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Flames extinguished in Cleveland

VIKINGS SHOW MORE FIRE

January 6, 2008

Whoosh! photo

Josh Mayo and the rest of the Flames struggled Saturday night in Cleveland.

When UIC’s Josh Mayo, a 90-percent foul shooter, missed all three free throws after a shooting foul late in the first half against Cleveland State, it was microcosm of how the new year has gone for the Flames.

The Flames appeared listless, capping off an uninspired road swing through Ohio with their third straight loss – a 68-51 setback against the Vikings at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland on Saturday night.

Cleveland State (10-5, 3-0) used a total team effort and showed plenty of fire in winning the Horizon League contest and claiming the top spot in the conference for itself.

Junior J’Nathan Bullock tallied 16 points and eight rebounds and senior reserve Kevin Francis contributed seven points and 13 rebounds as the Vikings outrebounded UIC 44-30.

Besides being crushed on the glass, the Flames (8-7, 2-2) continued their cold-shooting ways by hitting just 29 percent of their shots. All nine Flames that played shot less than 50 percent from the field. In turn, CSU shot 45 percent from the field and weren’t threatened in the second half after building a 34-23 advantage at intermission.

“We ran into a team that played really well together and really hard,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said. “Their defense did some good things and they hammered us on the boards. Our job was to play good defense, play our game and let the pieces fall into place.”

Instead things fell apart for the Flames, and they did so relatively quickly.

UIC started out with a 13-7 lead after an 8-0 capped by Karl White Jr.’s bucket at the 14:29 mark of the first half. The Vikings quickly answered with seven straight points of their own.

When Joe Davis hit a layup with 10:54 left in the opening half, CSU took a 15-14 lead and the Vikings would never trail again. After the Vikings took a five-point lead, the Flames battled back to cut the deficit to 20-19 on Robert Bush’s jumper with 5:30 left before halftime.

On CSU’s next possession, Francis grabbed two offensive rebounds and eventually hit two free throws, kick-starting a 10-2 run that stretch the Vikings’ lead to double digits at 31-21.

After trailing 34-23 at the break, UIC quickly lost any hope of a comeback as the Vikings rattled off seven straight points to start the second half. The run was capped by Bullock’s steal and layup. CSU built its lead to as many as 20 while never leading by less than 11 for the rest of the game.

“I thought our guys understood what they had to do on defense today and really executed the plan,” Cleveland State coach Gary Waters said. “We rebounded the basketball and that is one of our strengths. We did what we do best, and that is execute on defense.”

The Flames had just two players in double figures as Bush led the way with 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Mayo added 11 points.

UIC will have a week off before hosting crosstown rival Loyola at the UIC Pavilion.

“I look forward to our team getting better and being more competitive,” Collins said. “I don't think we put on a good showing and I think we need to strive to show better. It was a disappointing game.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: It was probably the worst game of the season for Mayo. He missed five free throws out of 12 attempts at the line, nearly equaling his total misses for the entire season. Mayo was 54-for-60 coming into Saturday’s game. He also failed to record a three-point field goal for the first time in 16 games dating back to last season. …

The Flames dropped to 0-3 since starting point guard Spencer Stewart broke a bone in his left hand just prior to Christmas. …

The loss snapped UIC’s eight-game winning streak at the Wolstein Center, dating back to the 2002 Horizon League tournament. The Flames captured the conference crown with wins over Milwaukee, Detroit and Loyola and then won the previous five meetings with the Vikings. …

Collins tried to shake things up with a new starting lineup, inserting Bush and Jeremy Buttell and sitting Robert Kreps and Jermaine Dailey. Except for Bush, the group shot 3-for-16, scoring just 10 points. Dailey did grab a team-high five rebounds. After hitting double figures in seven straight games, Kreps has just seven points in his last two outings. …

Center Scott VanderMeer recorded five blocked shots after having just one rejection in his previous three contests. It tied his season-high of five that he last recorded against Wichita State at the Paradise Jam on Nov. 19. VanderMeer, however, has struggled from the field in his last two games, shooting just 7-for-23 in the losses to Youngstown State and Cleveland State.

After scoring 41 points in UIC’s last two games, White was held to just six points in 23 minutes of action.

A BRIGHT SPOT: Former Flame Justin Bowen continued his strong play in the NBA D-League with a 20-point outing in the Austin Toros’ 115-107 win over Rio Grande Valley on Friday. He scored a season-best 25 points against Tulsa on Dec. 30. Bowen is averaging 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds on the season.

In other recent news:
Flames sleepwalk in Youngstown (1/4/08)
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)