BROWN, HARRIS, FELLS CARRY FLAMES
March 1, 2015
Marc Brown scored 18 points, Jay Harris contributed 12 points and a career-high-tying eight assists and Ahman Fells added five points, plus career highs of 11 rebounds and four steals while spearheading a strong defensive effort in the Flames’ 61-46 victory over Wright State.
The three seniors, honored in pre-game ceremony, ensured themselves another date at the Pavilion as the Flames (8-23, 4-12) earned the No. 6 seed in the Horizon League tournament, which begins Tuesday.
UIC will see a familiar foe in the Raiders (11-19, 3-13), whom the Flames swept in the regular season for the second time in the last three seasons.
“We wanted to make sure our seniors came out and set the tone,” UIC coach Howard Moore said. “This was a Wright State team that was pretty hungry. We knew they were going to be fired up for this game.”
No player reached double figures for snake-bitten Wright State, which, much like UIC, has been besieged by injuries all season. The Raiders have dropped nine straight.
Saturday saw one of the Flames’ best defensive efforts of the season as they held WSU to 37.7 percent shooting while forcing 15 turnovers to go with eight blocked shots.
“Our defense was tremendous,” Moore said. “We got our hands on a lot of balls, got a lot of deflections, got some steals and turned them into positive plays for us.”
“We played really good defense today,” Brown added. “If we play defense like that again, we can beat anybody in this league.”
The Flames demonstrated impeccable balance in the first half. At one point UIC went on a 12-0 run with six different players scoring a basket.
“When you play a good defensive team like Wright State, you’ve got to make sure to move the ball,” Moore said.
That run put the Flames ahead 18-10 on junior Jake Wiegand's inside basket with 7:36 left. WSU's Joe Thomasson ended the spurt with a runner.
Grant Benzinger's short jumper pulled the Raiders to within 22-18. Odiase scored on a putback for the only basket in the final 2:50 of the first half as the Flames took a 24-18 advantage into the locker room.
No Flame scored more than four points in the first 20 minutes, but Harris handed out six assists.
Brown stepped up offensively in the second half, scoring seven of the Flames' first 11 points after halftime to give UIC a 35-29 lead.
“I wanted to come out and be aggressive. I felt like it would help the team,” Brown said.
The Flames’ lead stretched to 41-33 when Fells drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing with 9:46 left.
After nearly a three-minute dry spell for both teams, junior Jason McClellan knocked down a triple as UIC pushed its advantage to double digits at 44-33 with 7:12 to play. That was the Flames’ final field goal of the game as they hit 17 of 18 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
UIC’s poor shooting percentage did not deter its aggressiveness on offense. The Flames, who shot 34.7 percent from the field, took it inside early and often, leading to a distinct advantage from the free-throw line. UIC was 24-for-27 for the game and WSU was just 3-for-5.
“We just kept attacking,” Brown said. “Coach [Moore] told us to put our heads down and drive, make them guard us. In the beginning we were settling for a lot of 3s. In the second media timeout, he told just to keep attacking.”
FLAMES FLICKERS: Junior guard Paris Burns was not with the team Saturday. After the game, Moore said that Burns was dealing with a personal matter. “I’m giving Paris some time away from the team,” Moore said. “He’s dealing with some things. He’s a kid that I love dearly. He’s struggling right now. Paris is still a part of this team. There are no problems.” … Senior guard Jay Parker, who is out for the season after ankle surgery, was supposed to take part in the Senior Day ceremonies, but was absent due to a death in his family. The Flames coaching staff still believes Parker will back next year but will await an NCAA ruling on whether Parker will be granted a medical redshirt. …Freshman center Tai Odiase made his second career start, finishing with six points, four rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes. … Harris was 0-for-9 from the field but made all 12 of his free-throw attempts. It was the second time this season he didn’t make a field goal but hit double-digit free throws. Harris was 0-for-8 from the field and 11-for-12 on free throws against Valparaiso on Jan. 31. … Harris has made 146 free throws this season, which ties him for second on UIC’s all-time single season leaderboard. He needs six more to take the top spot held by Bobby Locke (1986-87). … Brown needs just 14 more points to reach 1,000 for his Flames career.
2015 HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
TUESDAY, MARCH 3 OPENING ROUND (at campus sites)
#7 Wright State (11-19, 3-13) at #6 UIC (8-23, 4-12), 7
#8 Youngstown State (11-20, 2-14) at #5 Detroit (14-17, 7-9), 6
FRIDAY, MARCH 6 SECOND ROUND (at Valparaiso)
Wright State/UIC winner vs. #3 Oakland (16-15, 11-5), 6
Youngstown State/Detroit winner vs. #4 Cleveland State (17-13, 11-5), 8:30
SATURDAY, MARCH 7 SEMIFINALS (at Valparaiso)
Wright State/UIC/Oakland winner vs. #2 Green Bay (23-7, 12-4), 6
Youngstown State/Detroit/Cleveland State winner vs. #1 Valparaiso (26-5, 13-3), 8:30
TUESDAY, MARCH 10 CHAMPIONSHIP (at highest remaining seed)
Semifinal winners, 6