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Ferguson drills 7 3-pointers as Flames open on 14-0 run

By Mike Pankow

January 11, 2019

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

UIC guard Tarkus Ferguson, right, gets ready to pull up for a 3-pointer as Youngstown State's Donel Cathcart defends on Thursday night.

What a difference a game makes.

Turning the tables from its horrible start against IUPUI, UIC scored the first 14 points of the game Thursday night en route to a wire-to-wire 78-63 victory over Youngstown State at Credit Union 1 Arena in game that wasn't as close as the final score.

Tarkus Ferguson, who was valuable contributor to that game-opening blitz, hit seven 3-pointers in the first half and finished with a game-high 23 points along with seven rebounds and six assists to lead the Flames (8-9, 2-2 Horizon League), who shot 55.4 percent from the field.

"We needed the right energy to start the game," UIC coach Steve McClain said. "You just can't wait for something to happen to get excited to play. If you've got to do that, you shouldn't be in Division I basketball. I thought our mindset was right. I thought we got good shots and guys stepped up and made them."

Ferguson's seven treys were a career high. He equaled his previous personal best with his fifth 3-pointer with 4:52 left in the first half.

The junior guard from Belleville, Ill., looked like he was in NBA Jam on-fire mode, hitting a pair of triples in the final minute of the half, giving the Flames a 45-23 lead at the break.

"I put up a lot of shots before the game," Ferguson said. "Me and (assistant coach) Seth (Cooper) put up a lot of shots before the game and this morning (at shootaround). My confidence was pretty good going into the game. I just had the hot hand."

Ferguson's teammate Godwin Boahen, who usually is the Flames' marksman from the outside, ended with 21 points and modest four 3-pointers. UIC, overall, hit 14 3-pointers on 31 attempts.

"Ferg is the reason why I push myself to shoot so well," Boahen said. "In practices, he doesn't miss. Every shot he puts up in the game, hand (in his face) or not, I expect it to go in. He, Jamie (Ahale) and Dom (Matthews) always push me in practice."

In an almost unheard-of run of streaks, the Flames went on three runs of 10 or more unanswered points in the first half.

When the Penguins (5-13, 1-4) pulled to within 14-9 on three 3-pointers, UIC again turned up the heat with a 10-0 run that included 3s from Ferguson and Boahen.

Ferguson's burst at the end of the half capped an 11-0 run heading into the locker room.

"We wanted to jump on them early," Ferguson said. "We usually start off pretty slowly. It seems we're always trailing."

UIC held YSU to 26.5 percent shooting while forcing seven turnovers in the first half. McClain credited the Flames' defensive prowess with helping the offense flow better.

"We came out with the right mentality to start the game," McClain said. "It's always easy to say that when we're making shots. All of our offense was being created off our defense, whether it was fastbreak shots or just giving us energy."

The Flames didn't relent in the second half, surging ahead by as many as 31. Boahen started things with a four-play point. By the time Wright State game-hero Travell Washington and Michael Diggins drilled back-to-back 3-pointers, UIC led 60-29 with 15:26 remaining.

It was a positive turnaround for the Flames, who have experienced some bad starts to games this season, including against DePaul and IUPUI, because of turnovers and impatience on offense.

"We emphasized taking care of the ball," Boahen said. "We had that poor start the last game. That was the main focus, take care of the ball and don't force anything."

FLAMES FLICKERS: Ferguson currently ranks 12th in the NCAA with 57 3-pointers made this season. He has made at least one trey in 16 of 17 games. ... UIC's 14 3-pointers matched its season high. ... The Flames committed just 12 turnovers, including one on a shot-clock violation in the final seconds as they running out the clock. ... YSU outrebounded UIC 42-32, mostly because the Penguins missed 20 more field-goal attempts than the Flames. ... Junior guard Marcus Ottey scored a season-low four points on 2-for-7 shooting, but he did have six rebounds and four assists, both second on the team Thursday. ... Junior forward Rob Howard scored 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting, hitting double digits for the third time this season. ... Diggins finished with nine points on 4-for-4 shooting. ... After being shut out in the first half, Jelani Simmons' 18 points led YSU. ... The Penguins' Naz Bohannon led everyone with 14 rebounds. ... UIC has won five straight in the all-time series with YSU and leads 30-12.


In other recent news:
IUPUI 66, UIC 64: Slow start too much (1/7/19)
Northern Kentucky 73, UIC 58: Sluggish night (1/1/19)
UIC 75, Wright State 72 (OT): The few, the proud (12/29/18)
UIC 76, St. Francis (Joliet) 55: Getting back on track (12/26/18)
UIC 63, Incarnate Word 57: Good half just good enough (12/19/18)
DePaul 90, UIC 70: One extreme to another (12/15/18)
Colorado 84, UIC 72: All fouled up (12/11/18)
UIC 94, Illinois State 75: Complete effort (12/6/18)
Loyola 73, UIC 64: Crosstown quandary (12/4/18)