders scored all 18 of his points in the second half to lead the Blazers.
Gary Flowers and R.L. Horton each scored 16 for the Golden Eagles. Flowers made an 18-footer with 22 seconds remaining that looked like it might be the game-winner before Purifoy’s heroics.
Flowers was the one defending Purifoy on his shot, jumping out to put a hand in his face. But it didn’t matter. Purifoy, a freshman, adjusted his jumper so that it hung in the air for what seemed like forever before going through.
Though he was averaging just four points per game coming into Wednesday, Purifoy ranks first on the team with a 46 percent 3-point shooting percentage.
UAB (21-7, 11-4) clinched at least a share of the Conference USA title.
Southern Miss (21-8, 9-6) led the entire game until UAB’s Ovie Soko hit a short jumper to put the Blazers ahead 38-36 early in the second half.
It was a desperate game for both teams, which were both fighting for the top of Conference USA and a slim chance at an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. UAB was ranked No. 31 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings released on Monday while Southern Miss was No. 41.
Southern Miss led 32-28 at halftime. Flowers led the Golden Eagles with eight points and seven rebounds.
It was the third time this season Southern Miss lost after an opponent hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds. The other losses came to Memphis and Central Florida.
UAB won despite shooting just 4 of 14 (28.6 percent) from the free-throw line. The Blazers made up for that ugly stat by outrebounding the Golden Eagles 40-29, including 18-6 on the offensive glass.
UAB avenged a 75-71 loss to Southern Miss on Feb. 2 in Birmingham, Ala.