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Buttell’s big night can’t save UIC


January 8, 2010

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Jeremy Buttell poured in a career-high 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Youngstown State.

Jeremy Buttell finally showed what earned him numerous offensive awards a prep player in Texas, but his career night just wasn’t enough for UIC to get its first road victory of the season.

The one-man show couldn’t outlast the balanced attack of Vytas Sulskis, DeAndre Mays and Sirlester Martin as Youngstown State defeated the Flames 76-67 at the Beeghly Center on Thursday night.

Sulskis topped the Penguins (6-8, 1-4 Horizon League) with 17 points. Mays added 15 points and Martin contributed 12 points. Zack Rebillot grabbed a career-best 11 rebounds for YSU.

Buttell finished with a career-best 31 points, nearly doubling his previous collegiate best. The senior forward shot 12-for-19 from the field, made four three-pointers and grabbed 12 rebounds, but UIC (5-10, 1-4) dropped to 0-8 on the road.

“He did a good job,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said. “He worked his butt off for the entire 40 minutes. I wish we could have had somebody help him.”

Junior guard Robo Kreps scored 13 points, but he only had two points in the second half. He finished 4-for-14 from the field.

UIC came back from a first-half 12-point deficit to grab a four-point lead in the second half, but the Penguins eventually reassumed control.

The Flames trailed by just one at 56-55, but YSU went on an 8-2 run capped by Sulskis’ three-pointer with 7:11 left for a 64-57 advantage. UIC never got closer than six until the final seconds.

“We had our opportunities,” Collins said. “It was matter of Youngstown State wanting it more.” Buttell picked up where he left off in the first half, hitting a three-pointer to pull UIC within 39-38.

K.C. Robbins, who got the start, hit a layup to give UIC its first lead of the game at 42-41 with 17:48 left.

After two Rebillot free throws, Buttell hit another three to put the Flames back ahead at 45-43. He then hit a layup in transition to push the lead to four.

YSU took the game over when Dallas Blocker converted consecutive layups and Sulskis nailed a three to cap off a 7-0 run for a 54-49 lead.

Just when the Flames thought they had still had a shot, Sulskis hit another three for a 64-57 lead with 7:24 left.

UIC went cold as YSU built a 72-60 advantage after two free throws by Martin with 2:04 to play. The Flames had one last-gasp run left, pulling within five on Chris Buchanan’s three-pointer with 25 seconds left, but that was it.

UIC seemed like it was fighting from behind from the start as YSU went on a 14-2 run to open an 18-6 lead after Sulskis nailed a three.

“We started the game in a hole,” Collins said. “We couldn’t get it going. We took a long time to dig out of that hole.”

However, the Flames grabbed their shovels and crawled back behind strong first-half efforts from Buttell and Kreps.

The Flames crept within 39-35 at the break when Buttell converted a three-point play. Buttell finished the first half with 15 points, but the Penguins shot a blistering 56 percent in the opening period.

BIRTON ARRIVES LATE: Forward Brad Birton did not travel to Youngstown with the Flames on Wednesday, because of personal reasons.

Birton and associate head coach Tracy Dildy flew into Pittsburgh on Thursday, but they did not reach the arena in time for tipoff.

Birton had started every one UIC’s 14 games entering Thursday. He did play 15 minutes in the second half, finishing with one point, one rebound and one assist.

Robbins started in Birton’s place, tallying four points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in 15 minutes of play.

FLAMES FLICKERS: Buttell’s previous career high was the 16 points he scored in the Flames’ win over Northern Illinois on Dec. 19. Buttell’s 12 field goals easily bettered his previous mark of five, and he tied his career-best of four threes. … Senior point guard Spencer Stewart fouled out with 1:36 left with four points and eight assists. … Kreps extended his consecutive free throw streak to 29, and he has not missed a Horizon League foe this season. … The 67 points were the second-most by the Flames against a Division I opponent this season. UIC had 69 against NIU. The season-high of 72 came in the season opener against UIS.

UP NEXT: UIC plays at Cleveland State on Saturday afternoon at the Wolstein Center. CSU is 6-10 overall and 2-2 in the conference after beating Loyola 62-57 on Thursday night. The game tips off at 4:30 p.m. with coverage on Comcast SportsNet, WMVP-AM 1000 and espnchicago.com.

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