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Path of destruction

Flames dominate from start to finish

By Mike Pankow

November 17, 2017

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

Redshirt sophomore guard Dominique Matthews fires a long 3-pointer over Delaware State’s Pinky Wiley in the second half Thursday night.

Three nights after heartbreaking overtime loss to St. Joseph’s, UIC was running on all cylinders against Delaware State.

Redshirt sophomores Dominique Matthews and Dikembe Dixson scored 19 and 16 points, respectively, as the Flames shot 54.5 percent in a 95-55 waxing Thursday night at the UIC Pavilion.

Never the mind that the Flames racked up nearly 100 points and recorded the largest margin of victory in coach Steve McClain’s two-plus seasons. The team effort resonated through UIC’s entire lineup, even late in the game, when freshman forward Jacob Wiley, who didn’t score, passed up a short shot on the baseline to feed Godwin Boahen, who drained a 3-pointer from the corner.

“The young guys are learning,” McClain said. “That’s what is expected. That’s how we play. It isn’t about you, it’s about the right play. Jacob made a great play. His teammates told him it was the right play. It isn’t about scoring, it’s about making the right play, because that will translate into a 2- or 4-point game and you make the right play.”

The effort was dominant from beginning to end as the Flames (2-1) put on a clinic, handing out 19 assists on 30 field goals, making 12 of 28 3-pointers (42.9 percent), hitting 79.3 percent of their free throws, blocking 10 shots, making 10 steals and holding the weary Hornets (1-3) to 29.2 percent shooting.

UIC started out scorching and rarely cooled off. Tai Odiase hit a hook shot to start a spirited 23-2 run in which the Flames held Delaware State without a field goal. In fact, the Hornets missed 17 straight shots as UIC built a 29-6 lead.

Sophomore Jordan Blount scored five points to lead the way as six different players tallied during the burst.

“We prepared really well for this team,” said Dixson, who had a pair of transition layups during the run. “We came in off a loss, so we wanted to make a statement from the beginning.”

Matthews, making his first start after struggling in the first two games, knocked down his first shot – a 3-pointer less than two minutes into the game and found his rhythm, shooting 6-for-10 from the field and 4-for-7 on 3s.

“My teammates did a great job of finding me,” Matthews said. “I’ve been putting a lot of work in before and after practice. I knew shots we’re going to start falling.”

McClain wasn’t worried about Matthews’ lack of points in the first two contests.

“I’ve seen him shoot it like that many times,” McClain said. “What he did in the first two wasn’t who he is, so he got back out there tonight … he made the right passes and he (took) the right shots. When the ball moved, we scored. I think that’s the other thing this group is learning, when the ball moves, we’re pretty hard to guard.”

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

Sophomore Marcus Ottey soars for a dunk in the second half.

After scoring nine points in his first game, Dixson registered his second straight double-digit outing, hitting 6-for-9 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers. The Flames superstar said he’s feeling no ill effects following his left knee surgery.

“I’m feeling great,” Dixson said. “I’ve been feeling like this since the summertime.”

The Flames blew the game open early and emphatically ended the first half on junior Naradain James’ putback dunk with 6.9 seconds left to give UIC an eye-opening 53-19 advantage. It was James’ first points in Division I.

UIC flirted with a 40-point lead for much of the second half and finally pushed it to that mark on Ottey’s two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“I was really pleased with how we bounced back from a tough loss,” McClain said. “Everybody that got into the game contributed. We were able to play a lot of people and the young guys came in and got a lot of good minutes.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: Odiase, who entered the season a career 51.7 percent free-throw shooter, went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line and is now 9-for-10 on the season. … Eleven players saw action for the Flames and 10 of them scored with only Wiley going scoreless. He did have five rebounds and the aforementioned assist in nine minutes off the bench. … UIC had more 3-pointers in the first half (8) than Delaware State had total field goals (7). … McClain said the plan is to have freshman swingman Ralph Bissainthe redshirt this season. “He’s got a bright future ahead, but it was going to be hard for him to get any meaningful minutes (this season),” McClain said. … Ottey finished with 13 points and Godwin Boahen added 12 as the Flames had four players in double figures. … Concluding with Thursday’s loss, Delaware State had played three games in four days, losing to DePaul by 24 on Monday and Fort Wayne by 14 on Wednesday.

POSTGAME VIDEOS

In other recent news:
St. Joseph’s 86, UIC 82 (OT): Missed opportunity (11/15/17)
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)