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Crosstown classic beatdown

Flames lose Ferguson, rivalry game

By Mike Pankow

December 4, 2017

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

UIC coach Steve McClain, right, speaks with injured guard Tarkus Ferguson before the start of the second half as a graduate assistant Fabian Lara listens.

UIC suffered multiple losses Saturday afternoon.

Not only did the Flames take it on chin from their crosstown rivals, but they also lost their starting point guard Tarkus Ferguson for approximately a month because of a right foot injury.

As the Flames warmed up prior to their game against Loyola at Gentile Arena, Ferguson was in street clothes with a walking boot on his right foot and also was walking with the aid of crutches. A UIC spokesman said he has been in pain for most of the season.

Without Ferguson, the Flames (2-5) looked lost for much of the game at both ends of the floor in losing by 20-plus points for the third straight game while dropping their fourth straight overall.

UIC coach Steve McClain said the sophomore from Belleville will be out probably “four to five weeks.”

Ferguson had averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 assists while starting all six games this season.

After staying close for a few minutes, the Ramblers (8-1) went on a 21-3 run thanks to excessive turnovers and porous defense by the Flames.

As has been the case over the last few games, UIC was getting beaten consistently on backdoor plays and when they recognized the backdoor plays, Loyola buried the Flames from beyond the 3-point arc.

Freshman Lucas Williamson scored seven points and fellow frosh Cameron Krutwig, who was also recruited by the Flames, added a pair of layups during the blitz. The Ramblers also nailed three 3-pointers in the run.

By the time the smoke cleared a two-point crevice (13-11) became a 23-point canyon (36-13) and the Flames were left have to climb a proverbial mountain once again.

“We’ve just have to figure how to better on our help-side defense,” McClain said. “We get up and pressure and teams are preparing for that. We’ve got to adjust what we’re doing a little bit.

“Tark is one of our better help defenders. He’s one of our best guys back there seeing things. We’ll have to adjust.”

The Ramblers led 52-24 at the half while shooting 62.5 percent from the field and they made 8 of 10 3-point attempts. The Flames committed 13 turnovers in the first 20 minutes with Godwin Boahen and Marcus Ottey running the point.

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

UIC’s Dikembe Dixson expresses disbelief after being called for a foul after thinking he had a clean block in the second half.

McClain also pointed to the inefficiency of the offense because of the miscues.

“We’re killing ourselves more offensively than defensively,” McClain said. “We have crucial turnovers and that’s what hurts us.”

Sophomore Marcus Ottey, who scored in double digits for the fifth time in seven games this season, keyed a 13-2 run for the Flames, but even then the deficit was 71-45 with 7:37 left with the damage of the first half way too much to overcome.

Ottey finished with a team-high 16 points for UIC while Dikembe Dixson and Dominique Matthews added 14 apiece for the Flames, who shot 46.9 percent for the game.

Aundre Jackson had a field day, scoring 23 points on 10-for-11 shooting for the Ramblers, who drained 54.8 percent from the field. Williamson finished with 14 points and Clayton Custer added 10 points and six rebounds.

As with much of the last two weeks, the Flames struggled to get going offensively, handing out just seven assists with 19 turnovers. UIC has averaged 20.3 turnovers in its last three games.

“Some of it is guys trying to do too much,” McClain said. “Instead of making the simple play, they’re trying to make the hard play. We’ll get through that. Part of that is getting guys to understand where they can attack and where they can’t attack and making simple plays. I thought in the second half we did a better job of taking care of the ball and we scored the ball better.”

McClain said the prescription for the coming week with home games against Wisconsin-Parkside and DePaul is as follows: “We’ve got to clean our defense and continue to build our offense. Just make the game a little simpler. We’re making the game a little harder than what it actually is right now.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: The Flames lost to the Ramblers for the fifth straight time since Loyola left the Horizon League for the Missouri Valley Conference. … Senior center Tai Odiase had his worst shooting game of the season, going for 2-for-8, but he did register a season-high five blocked shots. … No Flame had more than two assists. Boahen and Jordan Blount had two apiece while four Ramblers had at least five helpers, led by Krutwig’s seven. Loyola finished with 29 assists on 34 baskets. … Junior forward Naradain James also did not dress because of back spasms, so the Flames had just nine players available for the game.

POSTGAME VIDEO:

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