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Panthers are party poopers

MILWAUKEE SPOILS UIC’S SENIOR NIGHT

February 28, 2010

2010 Senior Day photo gallery

Whoosh! photo

Senior Jeremy Buttell scored 16 points, but it wasn’t quite enough to help UIC overcome a 16-point deficit against Milwaukee.

Milwaukee crashed UIC’s Senior Day party by crashing the boards and exploiting the Flames’ season-long Achilles’ heel.

With loads of help from Anthony Hill and James Eayrs, the visiting Panthers pounded UIC’s interior in a 78-74 victory at the Pavilion on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Hill had 20 points and nine rebounds and the 6-foot-7, 310-pound Eayrs added 19 points and eight rebounds to lead Milwaukee (18-13, 10-8), which clinched the No. 4 seed in the Horizon League tournament will host the Flames (8-21, 3-15) in Tuesday night’s opening round.

UIC coach Jimmy Collins knows a repeat defensive performance would spell the end of the season.

“We have to work on some post defense,” Collins said. “Any time you give 41 points and 20 rebounds to the opponent’s post (Hill, Eayrs and Jason Averkamp), you’re not going to win.

“It was tough game to lose for our seniors, but you’re not going to beat a Milwaukee team just guards, you need some post play and we didn’t have that.”

The Panthers out-rebounded the Flames 41-27 and grabbed some key boards late when UIC tried to rally from a 16-point deficit.

“This loss kind of falls directly on us,” senior forward Jeremy Buttell said of the post players. “We got killed on the interior. To be completely honest, it’s left a sour taste in my mouth. We have to come back and clean up some things.”

Buttell and Kreps each scored a team-high 16 points for the Flames, while Zavion Neely contributed 15 points and five assists and senior Spencer Stewart added 12 points and eight rebounds.

Collins kept to his usual tradition of starting all of his seniors—Buttell, Stewart and guards Chris Buchanan and Kris Harris, who were honored in a pre-game ceremony.

It didn’t take long for the Panthers to pounce on the celebration, scoring the first eight points of the game and turning the contest into what seemed to be a Milwaukee home game with a sizable contingent from up north making considerable noise.

The Panthers closed the first half on a 10-1 to take a 41-27 lead into intermission.

Then the Flames tried to muster their third straight comeback from down double digits.

Milwaukee went ahead 55-39 on Hill’s 10-foot jumper with 13:40 remaining before UIC finally put together a run.

Buttell nailed a three and freshman Corey Gray scored five points in a quick 8-0 burst that got the Flames back into the game.

Milwaukee took an 11-point lead with 5:37 to play but went cold. UIC answered with a 9-0 run, capped off when Neely slipped around Eayrs for a layup, to cut the score to 69-67 and electrify the UIC faithful with 1:46 left.

However, Milwaukee senior guard Ricky Franklin (16 points) answered with a driving layup moments later. He was fouled on the play, missing a free throw, but Eayrs came through with a back-breaking offensive rebound and stickback for a six-point lead with 1:25 remaining.

“We missed a bunch of block-outs,” Buttell lamented. “We’ve just got to find block-outs and go get the ball.”

Kreps hit a three-pointer to cut the Flames’ deficit to 76-74 with 13.1 seconds left, but Panthers freshman Lonnie Boga, who was accidentally poked the eye on a foul, buried two free throws with 5.7 seconds left to effectively clinch the victory.

“We really fought hard to get this point,” said Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter, whose team won its final five league games. “We were in a tough stretch there with like six or seven games left in our season and we found a way to come together as a group. This game here kind of sums that up. It tells a lot about the character of these guys.”

In addition to rebounding and post defense, Kreps knows the Flames have to fine-tune a few other things to avoid a season-ending loss on Tuesday.

“We’re got to stop Franklin, he’s the head of the snake, we’ve got to slow him down,” Kreps said. “We can’t let Eayrs get off like he did against us today.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: Kreps was also honored prior to tipoff as he was presented with a game ball for surpassing the 1,000-point mark for his career. … After getting stripped off the ball in the first half, Neely hustled back and made an acrobatic block on a layup attempt by Milwaukee’s Jerard Ajami with 13:46 left before halftime. … Milwaukee shot 49 percent, while UIC ended up shooting 47 percent after a bad first half. … The Panthers have won the last four meetings, all by five points or less. … UIC is the only team to not lose an opening round game in the Horizon League tournament since the format changed in 2003. … The Flames’ game at Milwaukee on Tuesday is only the second time they have played on the road in the opening round in this format. UIC won at Youngstown State in a 7-seed vs. 6-seed battle last year.

2010 HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

TUESDAY, MARCH 2 OPENING ROUND (at campus sites)

#10 Youngstown State (8-21) at #3 Green Bay (20-11), 7

#7 Detroit (18-13) at #6 Valparaiso (15-16), 7

#9 UIC (8-21) at #4 Milwaukee (18-13), 7

#8 Loyola (14-15) at #5 Cleveland State (15-16), 6

FRIDAY, MARCH 5 SECOND ROUND (at Butler)

YSU/Green Bay winner vs. Detroit/Valparaiso winner, 5

UIC/Milwaukee vs. Loyola/Cleveland State, 7

SATURDAY, MARCH 6 SEMIFINALS (at Butler)

YSU/Green Bay/Detroit/Valparaiso winner vs. #2 Wright State (19-11), 4:15

UIC/Milwaukee/Loyola/Cleveland State winner at #1 Butler (26-4), 7

TUESDAY, MARCH 9 CHAMPIONSHIP (at highest remaining seed)

Semifinal winners, 8

In other recent news:
Flames ride 2nd-half crest (vs. Green Bay) (2/26/10)
Kreps, Stewart guide Flames to road win (at Evansville) (2/21/10)
Bulldogs just too much for Flames (at Butler) (2/18/10)
Very few highlights in another Flames loss (at Loyola) (2/14/10)
Road win evades Flames again (at Valpo) (2/9/10)
Flames exhale, snap 9-game skid (vs. Youngstown St.) (2/7/10)
Shakeup can’t end Flames’ slide (vs. Cleveland St.) (2/5/10)
Close, but no cigar for Flames (at Detroit) (1/31/10)