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Sykes is Flame retardant

POURS IN CAREER-HIGH 36 TO BEAT UIC

February 24, 2015

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Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes poured in a career-high 36 points against UIC on Thursday night.

Keifer Sykes just keeps sticking the dagger into UIC’s heart.

The Green Bay senior from Chicago’s Marshall High School again brutalized the Flames. This time, the 6-foot, 180-pound guard poured in a career-high 36 points as the Phoenix edged the Flames 72-67 at the UIC Pavilion on Thursday night.

Sykes shot 13-for-23 from the field and 9-for-11 from the free-throw line to once again torture Flames coach Howard Moore, who had tried to recruit him to UIC.

Another Chicago guy, forward Alfonzo McKinnie, also from Marshall, recorded a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Phoenix (22-7, 11-4 Horizon League).

Fifth-year senior Jay Harris scored 26 points on 8-for-9 shooting, including four 3-pointers, and 6-for-7 on free throws for the Flames (7-23, 3-12), who dropped their fourth straight. Senior guard Marc Brown had a solid performance of 12 points, six rebounds and a career-high-tying five assists while freshman center Tai Odiase added 10 points.

In addition to Sykes’ outburst, Green Bay won the game on the glass, outrebounding UIC 38-25, including 15-5 on the offensive end.

The Phoenix led by as many as 17 points in the second half, but UIC wiped out the entire deficit when Odiase hit a layup to tie the game at 61-61 with 2:54 remaining.

Sykes responded on Green Bay’s next possession and went on to score nine of his team’s last 11 points to slam the door.

The Flames still had opportunities in the final minute as Harris knocked a down a 3-pointer with 17 seconds to go to cut the Phoenix’s lead to 69-67.

Sykes was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit the first free throw. He missed the second, but McKinnie batted the rebound back out to Sykes, who was fouled again and made two free throws to supply the final dagger.

“I’m really proud of how we fought back in the second half,” Moore said. “Our guys came out of the locker room with a different purpose and demeanor. We did a lot of little things to help us make that run, but the difference in the game was Green Bay’s 15 offensive rebounds.”

In nine career games against UIC, Sykes has averaged 17.8 points per game, while in four career contests at the Pavilion, Sykes’ average goes up to 25.5.

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Freshman Tai Odiase scored 10 points against Green Bay.

The Flames kept it close in the first half for awhile as Brown hit a pair of free throws to cut Green Bay’s lead to 29-25, but the Phoenix closed the first half by scoring 11 unanswered points. The barrage was capped by a 3-pointer by Sykes, of course, as Green Bay took a 40-25 lead into the locker room.

McKinnie drilled a 3-pointer as the Phoenix surged ahead 46-29 with 17:36 to play before UIC showed some resistance.

Ahman Fells knocked down a 3-pointer and Odiase slammed home a rebound dunk to ignite a 9-0 run that pulled the Flames to within 48-41 with 13:00 on the clock.

UIC kept fighting as the Phoenix finally went cold for a bit. Harris and Brown converted jumpers on consecutive possessions to close the gap to 61-59 with 3:26 remaining. After Sykes missed a jump shot, the Flames finally tied it on Odiase’s layup.

The Flames came agonizingly close to securing a first-round home game in the Horizon League tournament, but can still clinch the No. 6 seed and a return to the Pavilion with win over Wright State on Saturday afternoon. If they lose, they will have either No. 7 or No. 8 seed, depending on the result of the Youngstown State-Milwaukee game Saturday night.

FLAMES FLICKERS: Harris reached the 20-point plateau for the sixth time this season, including for the third time in his last five games. … With his 6-for-7 performance at the foul line, Harris now is shooting 88.7 percent, barely ahead of Josh Mayo’s single-season record of 88.6 percent in the 2006-07 season. … Odiase’s 10 points is the most he has scored since an 11-point, 10-rebound effort against St. Xavier on Nov. 25. … Brown is 32 points shy of becoming the 21st Flame to score 1,000 in his career. … Green Bay has won eight of the last nine meetings in the series. … The Flames will honor Brown, Fells and Harris on Senior Day before the game Saturday.

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