UNIVERSITY VILLAGE- Wednesday night at the UIC Pavilion, the Illinois-Chicago Flames (5-14 overall, 1-3 Horizon League) had a chance to finally make a dent in conference play. They kept the Detroit Titans (9-9, 3-1) in check for most of the game. But a couple of last minute blunders ruined the opportunity.
At first it looked like the Flames it would get blown out right of the gate….
In the opening minutes of the game, a couple of turnovers quickly put the Flames in a 10-0 hole. After a quick timeout by UIC, they came roaring back. They went on a 16-5 run over the next few minutes to take a 16-15 lead.
After the Titans called a timeout, the Flames would continue the onslaught. They finished the first half on a 24-18 run to take a 40-33 lead at halftime. When the second half began, UIC continued to pour it on and at one point led by as many as 10.
Some missed shots and turnovers by the Flames at the three minute mark allowed the Titans to come back. They tied the game at 63 with 2:35 left in regulation. Both teams would trade shots back forth until the clock dropped under 60 seconds.
Illinois-Chicago had a 68-65 lead with the shot clock winding down. Instead of putting up a shot to beat the buzzer, redshirt freshman guard Lance Whitaker attempted a bad pass which turned into a turnover. Detroit sophomore forward Chris Jenkins took the ball and dunked it with 3.7 seconds remaining to cut the Flames lead to one point, 68-67.
After a timeout, the Flames were trying to inbound the ball when Whitaker was called for an ill timed foul. Titans sophomore guard Jarod Williams nailed both free throws to take a 69-68 lead with 2.8 seconds to play in regulation.
Flames senior guard Jay Harris attempted a half-court shot at the buzzer but to no avail as UD barely leaves with a 69-68 win. The Flames have now lost three consecutive games and three of their last five. Harris led the way for UIC with 22 points. He also had eight assists and one rebound.
Junior forward Jake Wiegand had 14 points and six rebounds. The Titans had three players score in double figures; the aforementioned Jenkins finished with 13 points, senior forward Juwan Howard Jr. (son of former NBA player and Chicago native Juwan Sr.) had 14 points, and freshman guard Paris Bass ended up with 19.
The Flames were playing their best game since the victory over Youngstown State on January 2nd until that final minute. They were done in by costly mistakes, crucial turnovers (16 on the night), and bad fouls.
Flames head coach Howard Moore did not address the media after the game, but one could imagine that he was quite upset with how everything fell apart at the end. And things only get even harder for UIC as they embark on a three game road trip.
After a few days off -with what will probably be some hard practices in between- the road adventure starts with a trip to first place Wisconsin-Green Bay on January 20th. Then they visit Youngstown State on the 24th, then travel to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on the 29th.
Both UWM and YSU are winless in Horizon League play, so the Flames have a chance to win those final two games. They’ll return home to face second place Valparaiso on January 31st. Hopefully the Flames can find a way to clean up those mistakes before they wind up in last place (currently in seventh place).
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