RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Reggie Huffman had 21 points, including a game-saving layup with 5.6 seconds left, as UAB took a commanding second-half lead and held of Virginia Commonwealth 80-77 in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday night.
The Blazers (23-10) led 62-47 with 6:38 remaining after a layup by Lawrence Kinnard, but the Rams cut it to 66-59 with 3:23 to go. The Blazers rebuilt their lead to 11, but Joey Rodriguez's 3-pointer pulled the Rams to 75-73 with 38.7 seconds left.
UAB converted just 8 of 14 free throws in the last 66 seconds, and Jamal Shuler's 3-pointer -- a desperate, twisting leaner from the left corner -- pulled the CAA regular season champions (24-8) to within 78-77 with 9 seconds left.
On the inbounds play, however, the Rams pressed and Huffman slipped downcourt, where Aaron Johnson hit him with a baseball pass and he went in for an easy layup.
Eric Maynor missed a 3-pointer for the Rams just before the buzzer.
The Blazers, playing for the first time since they lost 78-68 to Tulsa in the Conference USA quarterfinals, used a 20-2 run ending the first half to lead 38-27.
The Blazers will face Virginia Tech, which routed Morgan State 94-62 in another first-round game Wednesday, in the second round at a site to be determined.
UAB also got 16 points from Robert Vaden, who became the school's all-time single-season scoring leader with 686, and 13 from Kinnard.
Maynor led the Rams with 22, including 20 in the second half. Shuler added 21 in the final game of his college career, and Lance Kearse scored 16.