Redbirds steal one late despite Ottey’s 23 points
By Mike Pankow
December 20, 2017
But it was Illinois State’s Milik Yarbrough who ultimately stole the game. The junior do-it-all small forward scored eight of his 20 points in the final 5:03 as the Redbirds took a 71-70 victory over the Flames on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.
Yarbrough, who narrowly missed a triple-double in ISU’s overtime win over Ole Miss on Saturday, was 8-for-15 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out five assists as the Redbirds (6-6) beat the Flames for the seventh straight time.
“He does a good job of getting in and creating contact and drawing fouls,” UIC coach Steve McClain said. “He’s an older player, a crafty player. We had Milik right where we needed him, and then he kind of got going in that spurt and he got some confidence.”
Ottey scored a season-high 23 points on 10-for-12, mostly on slashing drives to the basket which made ISU’s defense look powerless. The sophomore guard from Ajax, Ontario, helped the Flames (4-7) stay in the game without point guards Tarkus Ferguson (foot) and Godwin Boahen (head) on the floor.
“I think Marcus is as good as any guard in the country of being able to get downhill, using his left or right hand,” McClain said. “(Center) Tai (Odiase) creates that because you have to worry about the lob to him.
Ottey scored back-to-back layups to put the Flames ahead 61-58 with 5:18 left, but Yarbrough refused to let the Redbirds lose.
Yarbrough scored the next six points of the game, including a go-ahead three-point play for a 64-62 Redbirds lead with 3:46 remaining. His layup with 1:51 left opened a five-point lead.
“We know Malik has the talent to do that,” said ISU forward Phil Fayne, who scored 16 points. “He was hard for them to guard and he took control.”
The Flames pulled within 68-66 on Dikembe Dixson’s free throws with 44.2 seconds left.
UIC appeared to be willing to play defense without fouling, but Ottey inexplicably tried to poke the ball away from Keyshawn Evans 30 feet from the basket and was called for a foul with the shot clock dropping toward 10 seconds.
Evans made both free throws for a 70-66 lead with 23.5 seconds left. Ottey scored on yet another drive to the rim to slice the deficit to two with 13.9 seconds left.
After an Ottey foul, Evans split a pair of free throws for 71-68 edge, leaving the door open for UIC.
Ottey missed a good look at 3-pointer with 5 seconds left and freshman Jacob Wiley scored on a putback with 2.4 seconds left to cut the Flames’ deficit to one.
Yarbrough was fouled with 1.5 seconds left and missed the first free throw. With the Flames out of timeouts, he purposely missed the second and Wiley’s full-court fling was the mark at the buzzer.
“Sometimes you’ve got to find a way to win when you’re not playing really well,” ISU coach Dan Muller said. “We had some things go bad and dropped our heads a little bit. We found a way to win on a tough night. I thought UIC played really well, obviously we couldn’t guard Ottey. He had some terrific finishes.”
After a bit of a sluggish start, UIC opened a 19-13 lead when Dixson capped a 6-0 burst with a reverse layup with 8:44 left in the first half.
The Redbirds appeared ready to steal the momentum as William Tinsley started a half-closing 8-0 run with a rebound dunk. Fayne hit a 10-foot jumper with 4 seconds left to give ISU a 33-29 halftime lead.
UIC opened the second half hot to regain the lead. Ottey scored five points during an 11-3 run, which finished by Dixson’s 17-foot jumper, for a 40-36 edge with 15:58 remaining.
It was a seesaw affair for pretty much the entire game as neither team led by more than six points.
Fayne’s dunk off a lob capped a 6-0 run for the Redbirds for a 56-53 lead with 8:03 to play, but the Flames and Ottey kept answering.
“I think the game gives you certain things,” McClain said. “I’m kind of an old-school guy, if they let Marcus keep getting there, then I’m going to run the same play. Somebody on the bench said, ‘Let’s try this,’ and I said, ‘What for?’ We’re getting to the rim every time we want. Why change?”
McClain saw plenty of positives despite the loss.
“We’re doing a better job of helping each other (on defense), being where we need to be,” he said. “We’re better on the glass. It’s the (fourth) game in a row where we won the battle of the boards. Anytime you go on the road and shoot 49 percent and hold the home team to 39, you’re going to feel pretty good about it.”
FLAMES FLICKERS: Boahen was injured when Dixson ran into him and they butted heads as the Flames had collected a defensive rebound in the opening minutes. Boahen crumpled to the court while holding his head around his eye. McClain said the guard from Toronto likely will go into the “concussion protocol,” which puts his availability for the Flames’ game at Northern Illinois in serious doubt. … Ferguson, who has already missed nearly three weeks of action, could return around the first week of January. … Ottey was two points short of his career high of 25, which he had at Northern Kentucky on Feb. 24 last season. … Dixson contributed 19 points despite shooting just 4-for-16 shooting from the field. He was 11-for-16 from the free-throw line as he was constantly hammered on his relentless drives to the basket. … Dominique Matthews finished with eight points, ending his run of double-digit scoring games at six. … Odiase had nine points, eight rebounds and four blocks while sophomore Jordan Blount had a team-high 11 boards as UIC outrebounded ISU 44-35. … The Flames committed 20 turnovers to just seven for ISU. Ottey had six of them.