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UIC lets road win slip away at Valpo

SICKLY SHOOTING IN 2ND HALF DOUSES HOPES

January 25, 2008

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Valparaiso guard Jarryd Loyd came through in the clutch. His half-court shot at the end of the first half helped the Crusaders crawl back into the game.

VALPARAISO, Ind.—As UIC was shooting and missing over and over again in the second half on Thursday night, it took just three critical flicks of Jarryd Loyd’s wrists to help host Valparaiso get over the hump.

Loyd, of Niles West High School just north of Chicago, made a half-court three-pointer at the first-half buzzer and then swished two daggers from the free-throw line in the final minute as the Crusaders rallied past the Flames 60-56 at the Athletic-Recreation Center.

All this from a 58-percent foul shooter with his shooting hand taped up after dislocating his right pinkie finger against Cleveland State last weekend.

“Maybe we should all dislocate our fingers,” Valparaiso coach Homer Drew joked.

With the Flames beginning to take control in the first half, Loyd fired a shot from half-court in front of the scorer’s table and nailed it to pull the Crusaders within 40-33 at the half.

Valparaiso (14-6, 5-3 Horizon League) then threw a zone defense at UIC (10-9, 4-4) and the Flames struggled with it. The Flames went scoreless for over seven minutes and missed 19 of their first 20 shot attempts of the second half.

“Their 1-3-1 zone really hurt us,” said Flames center Scott VanderMeer, who had nine points and a career-best 21 rebounds. “We worked on it in practice and we did really good against it. We missed a lot of easy shots.”

Valpo built a 56-48 lead after Shawn Huff converted a traditional three-point play with 4:15 remaining, but the Flames didn’t go away.

Josh Mayo, who had a game-high 16 points, converted a three-point play of his own and Robert Bush (14 points) connected on a three-pointer from the corner to slice the deficit to 56-54 with 2:31 to go.

Brandon McPherson made two free throws as the Crusaders regained a four-point lead, but VanderMeer answered with a follow shot off a Karl White Jr. miss to pull the Flames within 58-56 with 1:28 left.

After a defensive stand, UIC worked the ball to Bush in the corner for a three-point try, but he missed with 22 seconds left.

Loyd (13 points) then made both ends of a 1-and-1 at the free-throw line with 12.7 seconds left for the insurance points.

“My finger was bothering me a little bit,” Loyd said. “I’m just getting used to it being bandaged like this.”

Mayo and VanderMeer each missed three-point attempts just before time expired.

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Josh Mayo had 16 points for UIC, but the most of the Flames struggled with their shot.

“We kind of hurt of ourselves,” Mayo said. “We missed a lot of shots and a lot of layups. We held together the best we could. Hopefully, the shots will fall in the next game.”

The game was nip-and-tuck for the first few minutes before Valpo took a 26-21 lead as Samuel Haanpaa (team-high 15 points) keyed a 9-0 spurt with two three-pointers.

The Flames answered, utilizing their quickness and three-point shooting ability. UIC scored the next 15 points, a run that included four three pointers. Bush capped the run with a trey with 2:20 to play before half.

Mayo hit a 16-footer with 4.2 seconds left before Loyd’s key fling.

“UIC’s defense and quickness in the first half just gave us fits,” Drew said. “They got easy looks and they penetrated on us. I thought Jarryd gave us the biggest lift when he hit that half-court shot. That was a huge momentum swing for us.”

The Flames shot 47 percent in the opening half en route to their seven-point advantage.

“We knew our defense was going to have to keep us in the game,” said Huff, who had 10 points and seven rebounds. “We had to wait for our offense to come around and catch up.”

UIC did have some positives to take from the loss. The Flames’ maligned defense stepped up for the most part, holding Valpo to 44 percent shooting and just 33 percent from the three-point arc.

“I thought we played really well defensively except for a couple of lapses,” Mayo said. “Overall, we had good effort.”

Flames coach Jimmy Collins was pleased with the effort against a versatile Crusaders team.

“They’re very difficult to guard,” Collins said. “They do a lot of slip-picks. They’ve got guys who should be posting shooting threes and guys who should shooting threes posting.

“They were leading the conference in scoring, so I thought we did a good job holding them to 60.”

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UIC’s Spencer Stewart warms up before his return to action on Thursday night.

STEWART RETURNS: Sophomore point guard Spencer Stewart made his return to the court for the Flames on Thursday after missing a month with a fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his left (non-shooting) hand.

Stewart did not start, but he did play 18 minutes off the bench and handed out four assists. However, he struggled with his shot, going 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-4 from three-point range.

“There definitely was some rust,” Stewart said. “I just got my cast off [Wednesday]. I’m still trying to work into things.”

It may take Stewart a few days to work his way back into complete game shape as he continues his recovery.

“My left hand is just little weak right now,” Stewart said. “It’s tough to focus on the game when you’re thinking about your hand.”

“I thought he pressed a little bit,” Collins added. “He did do some good things out there. He’ll get better.”

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Scott VanderMeer set a UIC Division-I record for rebounds in a game with 21 against Valparaiso.

FLAMES FLICKERS: UIC out-rebounded Valpo 45-33 for the game, including 18-4 on the offensive end. However, the Flames had just nine second-chance points. …

VanderMeer’s 21 rebounds is a UIC Division I record for rebounds in a game. The overall team record is held by Greg Olsen, who had 25 boards against Chicago State on Feb. 20, 1969. Sherell Ford and Maurice Brown shared the old D-I mark with 18 caroms apiece. VanderMeer’s effort is also the third-best total in a Horizon League contest. …

UIC officially went 7 minutes, 26 seconds into the second half before Jermaine Dailey dunked the ball for the Flames’ first points after halftime. Despite the Flames’ struggles from the field, Valpo needed over nine minutes to finish off their rally from seven down at the break. Haanpaa nailed a three-pointer with 10:46 left to give the Crusaders the lead at 44-42. …

Other than Loyd’s buzzer-beating half-courter, the play of the game could have been Huff’s drive and dunk four minutes into the game. Huff took the ball from the free-throw and whisked past VanderMeer and Jeremy Buttell for the stuff. UIC’s Mayo gets an honorable mention for his mid-air putback of a VanderMeer miss. …

Haanpaa was 5-for-6 from three-point range, but the rest of the Crusaders were just 2-for-15. …

UIC sophomore forward Jovan Ignjatovic was dressed after sitting out two games with the flu, but he did not see action.

UP NEXT: The Flames boarded their bus after the game and headed to Indianapolis for Saturday afternoon’s game at No. 15 Butler.

The Bulldogs (18-2, 7-2) defeated Loyola 63-50 on Thursday night behind 15 points apiece from freshman forward Matt Howard and senior forward Pete Campbell.

The key for the Flames to slow down Butler is to blanket senior Mike Green, who runs the show for the Bulldogs. Green is probably the top candidate for Horizon League Player of the Year as the 6-foot guard averages 15.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

Also, the Flames must avoid awakening the struggling A.J. Graves. The Horizon’s Preseason Player of the Year, has slipped lately, averaging just 13.4 points per game on 37 percent shooting. He is shooting just 26 percent from the field (23-for-89) and averaging just eight points in conference games.

The game tips off at 1 p.m. Central time on Saturday from Hinkle Fieldhouse. Coverage is available with video streaming available on the Horizon League Network and audio streaming, with Adam Levinsonwill be available on www.uicflames.com.

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