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Crushing blow

Flames blow 19-point lead to Green Bay

February 23, 2019

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Tarkus Ferguson had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Flames against Green Bay on Friday.

UIC burned a golden opportunity for an outside shot at a Horizon League regular-season championship and possibly third place as well on Friday night.

The Flames (14-14, 8-7 Horizon) surrendered all of a 19-point halftime lead and crumbled in the final minutes in a 63-62 home loss to Green Bay at Credit Union 1 Arena.

Over the final 3 minutes, UIC committed four turnovers, missed a front-end of a 1-and-1 and didn't hit a field goal while giving away a seven-point lead.

Sandy Cohen III, who scored on a putback with 54.8 seconds left, scored a game-high 20 points for the Phoenix (15-13, 9-6), who finished off a season sweep of the Flames and moved ahead of them for third place in the conference.

UIC surged ahead with a strong ending to the first half. An intense Jordan Blount scored 11 first-half points as the Flames closed with a 21-4 run for a 39-20 lead at the break.

Green Bay made a big dent in the Flames' advantage with an 11-0 run to close the deficit to 47-42 following six straight points from Josh McNair.

Yet, the Flames looked poised to bring home the victory, seeming to stem the tide. Michael Diggins followed a Marcus Ottey miss for a 60-53 lead with 3:02 remaining.

Then the wheels came off completely.

JayQuan McCloud, once recruited by UIC, responded with a quick 3-pointer. Blount missed the critical front end of a 1-and-1 from the line with 2:03 left. McNair followed with a dunk to cut it to two.

On UIC's next possession, Cohen stole the ball from Blount and coasted for the game-tying dunk with 1:34 to play.

Ottey was then whistled for a charge while driving to the basket with 1:09 to go. After a missed 3-pointer by McCloud, Cohen secured the rebound and hit the putback with just under a minute to go for a 62-60 lead.

On the ensuing possession, Godwin Boahen, this time, was called for a charge on an extremely questionable call, as it appeared McNair flopped to the floor.

McCloud split a pair of free throws, keeping the door open. Tarkus Ferguson, who led the Flames with 14 points and seven rebounds, drained a pair of free throws to cut the Phoenix's lead to 63-62 with 19.4 seconds to go.

McCloud, an 86-percent foul shooter, then missed two free throws with 15.4 seconds to play, setting up the Flames with a chance to win with a two-point basket.

However, UIC never even got a shot off as Ottey had lost in the ball in traffic and Kam Hankerson ran down the court and ran out the clock before the Flames could foul.

The loss really hurt the Flames' chances to get the No. 3 seed as they will lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Green Bay and even the No. 4 seed (and final host for a first-round Horizon League tournament game) is in peril with Oakland holding a half-game advantage. Following Sunday's game against Milwaukee, UIC probably will need to win at Oakland next weekend to have a shot at a home game in the tournament.

FLAMES FLICKERS: Ferguson and Boahen combined to shoot 0-for-12 from 3-point range as the Flames went 3-for-21 from the game. ... Ferguson and McNair were called for a double technical in the second half. ... For the fifth straight game, UIC held a double-digit lead in the first half. However, the Flames are just 3-2 in those games. ... Ottey corralled a career-high 11 rebounds. ... The Flames' 19-point lead at halftime is tied for their second largest margin at intermission this season. ... UIC committed 13 of its 19 turnovers in the second half. ... Freshman forward Travell Washington, who started the first 13 games of the season and played in the first 26 contests, registered his second straight DNP.

POSTGAME VIDEO (courtesy UIC Flames on YouTube):

In other recent news:
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UIC 81, Cleveland State 77: Doing it in the clutch (2/15/19)
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 splat (1/28/19)
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Green Bay 90, UIC 85: Double trouble (1/22/19)
Milwaukee 81, UIC 69: Upsetting night (1/18/19)