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Balance boosts Flames past YSU


March 5, 2008

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Senior Robert Bush scored 14 points to lead a balanced attack as the Flames eliminated Youngstown State on Tuesday night.

It wasn’t always pretty, but in the end, UIC captured the victory.

The Flames used two scoring bursts in the first half and took advantage of a slow start by Youngstown State to roll to a 70-59 victory in the opening round of the Horizon League tournament at the UIC Pavilion on Tuesday night.

A balanced effort saw three Flames in double figures and four more score at least six points. Senior Robert Bush led the way with 14 points. Josh Mayo chipped in with 13 points and Scott VanderMeer added seven points and game-high 13 rebounds. Spencer Stewart added 10 points and four assists.

Fifty-eight percent shooting by UIC gave the Flames a 37-21 lead at halftime. Meanwhile, YSU appeared to building a house with the bricks they were laying in the opening half, converting just 28 percent from the field.

“We lost the ballgame in the first half,” YSU coach Jerry Slocum said. “Offensively, we were poor and they were very, very good.”

The Flames (17-14) had built a solid foundation as the Penguins (9-21) would never threaten in the second half, coming only as close as eight points in the final minute.

There was cause for some concern for UIC as it committed 19 turnovers for the game, including 12 in the first half. The Flames know they’ll have to clean that up as they head to Indianapolis on Friday to face Loyola in the Horzion League quarterfinals.

“We know that we didn’t play to the best of our abilities,” Bush said. “We had too many turnovers. We need to take care of the ball, be stronger with the ball—that’s what we need to do in the next game.

“[Coach Jimmy Collins] wasn’t satisfied with the win. We could play way better than we displayed tonight.”

Things started well for the Flames as a 10-0 run, capped by a Bush three-pointer, gave them a 13-4 lead in the opening minutes.

After the Penguins waddled back to within 17-12 after a three-pointer by Vytas Sulskis, UIC went on a 12-2 spurt, which included another three by Bush and was capped by a layup from Mayo. The Flames led 29-14 at that point and never trailed by less than double digits for the rest of the period.

Freshman Robert Kreps scored five points in the final 2 minutes of the half to give the Flames a 16-point halftime advantage. UIC increased its lead to a game-high 19 points at 48-29 after Mayo’s three-pointer with 15:55 remaining in the contest.

Mayo only attempted seven shots, making four of them, but he was the main target for the Penguins on defense.

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YSU’s Byron Davis led all scorers with 22 points, but his college career ended in the loss.

“He’s a very good basketball player,” Slocum said. “He can drive it, he can shoot it. The thing you try to do is run around with him and get him a little tired in his legs. I thought we did a pretty good job on that.”

Senior guard Byron Davis closed out his college career with a game-high 22 points on 9-for-22 shooting to lead YSU. Fellow senior John Barber added 12 points and eight rebounds.

Next up for the Flames is crosstown rival Loyola, which upset Milwaukee 57-51, in Friday’s Horizon League quarterfinals at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. UIC won two hard-fought games with the Ramblers during the regular season.

“It’s only tough if you let yourself think it’s tough,” said Collins, referring to the adage this it is difficult to beat a team three times in a season. “We have to forget about what happened in the past, and we have to realize we’re playing for the [trophy] now.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: UIC and Loyola are the only two teams to win at least one game in each Horizon League tournament since the conference went to its current format in 2003. …

Kreps had one of the highlight-reel plays of the night. In the first half, Kreps was triggering the inbounds pass under the Flames’ basket and saw Barber with his back to him. Kreps bounced the ball off Barber and scored on a layup. …

The Flames had plenty of support as Jermaine Dailey had a solid outing of eight points and eight rebounds. Kreps had seven points and Karl White Jr. added six points before leaving the game with the stomach flu. …

In a scramble for a loose ball with 6:20 left in the second half, YSU junior forward Jack Liles took down UIC freshman Tori Boyd with a move that resembled a DDT, a wrestling maneuver made famous by Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Liles was called for a foul on the play. …

UIC dominated the glass, out-rebounding YSU 44-30. The last time the Flames won the battle of the boards by double figures was on Jan. 24 at Valparaiso (45-33). VanderMeer had 21 rebounds in the game, but the Flames lost 60-56. …

The Flames’ 19 turnovers was their second highest total of the season. UIC had 21 in their season-opening win over Bradley (this was back when the officials were emphasizing the ‘carrying’ violation).


