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One more stiff test for the Flames

DePAUL A BRAGGING RIGHTS GAME

December 14, 2007

Photo: Steve Woltmann

The Flames’ keys to beating DePaul? Some inside presence by Scott VanderMeer (left) and more hot shooting from Josh Mayo.

The Flames’ basketball team is wrapping up final exams this week, but the tests won’t end in the classroom and lecture halls of UIC’s Near West side campus.

For only the fifth time in school history and the second time in four seasons, the Flames will make the trek northwest on Saturday night to Rosemont’s Allstate Arena to take on city rival DePaul.

The Flames enter the game at 5-4 overall after winning two Horizon League contests last week at the UIC Pavilion by an average of 13.5 points. UIC has regained some confidence after a spell where it lost four of five games, including three at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

DePaul, meanwhile, is just 2-4, but it has lost its last two contests to ranked foes. The Blue Demons lost an overtime heartbreaker to No. 20 Vanderbilt 91-85 at the Allstate Arena on Wednesday and were overmatched at No. 3 Kansas last weekend.

The Demons are 2-4 for the second straight season, but last year they rallied to win 20 games and make the NIT quarterfinals. DePaul does have a bad loss on its resume – a 96-93 home loss to North Carolina A&T on Nov. 24.

UIC possesses one of the hottest players in the country in junior guard Josh Mayo, who has put up three scoring games of 29 or better this season. The reigning Horizon League Player of the Week is averaging 18.9 points per game and is second in the nation in three-point shooting at 62 percent.

Mayo will need a little help from his friends in order for the Flames to attain their first-ever win over DePaul.

Junior center Scott VanderMeer, who has been quiet the last two games, can be a difference maker on the inside both offensively and defensively. VanderMeer, a 7-footer from Dyer, Ind., is averaging 9.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game.

Sophomore Jovan Ignjatovic and senior Jermaine Dailey have shown flashes in the post and could be sleepers for the Flames in this contest.

Senior forward Robert Bush has been coming along slowly in his recovery from a left knee injury, but he is averaging 6.5 points off the bench in UIC’s last two games.

Freshman guard Robert “Robo” Kreps had a solid week, posting back-to-back 14-point outings in the victories over Milwaukee and Green Bay. Last year’s runner-up for Mr. Basketball in Illinois, is third on the team in scoring at 7.8 points per game coming off the bench. He also averages 2.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per outing.

Sophomore point guard Spencer Stewart has been steady for most of the season, providing 4.4 assists per game. He shoots at a 44-percent clip for three-point range.

DePaul is led by 6-foot-4 senior guard Draelon Burns, who is averaging 18.2 points per game on 41 percent shooting. Six-foot-5 freshman forward Dar Tucker, who was runner-up for Mr. Basketball in Michigan, is averaging 11.7 points and has earned three starts.

Also contributing for the Blue Demons is 6-foot-6 wingman Karron Clarke, who is averaging 11.3 points and is shooting 40 percent from three-point land. Six-foot-10 freshman Mac Koshwal mans the center position for DePaul and has done a decent job so far, with averages of 9.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest.

UIC has a chance to steal this one if they can continue hitting the three-pointer (The Flames shoot 46 percent on threes, while DePaul allows 43 percent) and if VanderMeer establishes a presence in the post and uses his experience to contain Koshwal.

Grab some No. 2 pencils and let the exam begin.

Whoosh! photo

UIC coach Jimmy Collins is 1-1 in his career against Jerry Wainwright.

FLAMES FLICKERS: UIC coach Jimmy Collins and DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright have faced off two times previously – both occasions came when Wainwright was coaching at UNC Wilmington in the late ‘90s. Each coach has claimed a victory. …

Collins’ matchup with Wainwright will be the fifth different head coach that Collins has faced with multiple teams. The others: Bill Self (Oral Roberts, Illinois, Kansas), Melvin Watkins (Charlotte, Texas A&M), Bruce Weber (Southern Illinois, Illinois) and Brad Brownell (UNC Wilmington, Wright State). …

The last time UIC and DePaul met was Dec. 18, 2004 when the Blue Demons beat the Flames 80-62, but the game was a lot closer than the final score. UIC led 38-33 at halftime thanks to post scoring from Elliott Poole and Armond Williams, but DePaul’s Quemont Greer kept the Demons in it by tallying 20 first-half points en route to a career-best 32 points. Poole led the Flames with 16 points. …

If fans can’t make it to the Allstate Arena, the game will be aired on WIND-AM 560 at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night with Adam Levinson and Kenny McReynolds handling the commentary.

In other recent news:
Mayo nets another Player of the Week honor (12/11/07)
Mayo's home cooking serves Flames well (vs. Green Bay) (12/9/07)
Mayo, Flames fired up, take it out on Milwaukee (12/7/07)
Horizon play opens with mirror images (Milwaukee preview) (12/5/07)
Second-half avalanche buries Flames (at Illinois St.) (12/2/07)
Flames win Dailey game, win on road (vs. CMU, signings) (11/29/07)
Bush could make season debut (CMU preview) (11/27/07)
No paradise on the court for UIC (PJAM vs. Wichita St.) (11/20/07)
Flames can't quite rebound (PJAM vs. Charlotte) (11/18/07)
Lapses costly in Flames' 1st loss (PJAM vs. Winthrop) (11/17/07)