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Kreps, Stewart guide Flames to road win

UIC SNAPS 14-GAME SKID AWAY FROM PAVILION

February 21, 2010

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Robo Kreps hit the game-winning shot and scored 28 points for the Flames.

The backcourt combo of Robo Kreps and Spencer Stewart each had to play the entire 40 minutes on Saturday night and it took nearly every second for UIC to earn its first road victory of the season.

Kreps hit a 12-foot jumper with 4.4 seconds left to rally the Flames to an 82-80 victory at Evansville in the BracketBusters matchup on Saturday night as the Flames rallied from a 14-point, second-half deficit.

Kreps tallied 28 points, including 19 in the second half, and handed out a team-best six assists and Stewart poured in a career-best 20 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds for UIC (7-20), which shot 55 percent from the field.

Clint Hopf’s 18 points led the Purple Aces (7-20), while James Haarsma contributed 17 and Colt Ryan added 16.

UIC trailed 55-41 with 15:48 left in the game before creeping back into the contest.

With the game tied at 80-80, Evansville’s Ned Cox missed a shot and the Flames’ Jeremy Buttell collected the rebound.

After coach Jimmy Collins called a timeout to draw up a play, Kreps caught the ball coming around a screen and buried the go-ahead jumper.

“We wanted to get Robo the shot, and we wanted Spencer to orchestrate it,” Collins said. “We had Robo coming off a curl screen, he got it and he delivered.”

UIC trailed 40-36 at the half and Stewart hit a three-pointer to draw the Flames within one, but the Purple Aces exploded with a 15-2 run. Haarsma scored six points during the spurt that gave Evansville the 14-point lead.

Kreps, the Flames’ go-to guy, stepped up with eight points to fuel a 9-0 run that got UIC right back into the contest.

The Flames pulled within a point at 73-72 with 5:21 remaining when Buttell capped off a traditional three-point play.

Buttell tied it at 77-77 on a layup with 2:58 to go, but Evansville’s Ryan answered with a three-point play for an 80-77 lead with 2:27 left.

Zavion Neely scored on a layup to cut the deficit to one with 2:00 to go and Kreps split a pair of free throws to tie the game 23 seconds later.

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Senior guard Spencer Stewart finished with a career-best 20 points for UIC.

The Flames’ defense forced the Purple Aces to miss their final four shots of the game.

“It feels great seeing these guys hang together,” Collins said. “They’ve never given up and it’s great to see the fruits of their labor pay off. They really played like road warriors tonight. I’m really pleased with the total team effort and I hope we can continue to do it the rest of the season.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: The Flames’ 54.9 percent shooting was a season-high, bettering the previous best of 48.9 percent against Oregon State (Dec. 16). … Stewart’s previous career-best in points was 16 in an 85-80 win over DePaul in the 2007-08 season. … Freshman Louis Green scored a career-high five points in 16 minutes off the bench. … Junior center K.C. Robbins was called for a technical foul after blocking a shot with 5:17 left in the first half. Robbins played just five minutes and didn’t score or grab a rebound. … Kreps had three steals on Saturday and now has 12 in his last five games (2.4 average). … The Flames improved to 7-1 in BracketBuster games. … UIC will host Evansville in a return game next season. … Junior forward Brad Birton missed his sixth straight game with an injured left shoulder.

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