Flames fall into big hole, can't recover
By Mike Pankow
January 28, 2019
After mastering Detroit Mercy's zone defense with smart play and deft passing Thursday night, Oakland's physical nature was too much for the Flames to handle less than 48 hours later.
Xavier Hill-Mais led a balanced attack with 20 points and 13 rebounds as the Golden Grizzlies defeated UIC 80-67 at Credit Union 1 Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Five players scored in double figures for Oakland (10-12, 6-3 Horizon League), which racked up 20 assists on 26 field goals and frustrated the Flames with its hard-hitting defense.
Both teams struggled to shoot in the first half, but the Grizzlies got the benefit of the whistles in the first half to take a 37-21 lead at the half, making 9-for-14 from the free-throw line while UIC was just 3-for-5. The Flames' offense improved a bit in the second half, but Oakland surged to 51.9 percent shooting in the second half.
"Oakland came in and played with great energy," UIC coach Steve McClain said. "The game got really physical and we didn't adjust. They're a team that scores pretty well. You're going to have to score to beat them and we couldn't score, we couldn't shoot. I was worried about the turnaround after Detroit played a zone and it was a soft game."
Marcus Ottey scored a game-high 24 points for the Flames (10-12, 4-5) and tried to put UIC on his back with aggressive drives to the basket. He went the line just twice in the first half despite being hammered several times. He ended up 8-for-11 from the line and 8-for-15 from the field.
"We're a team when we're driving the ball, it amazes me that people can bump us and hit us and there's no calls and all I keep hearing is our guys create the contact," McClain said. "We're going to continue to work on it. There were times in the first half we were driving the ball really hard and Marcus is a strong young man. For whatever reason, he got knocked off a lot and there weren't any whistles.
Ottey added: "We tried to play through it. We got frustrated when we didn't get calls. That's how the game goes."
UIC hung around for a while early as both teams struggled from the field for most of the first half.
Rob Howard (9 points, 8 rebounds) dunked as the Flames were within 17-14 with 6:03 before halftime.
Karmari Newman answered with a three-point play and Hill-Mais racked up eight points during a 20-4 run that pushed Oakland's lead to 19 with 41.9 seconds left in the opening half.
Ottey said UIC's offense bogged down because the Flames didn't get enough stops on defense.
"We didn't get as many stops as we'd like, so we were facing a lot of set defense," Ottey said. "We weren't able to play as fast as we wanted to."
The Flames could never put together a sustained run until it was much too late. UIC closed the game on a 13-4 run, but it trailed by about 20 for most of the second half.
"We had to get back to rolling hard, dribbling hard, playing with our shoulder down in a more physical game," McClain said. "That's was what we didn't adjust to. We knew exactly how they were going to guard and exactly what we were going to do. We didn't knock down some wide-open shots when we had them."
FLAMES FLICKERS: Ferguson was 1-for-7 from the field and 0-for-2 from 3-point range, failing to hit a 3 for the second straight game for the first time all season. "I wish sometimes he got protected like some of the other people in this league," McClain said. Ferguson did have eight rebounds and five assists. ... Jordan Blount again was frustrated by the officiating against him, fouling out for the fifth time in eight conference games after just 18 minutes on the court. ... UIC shot just 2-for-18 on 3-pointers with Godwin Boahen (11 points) making both. ... Michael Diggins scored 10 points and reached double figures for the sixth time this season. He is averaging 8.7 points over his last six games. ... Former UIC coach Jimmy Collins was inducted into the UIC Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday night. He had a 218-208 record in 14 seasons with four postseason appearances, three NCAA tournament bids, one regular-season MCC Championship and two Horizon League tournament titles. ... Congratulations to former Flames forward Jake Wiegand on graduating from the Chicago Police Academy.