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Flames sleepwalk in Youngstown

PENGUINS HAND FLAMES 1ST HORIZON LOSS

January 4, 2008

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Karl White Jr. scored a career-high 21 points, but the Flames couldn’t slow down YSU.

It was a tale of two halves for UIC on Thursday.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t good news for the Flames in their 80-68 loss to Youngstown State at the Beeghly Center in Youngstown, Ohio.

The Flames’ defense stayed on the bus in the first half, allowing 53 points and 61 percent shooting. In the second half, the offense, which had 42 in the opening half, went cold as the defense improved.

Freshman Vytas Sulskis scored a career-high 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting, including four three-pointers, and senior John Barber contributed 24 points and 15 rebounds as the Penguins (5-7, 1-1) walked all over the Flames in the Horizon League contest.

UIC (8-6, 2-1) held an 11-6 lead as Karl White Jr. scored seven quick points. White’s transition jumper with 17:12 left in the first half capped the early spurt.

It was all downhill after that for the Flames. Mikko Niemi had a three-pointer to give the Penguins a 14-13 advantage with 15:11 to go in the opening half and YSU never trailed again.

The Flames fell behind by seven points, but crawled back in the game. Josh Mayo hit a three-pointer to pull UIC within 42-40 with 4:15 before halftime.

Then YSU answered with a stanza-ending 11-2 run, which was started by Barber’s three-pointer and capped by Dwight Holmes’ layup, giving the Penguins a 53-42 lead. UIC had four turnovers in the final four minutes of the half.

The Penguins appeared poised to pull away, but Mayo scored five quick points to close the gap to 61-53 with 10:11 to play. YSU countered with six straight points, capped by a steal and layup by Byron Davis, kicking the lead into double digits, effectively icing the win.

White, who missed the loss at Akron with a sore ankle, notched a career-high 21 points in his return to the lineup. Mayo contributed 17 points and five assists and Scott VanderMeer chipped in with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore forward Jeremy Buttell had a solid game off the bench, tallying eight points and seven rebounds, but he only played three minutes in the second half.

UIC tightened up its defense in the second half, allowing the Penguins to shoot only 36 percent from the field, but the Flames’ offense made just 27 percent of its shots after intermission.

FLAMES FLICKERS: Freshman Robert Kreps scored just three points on 1-for-5 shooting to go with three rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes. Kreps’ streak of seven consecutive double-figure scoring games was snapped at seven. …

Mayo extended his own consecutive double-figure scoring streak to eight games and hit doubles in 13 of the Flames’ 14 games this season. …

Senior forward Robert Bush never got untracked Thursday night, going 1-for-7 for two points in 13 minutes off the bench. He was also called for four fouls, including an illegal screen. …

After winning the first 16 games in the series with YSU, UIC has now lost two straight contests. …

The Flames committed 17 turnovers, leading to 20 points for the Penguins. Davis led the YSU defense with four steals.

File photo

Junior forward J’Nathan Bullock is a force for Cleveland State.

UP NEXT: The Flames are 0-2 on their three-game stretch through Ohio going into Saturday night’s game at Cleveland State.

The Vikings have played well this season and are playing much improved defense. CSU sits at 9-5 overall and 2-0 in the Horizon League after a 63-55 win over Loyola on Thursday night.

One of the biggest reasons for the Vikings’ success this season is the play of incoming transfer guard Cedric Jackson. Jackson leds CSU at 15.7 points and 5.1 assists per contest. The 6-foot-3 guard, who transferred from St. John’s and sat out last season, also spearheads the Vikes’ defense.

Hulking forward J’Nathan Bullock is still wreaking havoc, averaging 14.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per outing. Bullock likes the physical play on the inside, but he can also hit an outside shot. Both Bullock and Jackson are frequent visitors to the free-throw line.

The game tips off at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Lakeshore Public TV will be picking up the live broadcast. There will also be video streaming available on the Horizon League Network and audio streaming, with Flames’ play-by-play man Adam Levinson, will be available on WIND-AM 560.

In other recent news:
COMMENTARY: Flames still under the radar (1/2/08)
Undermanned Flames come up just short (at Akron) (12/30/07)
Flames get White Christmas (vs. Howard) (12/23/07)
Banks returns to Pavilion (vs. Toledo) (12/23/07)
Flames turned up in 2nd half (vs. Toledo) (12/20/07)
Blockbuster trilogy gives UIC win over DePaul (12/16/07)
One more stiff test for Flames (DePaul preview) (12/14/07)
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)