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Missed opportunity

Flames squander late 11-point lead against St. Joe’s

By Mike Pankow

November 15, 2017

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

Redshirt sophomore forward Dikembe Dixson puts up a shot against St. Joseph’s James Demery in the second half Monday night.

UIC has high hopes for this season, including aspirations for a Horizon League championship.

Monday night provided a reminder that these Flames are still relatively young and still are enduring growing pains as evidenced by the disappearance of a late 11-point lead in an 86-82 loss to St. Joseph’s at the UIC Pavilion.

The Flames (1-1) led 67-56 with 6:48 left in regulation. After a run of missed shots, some clutch play by the Hawks’ Taylor Funk and some plain bad luck, that lead evaporated within 3 ½ minutes.

UIC was able to build to lead back to six with just over a minute remaining, but two critical free throws and Dikembe Dixson’s turnover on an inbounds pass led to Funk’s game-tying 3-pointer with 27.6 seconds left.

The Hawks (1-1) opened the extra session on a 9-4 run, including five points from James Demery (25 points). Funk’s goaltended layup with 3:24 left in the overtime gave St. Joseph’s the lead for good at 78-76.

UIC missed nine of its 22 free-throw attempts and shot just 30 percent (9-for-30) from 3-point range.

“I’m going to be sick when I watch the tape, because I’m just going to see wide-open shots we missed … and free throws,” UIC coach Steve McClain said. “We had a big turnover there when we were up four. If we just get the ball inbounds, they’re going to foul us and stretch the game.

“We probably left at least 10 points on the floor with missed free throws and 3s.”

Despite surrendering the double-digit advantage, the Flames had the last shot of regulation. Tarkus Ferguson ran the clock down and found Marcus Ottey in the corner for an open 3-pointer at the buzzer, but Ottey missed, forcing the OT.

“Everybody’s an option,” said Ferguson, who finished with 15 points and seven assists. “I make my teammates hold me accountable for getting them open and it’s my job to get them the ball.”

The Flames looked like they had the game in hand in the second half after a 23-7 run gave them the 11-point lead.

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

UIC’s Godwin Boahen celebrates after a making a basket with Dikembe Dixson (left) and Dominique Matthews.

UIC forced six turnovers during the spurt, helping the offense to get cooking. Ottey had five points during the surge while Dixson drained a pair of 3-pointers. Boahen capped the burst with a fastbreak layup.

“We were really defending and creating tempo with our defense,” McClain said. “But I knew we were playing a veteran team and I knew they’d respond.”

And the Hawks did just that with an 11-0 run, which included eight points from Funk (22 points, 4-for-8 on 3-pointers), to tie it at 67-67.

UIC went back up 73-67 and seemed poised to put the game away, but the Flames’ Clint Robinson missed a front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:01 left, leading to Nick Robinson dunk on the other end. Dixson then threw away the inbounds and Demery hit a layup to cut it to two.

After Ottey split a pair of free throws with 40.6 seconds left, the 6-foot-9 Funk knocked his fourth triple.

“We just have to dig deeper down the stretch,” said Ottey, who had 17 points and five rebounds. “We didn’t get the stops we needed the last two minutes of the game.”

For the Flames, it was woulda, coulda, shoulda.

“It was disappointment the way the game ended, but our fans got treated to a high-level college basketball game,” McClain said. “I knew what we were walking into. I thought our kids responded. We just didn’t finish the regulation the way we needed to. [St. Joseph’s] made some tough shots and we had a couple of free throws that didn’t go in. That’s the difference in the game.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: Dixson led the Flames with 23 points on 7-for-16 shooting, including a career-high five 3-pointers, to go with three steals, but he also committed four of UIC’s 12 turnovers. … Senior center Tai Odiase had 10 points and nine rebounds, but played only 24 minutes because of extensive foul trouble in the second half. … Freshman forward Jordan Blount showed some flashes with three rebounds and a team-best four blocked shots in 19 minutes. … St. Joseph’s was missing two of their top players – sophomore forward Charlie Brown (wrist) and junior guard Lamarr Kimble (foot). … It was the first overtime game for the Flames since a 105-100 win in Milwaukee on Feb. 4 of last season. This was the first overtime home game since an 81-75 loss to Loyola on Dec. 17, 2016. UIC was 1-2 when playing an extra session last season. … UIC signed junior college center Issac Bassey to a Letter of Intent. Bassey plays at State Fair Community College (Mo.), which is the same school from which Clint Robinson came.

POSTGAME VIDEOS

In other recent news:
UIC 65, North Carolina Central 55: The defense doesn’t rest (11/11/17)
FIRST LOOK: Maturing Flames oozing potential (11/10/17)
EXHIBITION: UIC 97, St. Francis 62: Hop aboard the hype train (11/6/17)
McClain earns faith from UIC (4/20/17)