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Three spree helps Butler escape UIC


February 21, 2008

Senior Night photo gallery

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A.J. Graves hit the game-winning shot with just under minute to play to lift the visiting Bulldogs.

UIC thought it had all the ingredients to pull an upset of No. 8 Butler on Wednesday night.

It was Senior Night with 7,799 fans packing the UIC Pavilion with a lot of electricity in the air.

However, the visiting Bulldogs (25-2, 14-2 Horizon League) proved worthy of their lofty ranking by gutting out a 51-46 victory.

Senior star A.J. Graves hit a tiebreaking three-pointer with 45.4 seconds remaining to send Butler home with a hard-earned victory. It was Butler’s 13th and final three-point field goal of the game. Butler had just five two-point field goals.

“They played good defense all night long,” Graves said. “They wanted to push us out and not give us good looks. We just ran our offense and I thought I had a good look.”

UIC had two chances to pull into a tie, but Josh Mayo’s final three-point attempt with 5 seconds left bounced off the front rim. Graves hit two free throws for the last points.

“There was a lot of excitement,” said Mayo about the atmosphere that brought out the second-largest home crowd for a Flames game in school history. “We were really hyped for it. We felt like we played [with intensity], but we just didn’t finish.”

The Flames (14-13, 8-8) came out in a 2-3 zone and the Bulldogs settled for a lot of perimeter jump shots. Butler shot 38 percent from the field, but 37 of its 47 shot attempts came from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs figured it was best way to get open looks without challenging UIC’s 7-foot giant Scott VanderMeer.

“Jump shots were available,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “The 2-3 zone is good for them, because VanderMeer’s standing there in the middle. If you get in the paint, he’s hard to score on.

“I think we were just looking for the best shot possible.”

UIC coach Jimmy Collins kept with his tradition of starting all of his seniors, Robert Bush, Karl White Jr., Jermaine Dailey and Ebenezer Noonoo, along with VanderMeer, a junior.

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UIC’s Jermaine Dailey showed his athleticism throughout as he tallied 13 points, including two alley-oop layups and a putback dunk.

The group was energized enough to keep the game close early. Dailey scored six points, including two baskets on alley-oop layups as the Flames trailed 9-8 less than six minutes into the contest.

UIC went ice cold from there, going scoreless for almost 10 minutes. However, Butler only scored eight points itself in that same timeframe.

Mayo, who led the Flames with 15 points, scored on a traditional three-point play to break the offensive silence with 4:41 left before half. He hit a stepback 15-footer to pull UIC within 19-17, but Graves hit a three-pointer to round out the first half with Butler ahead by five points.

Early in the second half, the Flames appeared to be heating up as they went on a 14-3 burst, led by two close-in buckets by VanderMeer and eight points from Mayo, including two threes. Mayo’s second three put UIC up 33-28 with 12:20 remaining.

“There was cause for concern when they came out with a five-point lead,” Stevens said. “Our guys gave great effort even if the ball didn’t bounce in. Tonight, it bounced in just enough.”

Butler rallied back for a 39-35 edge with an 8-0 run, which included threes by Zach Hahn and Pete Campbell.

The game was a seesaw battle into the final minutes. UIC took a 43-42 lead on two free throws by Bush with 4:37 to play. Hahn hit a rare inside-the-arc jumper to put the Bulldogs back ahead 44-43 on Butler’s next possession.

Drew Streicher hit a layup to give the Bulldogs a three-point advantage, but Dailey converted a three-point play with 1:15 left to knot the game at 46-46, setting the stage for Graves’ heroics.

Graves led Butler with 14 points and Campbell added 12, but all eight Bulldogs registered in the scoring column and six of them had a hand in the three-point barrage. Graves and Campbell hit four threes apiece to lead the charge.

“With Butler, you really can’t zero in on any one guy,” Collins said. “Everybody on the perimeter can shoot. They have that experience—that swagger. They really believe they’re going to win every time they tie up their gym shoes. I wish we could find more of that.”

Three Flames scored in double figures, including Mayo’s 15. Mayo shot just 5-for-16 from the field, including 2-for-9 from three-point land.

“They were in my pocket most of the time,” Mayo said. “I rushed a couple of shots in the beginning, they didn’t fall. I got a couple off in the second half. They switched up on me a lot of times.”

Dailey contributed 13 points on 6-for-6 from the field and a team-best eight rebounds, while VanderMeer added 10 points.

“I think I left everything out on the floor,” Dailey said. “We came out with a lot of energy. I feel like we should play like this every game.”

For the game, UIC shot just 33 percent, way below its 51 percent efficiency at home coming into Wednesday’s game.

“You don’t get moral victories when you’re 14-13,” Collins said. “You’re not going to win when you shoot 33 percent at home. We had our chances. Butler wins games where they play terrible; they play hard and find ways to win.”

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UIC junior guard Josh Mayo just keeps climbing up the scoring charts.

FLAMES FLICKERS: Mayo moved into 14th place on UIC’s all-time scoring list, snapping a tie with Jordan Kardos. Mayo now has 1,129 points and is just 13 points behind Derrick Johnson (1985-89) for 13th. With his 15 points, Mayo also moved into the top 100 in Horizon League history, surpassing current Butler assistant coach Brandon Miller and former Detroit star Michael Jackson, and landing into 99th place. …

White experienced a humbling moment in the second half. After picking Matt Howard’s pocket, White had a breakaway and went for a one-handed lefty tomahawk dunk, but it clanged hard off the back iron, hitting the shot clock for a turnover. …

Dailey matched his career high of 13 points that he scored just six days ago at Detroit. In his last three games, Dailey has averaged 10.0 points per game on 74 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds. …

UIC dropped to 2-5 in games decided by five points or less this season. Four of those losses were Horizon League games: first-place Butler (5), second-place Wright State (1, 1) and Valparaiso (4). …

The attendance of 7,799 was the second-largest for a UIC game at the Pavilion, surpassing the 2004 game against Georgia Tech (7,765). The only game to beat Wednesday night’s total was the 1996 season-opener against Illinois, which drew 8,715. …

With just over a week left in the regular season, UIC can finish anywhere from fourth to seventh in the Horizon League standings. It is likely that Flames will be hosting a first-round tournament game at the Pavilion on March 4.

UP NEXT: The Flames take a brief break from the conference slate for BracketBuster game at Northern Iowa.

The Panthers are 15-12 overall and 7-9 in the Missouri Valley. UNI has dropped four of its last five after falling 67-47 at Southern Illinois on Wednesday night.

Burly forward Eric Coleman (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) leads the Panthers at 11.0 points and 8.1 rebounds and shoots 56 percent from the field. Five-foot-11 guard Jared Josten and 7-foot-1 center Jordan Eglseder also average in double figures at 10.2 and 10.0 points, respectively.

The game tips off at 7 p.m. on Saturday from the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Audio coverage is available on the internet uicflames.com.

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