Whoosh! Net News

Flames look listless, lost


January 3, 2010

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Zavion Neely (right), who scored 14 points to lead UIC, slams on the breaks when Wright State’s Ronnie Thomas (left) and N’Gai Evans cut him off on a first-half drive.

Playing its fourth game in seven days, it looked UIC hit a wall in the second half on Saturday afternoon.

It was the wrong time to be playing Wright State, whose style of play isn’t conducive to play against if you are a tired team.

The Raiders shut down the Flames’ offense and eventually pulled away for a 64-47 victory at the Pavilion in Horizon League action.

Two days after UIC’s Robo Kreps put 31 points against Detroit, the Raiders turned their focus on the Flames’ junior guard. Kreps finished with a season-low five points on 2-for-10 shooting as Vaughn Duggins and N’Gai Evans followed nearly his every step.

“Coming off that game [against Detroit], he was playing with a lot of confidence,” Duggins said. “I started out on him, and I got tired chasing him around from baseline to baseline. Then N’Gai switched onto him. We were trying to make him work for every basket, make him work off screens, kind of be pesky and make his life as hard as possible.”

Kreps didn’t have much help either. Sophomore guard Zavion Neely was the Flame to reach double figures with 14 points.

“We don’t take advantage of teams keying on me,” Kreps said. “When you’ve got guys all over me, we don’t advantage of our opportunities. Maybe there’s a slip, maybe there’s a driving lane open [for the other guys]. Wright State keyed on me the whole game wherever I was. I was doubled coming off ball screens. They were denying me the ball. It was that, and we were too stagnant at times.”

UIC shot just 31 percent from the field, making just 14 field goals. The tired Flames were also out-rebounded 38-29.

“People will take shortcuts when they get tired, I think that’s human nature,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said. “Against a team like Wright State, there are no shortcuts.”

Duggins was also on his game offensively, scoring 17 points and hitting four threes to lead the Raiders (10-5, 3-1). Todd Brown contributed 13 points and four assists and Cory Cooperwood chipped in with 10 points and a game-high seven rebounds.

UIC (5-9, 1-3) didn’t feel the effects of its hectic schedule early in the game, talking a 14-8 lead after a three-pointer by Spencer Stewart and three free throws by Jeremy Buttell.

Even though WSU wasn’t sharp early, it hung around. Duggins hit his first three-pointer of the game with 4:38 before half to give the Raiders their first lead at 23-20.

Evans nailed a 17-foot jumper with 2:11 left in the opening period to WSU back on top at 27-25 and the Raiders never trailed again. WSU somehow scrapped its way to a 29-25 lead at the break despite shooting just 37 percent in the half.

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Vaughn Duggins scored 17 points to lead Wright State and played stellar defense against Robo Kreps.

After Kreps hit a layup to start the second half, the Raiders went on a quick a 7-0 run capped by Brown’s three-pointer with 17:21 remaining.

The Flames stayed within striking distance for a short while before Ronnie Thomas nailed consecutive threes midway through the second half for a 15-point bulge at 49-34 with 9:09 left. The Raiders coasted after that, leading by as many as 25 points and shooting 58 percent in the second half.

“Ronnie’s two threes were big shots,” WSU coach Brad Brownell said. “That’s when the game was still under 10 and those two threes kind of extended that. Guys made really smart decisions after that, we made the extra pass and we found open guys.”

UIC shot just 25 percent in the second half as it wrapped its busy week at 2-2.

“Fatigue always sets in during the second half, probably more so today,” Kreps said. “Both teams were tired. We can’t make that excuse. We didn’t play good at all offensively or defensively.”

Collins said the stretch made it difficult for the Flames to prepare for opponents which such little time between games.

“It was a game of chance for us,” Collins said. “We’ve played so many games in so many days. We’ve been limited in what we can do in terms of scouting teams.

“We’ve just have to get the mental toughness that says when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: Kreps didn’t score his first basket of the game until he hit a three-pointer with 3:39 left in the first half. … UIC was out-rebounded 10-1 on the offensive glass in the first half. Brad Birton’s putback basket in the first minute of the game accounted for the Flames’ lone offensive board in the first 20 minutes. … For the game, WSU had 14 offensive rebounds and UIC had 11, five of which came in the last 1:15 of the game when mostly walk-ons and freshman were on the floor. … In a sign of things to come in a dreary second half, Birton missed a wide-open dunk with 13:20 left in the game. … Stewart recorded a career-best two blocked shots.

UP NEXT: UIC begins a two-game Horizon League trip when it travels to Youngstown State on Thursday. The Penguins are 5-8 overall and 0-4 in the conference.

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