The University of Alabama-Birmingham, having spent six seasons trying to make a name for itself in college basketball, took a big step toward that goal in its seventh.
Tonight, the Blazers defeated Kansas, 50-46, to win the seventh annual Great Alaska Shootout. The victory completed a weekend in which UAB came from eight points down to beat Tennessee, then upset second-ranked Illinois before coming from behind to win tonight.
UAB (3-0) won the game when point guard Steve Mitchell, voted the tournament's outstanding player, made a three-point play with 28 seconds left. He ducked under a defender to sink a double-pump, 10-foot bank shot with Kansas ahead, 46-45.
After Mitchell made it 48-46 with his foul shot, the Jayhawks had two chances to tie. But guard Curtis Hunter twice missed shots in close and UAB's Jerome Mincy rebounded the second miss, ending 19th-ranked Kansas' chances.
Earlier, in the third-place game, Illinois came from behind three times in overtime and escaped with a 75-72 triple-overtime victory over Oregon. Doug Altenberger rescued the Illini from an embarrassing two-loss weekend with 33 points.
Although it was Mitchell's basket that won the final for UAB, the key play in the game might have come with 10:50 left when Kansas center Greg Dreiling was ejected after a scuffle with UAB's Archie Johnson.
The incident occurred with Kansas leading, 36-32, and in possession. As guard Mark Turgeon tried to set up the offense, Dreiling and Johnson became entangled. Dreiling ended up trying to put Johnson in a headlock. That, apparently, was what the officials saw because Dreiling was ejected and Johnson was awarded two foul shots.
"He hit me first but I'm not going to jump on the guy," Dreiling said. "My mistake was retaliating and getting caught. I don't look for fights."
Kansas Coach Larry Brown refused to blame the loss on Dreiling's absence, even though UAB dominated inside after his ejection. "We had our chances," Brown said. "We were playing a lot of young kids and some of them were reluctant to shoot at the end and we made some mistakes. We came here to learn."
But Brown couldn't resist adding, "I've never seen a situation like that where just one kid gets ejected."
The teams were never separated by more than three points in the last five minutes as both -- as has been the case for everyone throughout the tournament -- shot horribly. Kansas shot 31 percent the second half and 39 percent the last while UAB was even worse, 31 percent the second half and 36 percent for the game. Combined, the teams were 14 of 31 from the foul line.
Mitchell led all scorers tonight with 18 points. Ron Kellogg had 13 for Kansas and freshman superstar-to-be Danny Manning had 13 points and 11 rebounds. He finished the tournament with 38 points and 31 rebounds.