Surprise! Blount racks up 10 assists vs. Dartmouth
By Mike Pankow
December 16, 2017
Well, maybe not. But the 6-foot-7 sophomore forward from Ireland brought a newfound weapon to an emerging Flames team Friday night, doling out a career-high 10 assists in UIC’s 76-60 victory over Dartmouth at the Pavilion.
Blount did a lot of the little things in helping the Flames (4-6) win for the second time in the three games after rough patch for the team at the end of November and the start of December.
“I was just put in a position where I could create for others,” said Blount, who cultivated his basketball skills in Europe. “It was a very different type of game. I’m still adapting to the American style. Back home, it’s like run your set, get through it. Here it’s not to a certain extent.”
Blount only scored two points on 1-for-3 shooting in 28 minutes, but his precision passes and active hands helped UIC find a rhythm it has rarely seen this season. He had a career-high four steals to go with three rebounds.
“He stayed in control,” UIC coach Steve McClain said. “He can be one of our best passers behind (injured point guard Tarkus Ferguson). He gives you a great weapon when you can pass at that size. He can see over the zone. We knew they would go to that zone when they couldn’t guard us. Every time they went to it, we either got a great shot or we got a basket. Jordan is capable of doing that.”
The Flames ended playing of their best games of the season against their Ivy League opponent, holding the Big Green (3-5) to 37.5 percent shooting while shooting 49.2 percent themselves while turning it over just 11 times.
“They’re a team that shoots 46 percent,” McClain said of Dartmouth. “They run good things. You have to be disciplined to guard them. I thought for the most part the guys did a really good job with it.”
Dominique Matthews, who has been one of the few beacons of consistency over the last few weeks for UIC, scored 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including three 3-pointers.
The redshirt sophomore guard from St. Rita, who scored in double figures for the sixth consecutive game, said he’s finding a level of comfort.
“Definitely … and my teammates do a great job of finding me,” Matthews said. “I’m back in a rhythm and just want to keep winning.”
The Flames trailed by as many as six points before they rebounded from a sluggish start filled with turnovers, including a bevy of offensive fouls, to forge ahead on freshman Jacob Wiley’s 16-foot jumper for a 19-18 lead.
It was a seesaw affair until Matthews hit a free throw and Clint Robinson knocked down a 10-foot jumper in the final two minutes as UIC took a 31-28 lead at the break.
It took a little bit of time as Dartmouth pulled to within 40-39 on Miles Wright’s two free throws with 14:57 left.
Dixson scored on a pair of close-in baskets as UIC went on an 11-2 run for a 51-41 lead with 9:40 left.
“I thought the game got some flow to it,” McClain said. “We finally got stops and we were coming down and playing in space.
Matthews and Dixson each scored six points as the Flames laid the hammer down during a 16-3 that extended the lead to 21 in the final minutes.
All the while the Flames held Dartmouth to 7 of 21 shooting (33.3 percent) in the second half and limited Taylor Johnson, who scored a career-high 29 points in the Big Green’s last game against Maine, to just seven points on 2-for-7 shooting.
“We had a lot of energy coming out today on the defensive end,” Matthews said. “It really showed.”
It was a much-needed victory with a stretch of five of the next six games in the road, including tilts at Illinois State and Northern Illinois and the first three games of Horizon League play.
“It was huge, especially considering what our record is and how convincingly we won,” Blount said. “This was very big going into this stretch.”
The 16-point win was good medicine for the Flames, who had, for the most part, underperformed in the early portion of their schedule.
“I’m just happy for our guys,” McClain said. “They need to feel good. We’ve had a tough schedule and I knew that this game would be tough, especially coming off finals week.”
FLAMES FLICKERS: The 10 assists doubled Blount’s career high. He previously had five in the season opener against North Carolina Central. Blount also a career-best four steals. … Sophomore guard Marcus Ottey added 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting. He had 11 points after halftime. McClain lauded the Canadian’s play during the postgame press conference: “Marcus really came in and did a good job of making the right reads.” … Sophomore guard Godwin Boahen had seven rebounds – the third time the 5-foot-11 guard had at least seven this season. … Matthews recorded a career-high two blocked shots. He had just five coming into the contest. … After committing seven turnovers, including three offensive fouls, in the first 8:15 UIC ended up tying a season-low with 11 turnovers. … Veteran NFL referee Gene Steratore was one of the officials in the game.