Deontay Wilder, left, fights Luis Ortiz during the third round of an WBC heavyweight championship bout Saturday, March 3, 2018, in New York. Wilder stopped Ortiz in the 10th round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
UAB coach Rob Ehsan has some momentum headed into the Conference USA tournament after a win over Western Kentucky. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Nate Darling scored 23 points to lead six players in double-figure scoring and UAB upended Western Kentucky 101-73 on Senior Night in its regular season finale.
William Lee added 18 points, Chris Cokley and Zack Bryant had 17 apiece and Nick Norton and Lewis Sullivan had 10 each. Bryant led the team with eight rebounds.
The Blazers (19-12, 10-8 Conference USA) end up as the No. 6 seed to play eleventh-seeded Florida Atlantic in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament on March 7. The Blazers have won three of their last four games headed into the C-USA tournament including blowout wins over WKU, Southern Miss and Marshall.
UAB took an early lead in the first half and Lee made three 3-pointers to help his team to a 45-37 advantage at intermission.
Western Kentucky got as close as 47-43 early in the second half before the Blazers opened it up again with the help of two layups by Cokley and 3-pointers by Darling and Bryant to make it 60-43 with 15:50 to go. The Blazers surged again late, going 15-5 to push it to 90-62 with 4:36 left.
Justin Johnson led the Hilltoppers (22-9, 14-4) with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Deontay Wilder KOs Luis Ortiz in 10th round, retains WBC heavyweight title
Deontay Wilder knocks down Luis Ortiz during the sixth round of an WBC heavyweight championship bout Saturday, March 3, 2018, in New York. Wilder stopped Ortiz in the 10th round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Tuscaloosa’s Deontay Wilder knocked out Luis Ortiz at 2:05 of the 10th round Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, retaining his WBC heavyweight boxing championship.
Wilder appeared in danger of suffering his first career loss heading into the decisive 10th round, before knocking Ortiz to the canvas twice. He landed a massive combination — a right to the temple and a left to the jaw — at around the one-minute mark, sending the previously unbeaten Cuban to the canvas.
“A true champion always finds a way to come back,” Wilder said in his post-fight interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray. “That’s what I did tonight. Luis Ortiz is definitely a crafty guy. We already knew he had the fundamental skills. He put up a great fight. We knew we had to wear him down.”
The 32-year-old Wilder improves to 40-0 in his career, with 39 victories by knockout. Ortiz, 38, falls to 28-1.
Here’s video of the knockout, via Showtime:
The champ does it again. @BronzeBomber defeats @kingkongboxing in the 10th. #WilderOrtiz pic.twitter.com/vlHlcHDEtE
— SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing) March 4, 2018
The two fighters split the first four rounds, before Wilder knocked Ortiz down near the end of the fifth. After a relatively even sixth round, Ortiz came very close to finishing off Wilder in the seventh.
The heavy-punching left-hander staggered Wilder with a left at the 45-second mark, then knocked him into the ropes several times before the end of the round. Amazingly, however, Wilder stayed up and managed to rally in the eighth and ninth rounds to go up 57-56 on the official judges’ cards before putting Ortiz away in the 10th.
“He was hitting me with flurries of punches, but it wasn’t hard. It didn’t have no sting,” Wilder said. “He was knocking me off balance when he was throwing the combinations. I just had to get my range back.”
Said Ortiz through an interpreter: “I was taking the directions my corner was giving to me, and at that point, any punch could have ended the fight.”
Wilder now awaits a likely unification bout with unbeaten British heavyweight Anthony Joshua, who holds the WBA, IBF and IBO titles. Joshua (20-0, 20 knockouts) faces WBO champion Anthony Parker in Cardiff, Wales, on March 31.
The 6-foot-7 Wilder weighed in at 214 3/4 pounds, his lowest fighting weight since 2009 and significantly down from the 220 3/4 pounds at which he fought Bermane Stiverne in November. Wilder told Showtime’s Gray in a pre-fight interview that he had been ill during training, resulting in the weight loss.