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Mayo’s home cooking serves Flames well


December 9, 2007

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Josh Mayo scored 32 points against Green Bay and is now averaging 27.0 points per game at the UIC Pavilion this season.

There’s just something about home cooking that makes Josh Mayo shoot the lights out.

UIC’s junior guard continued his hot streak, scoring 32 points on 9-for-16 shooting as the Flames moved to 2-0 in Horizon League play with a 76-67 victory over Green Bay at the UIC Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

Mayo scored 20 in the first half, including six of three-pointers, and was the catalyst as UIC (5-4, 2-0) took a 37-26 halftime lead.

For the game, Mayo hit 6-for-9 from three-point range and 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.

“The team really looked for me,” Mayo said. “I seem to shoot well at home. I love the crowd. I definitely feel more comfortable at home.”

So comfortable that Mayo has produced these ridiculous in numbers in the Flames’ four home games: 35-for-54 (65 percent) from the field, 17-for-25 (68 percent) on three-pointers, 21-for-21 (100 percent) from the free-throw line for a robust 27.0 points per game.

Green Bay’s Ryan Tillema said this about Mayo’s latest performance: “They were setting a lot of screens on the ball. He’s a hell of a shooter. We didn’t make the adjustment quick enough for getting out on him.”

The Flames broke open a 14-14 game with a 13-2 run in the first half with a three point-guard look with Mayo, freshman Robert Kreps and sophomore Spencer Stewart on the floor at the same time, along with forwards Jermaine Dailey and Jovan Ignjatovic.

Ignjatovic broke the tie with a short jumper, while Mayo hit two threes and Kreps added five points in the spurt to give the Flames a 27-16 advantage with 5:40 left before halftime.

UIC maintained their 11-point edge at the break as Mayo launched and nailed a 30-footer with 1.5 seconds left for his sixth trey of the period.

The Flames built a 56-40 lead with 8:50 remaining before the Phoenix (6-3, 1-1) clawed back. Green Bay countered with a 12-2 run to cut the score to 58-52 on Rahmon Fletcher’s layup with 5:31 left.

The Phoenix’s comeback was aided by putting 6-foot-5 defensive guru Terry Evans on Mayo in the second half, harassing Mayo and limiting his looks at the basket. Evans sat for most of the first half with foul trouble.

“Josh Mayo was a huge part of the outcome,” Green Bay coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “When Terry Evans got two early fouls, it affected the game and how we defended Mayo. We let him get going early.”

Mayo got going a little late, too. He hit a layup off an inbounds pass to end Green Bay’s run, but the Phoenix weren’t quite done.

Fletcher banked in a three-pointer with 4:37 to play to cut the Flames’ lead to 62-57. Green Bay had two possessions with an opportunity to make it closer but missed three shot attempts, two of which were blocked by Scott VanderMeer.

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Green Bay’s Mike Schachtner scored 24 points to keep his team close.

Robert Bush hit a free throw and Mayo added four points as UIC scored the next five points for a 67-57 advantage with 1:40 remaining, effectively sealing the victory.

UIC shot 49 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point range. Green Bay, which had won six of the last seven in the series, shot just 37 percent from the field and 14 percent from three-point land.

“UIC is a very good basketball team,” Kowalczyk said. “We knew that going in. We needed to play good basketball and unfortunately, we didn’t.”

Mike Schachtner lad the Phoenix with 24 points and nine rebounds and Randy Berry added 16 points and nine boards.

Collins was impressed with the Flames’ effort against a Green Bay team that had a four-game winning streak snapped.

“I’m proud of the effort that we put forth,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said. “Green Bay is a very difficult team to play, because they run a very complicated offense and everybody can score. Our defense was good when we needed it to be.”

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Freshman guard Robert "Robo" Kreps had a surprise cheering section on Saturday and he responded with 14 points.

ROBO ROOTERS: Kreps had his personal cheering section on Saturday. Friends, family and his high school teammates from Maroa-Forsyth made the trip.

Kreps was inspired, tying his career-best of 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting, including two three-pointers, and made all four of his free throws in 16 minutes of play off the bench.

“It was awesome,” Kreps said. “I had no clue they were coming today. When I came out for pregame, I hear “Robo, Robo” and it got me pumped.”

Kreps has scored 28 points in the Flames’ two conference victories and has hit double figures in points in his last three games. He is now averaging 7.8 points per game to go with 1.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds.

“I just keep trying to contribute to the team what I can,” said Kreps, sporting his Maroa-Forsyth championship sweatshirt after the game.

FLAMES FLICKERS: The Flames were badly outrebounded in the second half, allowing 15 offensive rebounds and 22 total to the Phoenix compared to 13 total rebounds for UIC. For the game, Green Bay had a 39-29 edge on the boards. Despite the rebounding deficit, Collins is confident that the Flames will be a challenger in the Horizon League: “Each and every night, you are going to have a battle. We need to improve upon some things. You can control the way we play defense and blocking out. Once we tighten up some of those things, I think we can battle anybody in our conference.”

While the Flames’ post men didn’t score a lot, they did provide a couple of highlights: Dailey had a nifty pass early in the second half to VanderMeer for an easy layup, and later VanderMeer returned the favor with a pass to Dailey for a dunk. …

Bush is beginning to round himself into game shape as the senior forward played a season-high 28 minutes, scoring five points and grabbing a team-best seven rebounds. …

Kowalczyk was called for a technical foul with 1:40 left – his first of the season – for excessive arguing with the officials. …

The Flames are tied for first place in the Horizon League with Valparaiso as both teams own 2-0 conference records. The Crusaders are coming off impressive road victories over Wright State and Detroit. Cleveland State is 1-0 after defeating Youngstown State. No. 13 Butler was upended at Wright State 43-42 on Saturday for its first loss of any kind this season. …

UIC will have a week from competition for final exams. The Flames next play DePaul at Allstate Arena on Saturday night. Game time is 7:30.

In other recent news:
Mayo, Flames fired up, take it out on Milwaukee (12/7/07)
Horizon play opens with mirror images (Milwaukee preview) (12/5/07)
Second-half avalanche buries Flames (at Illinois St.) (12/2/07)
Flames win Dailey game, win on road (vs. CMU, signings) (11/29/07)
Bush could make season debut (CMU preview) (11/27/07)
No paradise on the court for UIC (PJAM vs. Wichita St.) (11/20/07)
Flames can't quite rebound (PJAM vs. Charlotte) (11/18/07)
Lapses costly in Flames' 1st loss (PJAM vs. Winthrop) (11/17/07)
UIC's "Fun Bunch" looking to jam in paradise (PJAM preview) (11/16/07)