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Doing it in the clutch

Ottey hits tiebreaking layup as Flames win 4th straight

February 15, 2019

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Marcus Ottey, left, hit his second consecutive game-winning in the final 30 seconds Thursday against Cleveland State to give coach Steve McClain's Flames their fourth straight victory.

For UIC, Thursday night's game represented a familiar story to its previous game.

Like in last Saturday's victory at IUPUI, the Flames jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half, withstood a second-half comeback and got a last-minute clutch shot by Marcus Ottey in an 81-77 win at Cleveland State for their fourth straight victory.

Ottey scored a game-high 20 points and drove down the heart of the lane for a tiebreaking layup with 10.1 seconds left moments after CSU hit a desperation 3-pointer to knot it at 77-77 with 33.4 seconds remaining.

Ottey handled the ball from beyond the top of key and waited patiently until the hole opened right down the middle of the lane. He knifed through and took it strong to the basket for the go-ahead layup.

"I was just making my reads," Ottey said. "If someone stepped up (to me), I was going to kick it. I had an open lane, so I just went up and finished it."

After Ottey's conversion, the Flames forced CSU star point guard Tyree Appleby into a turnover and Tarkus Ferguson made a pair of free throws to seal it.

It was the third consecutive victory for the Flames (14-12, 8-5 Horizon League) where UIC took the lead in the final 30 seconds and held on.

UIC coach Steve McClain is confident in any one of his star players, Ottey, Ferguson or Godwin Boahen, taking a last-second shot.

"It doesn't really matter which one of those guards' hands it's in, you're going to get a good play," McClain said. "When Marcus is going downhill, he's really hard to guard. This was a game I thought we'd see a lot of zone, but we didn't see any tonight. I'm really proud of how we finished it up and had some guys play some great minutes."

It was another game of strong offensive balance for the Flames, led by Ottey, who shot 8-for-15 for his 20 points. Ferguson finished with 19 points, including three 3-pointers, and Boahen contributed 17 points, with five 3-pointers, and a season-high seven assists.

Michael Diggins played another strong game off the bench, pouring in 19 points for UIC, which made 50.9 percent of its field-goal attempts.

While the game was tight for most of the first half, Boahen scored 11 straight Flames points to help UIC take the lead.

Ferguson then drilled three straight 3-pointers and Ottey converted a three-point play the old-fashioned way during a 14-2 run that helped the Flames open a 45-32 run late in the first half.

UIC led by 13 early in the second half before the Vikings (7-20, 2-12) started chipping away behind Appleby, who scored all 16 of his points after halftime.

Up by three in the final minute, it appeared the Flames were going to get a critical defensive stop when Appleby fumbled the ball as he looked for a 3-pointer, but the dropped right into the lap of Rashad Williams, who hit a 3 from several feet beyond the top of the arc.

The Flames countered with Ottey's winning drive and subsequent defensive stop to remain in third place, just one game in the loss column behind Northern Kentucky and Wright State

"It's a dogfight," Ottey said. "You get fouled a lot, a lot of calls don't go your way, the other team goes on a run, but you've got to stick with it. You've got to dig, really get down, and you can't let the other team get too much momentum. We stayed together and we came through."

It sets up a battle between arguably the two hottest teams in the Horizon League with the Flames traveling to Youngstown State, who have won five straight games, on Saturday evening. The Penguins have worked their way back into contention for a home game in the first round of the Horizon League tournament.

"We're going to have to be really smart, because this was hard, physical game tonight. We have to get our rest and prepare for a team that's been playing as well as any team in the league. They've got a young team that's playing very confidently and fighting for position for this conference tournament. It's going to be as big of a test as we've had in the last four games."

FLAMES FLICKERS: Diggins is making a serious push for Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year. Over his last seven games, the sophomore forward is averaging 11.3 points per game on 56.3 percent shooting. He has five of his nine of double-figure scoring games in the last seven contests. ... Not many people talk about the strides of the Flames' defense, but they boast the top field-goal percentage defense in Horizon League play (.395). No other team is currently holding its opponents below 43 percent. ... Boahen has hit at least five 3-pointers on five occasions this season. .. UIC's last three wins have come by a combined total of seven points. ... The Flames have won three straight games at the Wolstein Center.

POSTGAME VIDEOS (courtesy UIC Flames on YouTube):

In other recent news:
UIC 76, IUPUI 75: Pivotal victory (2/12/19)
UIC 69, Northern Kentucky 67: All Hail, Ahale! (2/4/19)
UIC 67, Wright State 53: Going splat (2/2/19)
Oakland 80, UIC 67: Going splay (1/28/19)
UIC 79, Detroit Mercy 67: Blount on a mission (1/25/19)
Green Bay 90, UIC 85: Double trouble (1/22/19)
Milwaukee 81, UIC 69: Upsetting night (1/18/19)
UIC 73, Cleveland State 56: It's a three spree (1/14/19)
UIC 78, Youngstown State 63: Smoking hot (1/11/19)
IUPUI 66, UIC 64: Slow start too much (1/7/19)