Unexpected speed bump
CSU ends Flames’ 7-game winning streak
By Mike Pankow
February 12, 2018
The Flames’ hot streak ended at the hands of an unlikely source. Tyree Appleby and visiting Cleveland State played spoiler in an 86-78 victory at the UIC Pavilion.
Appleby, the Vikings point guard, made a case to be considered for Horizon League Freshman of the Year, scoring 25 points and handing out nine assists while shredding a UIC defense that had been strong since the middle of December.
“Our point guards didn’t do a good job of keeping him in front,” UIC coach Steve McClain said. “We knew what we wanted to do in the ball-screen coverage and that’s just knowing that you have to do your job. We’re all accountable. We just didn’t do a good enough job on him.”
Cleveland State trailed 33-28 after Dominique Matthews’ deep 3-pointer, but the Vikings (7-20, 4-10 Horizon) hit six 3-pointers, including a pair by Appleby, during a 20-5 run in the final five minutes of the first half.
The Vikings led 48-38 at halftime after hitting 11 3-pointers in 18 attempts (61.1 percent) against the Flames, who entered allowing just 29.5 percent from downtown on the season.
“Defensively we were never locked in to what we had to do,” UIC coach Steve McClain said. “When that happens, that’s my fault. I told the guys that we lost the game in the first half when we let them shoot wide-open shots.”
The Flames (15-12, 10-4), who had won 10 of 11 coming into Saturday, weren’t out of the game, but the early hole didn’t do them any favors.
Offensively, five players reached double figures for UIC, led by Marcus Ottey’s 14 points. Matthews and Dikembe Dixson each contributed 13 while Jordan Blount had 12 and Godwin Boahen added 11, including three 3-pointers. However, the Flames shot 40.3 percent, down from recent games, probably a product of their lackluster defensive effort.
“I think we were a step behind everything,” said senior center Tai Odiase. “We didn’t come out with the right mind-set to guard these guys. I knew they’d play hard, but we kind of played down to their level.”
Besides Appleby, Jamarcus Hairston was deadly off the bench with 17 points and nine rebounds for the Vikings, who shot 47.5 percent for the game. Stefan Kenic and Kenny Carpenter added 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Flames trailed by as many as 12, but they made a concerted run. It took a while, but Blount started a 12-2 run with a 3-pointer. Odiase made a pair from free-throw line with 6:10 left to cut the deficit to 70-68.
Bobby Word, who struggled for the Vikings, hit a critical 3-pointer with 2:36 remaining for a 77-72 lead, but Boahen answered with a triple of his own to cut it to 77-75 with 2:07 to play.
CSU extended the lead to six before Boahen drilled another 3 to make 81-78 with 1:22 left, but Carpenter knocked down a floater with the shot clock running down for a five-point lead with 49 seconds remaining and that basically sealed it.
“In the second half we fought hard and had a couple of opportunities where we could’ve tied it, but we turned the ball over or got a little too rushed,” said McClain, whose Flames committed 17 turnovers after having just nine against Youngstown State two nights earlier.
A long winning streak was foreign territory for UIC, which hadn’t had a run this long since eight straight triumphs during the 2012-13 season. Maybe the Flames weren’t used to be the hunted.
“We’ve just got to take a better approach to our game,” Odiase said. “We’ve just got to get back to what we were doing.”
“We didn’t have a lot of energy in practice … ,” added Tarkus Ferguson, who had eight points and five assists. “… and I think that’s what carried over to the game.”
FLAMES FLICKERS: For whatever reason, despite the records, CSU has dominated at the UIC Pavilion. The Vikings have now won nine of the last 10 regular season meetings in Chicago. The only win UIC has was a 72-70 overtime triumph when Najeal Young hit the game-winning jumper in 2016. … Odiase had team highs with seven rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals. … Reserve center Clint Robinson returned after missing the Youngstown State game with the flu. He only played five scoreless minutes though … In a rare instance, CSU’s bench outscored UIC’s 27-26 – the first time the Flames’ reserves were outscored in their last nine games.