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UIC’s last-second loss puts home game in peril

LATE RALLY NOT ENOUGH FOR FLAMES

February 29, 2008

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Green Bay’s Troy Cotton spoiled UIC’s comeback attempt by hitting a three-pointer from the right corner in the final seconds on Thursday night.

Green Bay left the back door open, but just as the UIC Flames were about to run through, it was slammed in their faces.

Despite blowing a seven-point lead in the final minute, the host Phoenix got a last-second three-pointer from Troy Cotton to defeat UIC 76-73 at the Resch Center on Thursday night.

The loss now makes Saturday night’s game at Milwaukee a must-win in order for the Flames (15-14, 8-9) to host a first-round game in the Horizon League tournament.

Ryan Tillema shredded UIC’s defense with a season-high 32 points and eight three-pointers to lead the Phoenix (14-14, 8-9), but it was Cotton that hit the winning shot.

“I just felt pretty good about my jump shot and they had confidence in me,” said Cotton, who scored 15 points. “That really was a big deal for me that my teammates know I can knock down the shot when I need to.”

UIC’s Karl White Jr. hit a three-pointer with 8.2 seconds remaining to tie the game at 73-73. After a Phoenix timeout, freshman point guard Rahmon Fletcher found Cotton in the right corner. Cotton got a good look and buried the shot.

“Right there at the end, we were supposed to double the ball and make them throw a pass and it was a long pass they ended up throwing,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said. “We should have had somebody close to Cotton, at least in his face, but from where I stood it looked like nobody was even close to him when he shot that shot.”

UIC's Josh Mayo had a decent look at a game-tying three-pointer, letting a 25-foot runner fly at the buzzer, but the shot hit the glass, then the front of the rim and rolled off.

Green Bay seemed to have the game in control as it led 70-63 with 50 seconds left, but the Phoenix missed the front of three consecutive one-and-ones. After D’Angalo Jackson missed a free throw, Spencer Stewart drove in and hit a layup to cut the deficit to five.

Tillema then missed a front end, leading to a three-pointer by Stewart that cut the gap to 70-68 with 33.3 seconds to play.

Mike Schachtner split a pair of free throws, then White pulled up and hit a 15-footer on the baseline to slice the score to 71-70 with 17.5 seconds to go.

Schachtner hit two freebies to set up White’s game-tying three, which he hit after receiving the inbounds pass and dribbling to the right wing.

“They missed a few (free throws),” Collins said. “They didn’t miss enough, but they missed a few and we were able to scrap back into it.”

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Jermaine Dailey had the best game of his UIC career with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Josh Mayo led UIC with 18 points and senior Jermaine Dailey had an impressive double-double, recording career bests with 14 points and 12 rebounds. White finished with 13 points, including 11 in the second half.

UIC started out well offensively as Mayo and Dailey each had six points in the opening minutes, but Tillema kept Green Bay close and finally pulled the Phoenix into a 19-19 tie with his fourth three-pointer of the first half.

Green Bay took a 26-22 lead on Terry Evans’ three-point play with 8:44 left in the first half, but the Flames countered with nine straight points scored five different players to take a 31-26 lead.

After Cotton hit a jumper, Dailey responded with a tip-in and Mayo hit a floater as the Flames built a seven-point lead at 35-28 with 2:25 before halftime. Green Bay closed to within two, but Mayo canned a three-pointer in the final seconds as UIC grabbed a 38-33 advantage at the half.

Green Bay came strong to start the second half and pulled ahead with an 11-0 run, which included two threes by Cotton and one by Tillema. When the smoke cleared, the Phoenix was ahead 58-50 with 11:53 remaining.

Green Bay maintained a single-digit edge from most of the second half. UIC crawled back to within 67-63 on a tip-in by Dailey. Tillema then hit what appeared at time to be a back-breaking trey, giving the Phoenix a 70-63 lead with 1:40 to play.

UP NEXT: The Flames play their final regular-season game at Milwaukee at U.S. Cellular Arena on Saturday night.

The Panthers stand at 14-14 overall and 9-8 in the Horizon League after defeating Loyola 68-53 on Thursday night behind 16 points apiece from Paige Paulsen and Ricky Franklin. With the win, Milwaukee clinched a home game in next week’s Horizon League tournament.

Paulsen leads the Panthers at 13.8 points per game and shoots 42 percent from three-point range.

Milwaukee has a key injury as energetic senior forward Marcus Skinner suffered a high-ankle sprain against Valparaiso on Monday. He did not play Thursday and is questionable for Saturday.

UIC routed Milwaukee 91-73 at the Pavilion in the team’s first meeting back on Dec. 6. Mayo scored 29 points, including five threes, to lead the Flames, who shot 60 percent from the field. Three Panthers that played in that game are no longer with the team: forwards Torre Johnson and Tim Flowers and guard Roman Gentry.

UIC needs a victory to clinch a first-round home game in the Horizon League tournament. If they win, the Flames will get the No. 4 seed and host either Youngstown State or Loyola next Tuesday. If UIC loses, the Flames get the No. 7 seed and will travel to either Valparaiso or Green Bay next Tuesday.

The game tips off at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Milwaukee with video streaming available on the Horizon League Network with radio coverage with Adam Levinson on Flames’ radio on WIND-AM 560.

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