Loyola 57, Milwaukee 51: Milwaukee-native J.R. Blount scored 23 points on 8-for-11 from the field as the No. 8 seeded Ramblers pulled off the upset over the undermanned Panthers at U.S. Cellular Arena.

Andy Polka’s layup off a feed from Blount with 3:05 left gave Loyola (12-18) the lead for good at 49-48. After Jason Averkamp nailed a three-pointer with 59 seconds to go to cut the Ramblers’ lead back to one, Blount found a cutting Ross Forman for a key basket with 27 seconds left.

“J.R. [Blount] willed us to that win by making several big plays down the stretch,” Loyola coach Jim Whitesell said. “Two of the biggest were the assists at the end of the game. When he gets baskets, it really helps our offense.”

Paige Paulsen and Ricky Franklin each missed threes on Milwaukee’s next possession and Tracy Robinson and Blount wrapped up the game with free throws.

Robinson contributed 13 points and Forman added 10 for the Ramblers, while Franklin led the No. 5 seed Panthers (14-16) with 17 points.

Valparaiso 75, Green Bay 67: Shawn Huff scored 16 points and Urule Igbavboa added 14 points and 10 rebounds as the host Crusaders won their first-ever Horizon League tournament game. Sixth-seeded Valparaiso (20-12) went on a 12-4 run early in the second half to grab a 41-23 lead and held off a late charge from the No. 7 seed Phoenix (15-15).

“[We] had a rough stretch halfway through the year,” Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said. “But the players never stopped giving their all, and have really stepped up recently, winning our last five games.”

Rahmon Fletcher’s layup cut Valpo’s lead down to 64-60, but Jarryd Loyd stopped the bleeding with a long jumper and the Crusaders finished off the victory. Mike Schachtner led Green Bay with 14 points and Randy Berry added a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Wright State 60, Detroit 37: It took a little while for the Raiders to snap out of the doldrums and end a three-game losing streak as they trailed by nine in the first half, but a sterling defensive effort turned the tide for No. 3 Wright State.

Scottie Wilson had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead the Raiders (21-9), who set a defensive standard by allowing the fewest points in school history. Vaughn Duggins added 12 points and Will Graham contributed eight assists and six rebounds.

The Titans shot 33 percent for the game and only 23 percent in the second half. Eulis Stephens was the only double-figure scorer for Detroit (7-23) with 18 points.



#3 Wright State 60, #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75, #7 Green Bay 67

#4 UIC 70, #9 Youngstown State 59

#8 Loyola 57, #5 Milwaukee 51


#3 Wright State (21-9) vs. #6 Valparaiso (20-12), 5

#4 UIC (17-14) vs. #8 Loyola (11-18), 7


WSU/Valpo vs. #2 Cleveland State (20-11), 3:30

UIC/Loyola vs. #1 Butler (27-3), 5:30


At highest remaining seed, 8

All times Central

In other recent news:
Mayo, VanderMeer receive Horizon honors (3/4/08)
VanderMeer lifts Flames to No. 4 seed (at Milwaukee) (3/2/08)
UIC's last-second loss puts home game in peril (at Green Bay) (2/29/08)
Bush leads Flames' balanced attack (at N. Iowa) (2/24/08)
Three spree helps Butler escape UIC (2/21/08)
Raiders steal victory from Flames (at Wight State) (2/17/08)
Bad night for Flames, Goode for Titans (at Detroit) (2/15/08)
Stewart helps put Flames in cruise control (vs. Valpo) (2/12/08)
Flames heating up, finish up sweep of Ramblers (2/10/08)