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Flames get White Christmas

UIC ENERGIZED FROM START

December 23, 2007

Banks returns to Pavilion

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Karl White Jr. slashed his way to a career-best 20 points as UIC ripped Howard.

It was a festive atmosphere at the Pavilion for UIC on Saturday.

Just days before Christmas, the Flames put up one of their more impressive outings in recent times in a 97-58 blowout of Howard.

Senior guard Karl White Jr. carved through the Bison defense, like a knife through a Christmas ham. White notched a career-best 20 points on 9-for-11 from the field, mostly on layups and floaters in transitions. He even connected on his two three-point attempts.

White kick-started the Flames’ with seven points, including two driving layups and a three-pointer, in the first 3:30 of the contest as UIC took a 14-7 lead.

“I was pleased with the way we started off with energy and Karl set the pace for us,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said.

White had a team-high 14 points in the first half as the Flames (8-4) overwhelmed the Bison. The Flames put the game on ice early with a 26-4 blitz over 11 minutes.

“My teammates were finding me on the fastbreak,” White said. “[Howard] wasn’t getting back, so Spence [Spencer Stewart] and [Josh] Mayo were hitting me in transition and I was focusing on making my layups and keeping me head up.”

Defensively, White was also an important presence, pilfering three of UIC’s school-record 25 steals. In all, Howard committed 31 turnovers and the Flames turned those into 34 points.

The Bison (3-9) focused on slowing down the Flames’ leading scorer Mayo, but that plan, or any other plan for that matter, didn’t work.

“We concentrated on Mayo and White was able to do what he had to,” Howard coach Gil Jackson said.

Mayo also got his points. The junior guard had 18 markers to go with seven assists in 20 minutes of court time. Three other Flames reached double figures, including freshman guard Robert Kreps (13 points), and senior forwards Jermaine Dailey and Robert Bush (10 points each). Stewart also had seven assists as UIC had 26 helpers on 37 field goals.

UIC shot 57 percent from the field and 54 percent from three-point range while scoring its most points since a 102-92 win over Milwaukee at the Pavilion on Jan. 9, 2003.

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Jermaine Dailey made all five of his field goal attempts en route to 10 points.

“I’d like to thank Jimmy,” Jackson said. “He called them off a bit. I think they could have scored 120 if they wanted to. That was a class move on his part.”

UIC only scored two points in the final four minutes, though fans were clamoring for triple digits. Freshman walk-on Jimmy Harding missed a three-pointer in the final minute, eliciting groans from the crowd for perhaps the only time on Saturday.

Dailey said that a fast start was critical to taking control.

“I figured if we got on these guys early, it would be a Merry Christmas,” said Dailey, who has helped the Flames to a 5-1 mark since he was inserted in the starting lineup at Central Michigan on Nov. 28. “Just play hard and then enjoy ourselves.”

Despite the easy win, the Flames found out that a few things still need fine-tuning.

“I think that we could have done better blocking out on the boards, getting defensive rebounds,” Dailey said referring to a 34-24 deficit in rebounding. “That’s what we lacked.”

For now, things are looking pretty good for UIC, winners of five straight games for the first time since Jan. 2005.

“We just wanted to execute the stuff we practiced,” White said. “The coaches stressed to take things one game at a time and not to overlook this weekend.

“It’s been fun. We’ve been winning and we’ve been on a roll.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: Five Flames recorded at least three steals. Mayo had a team-best four steals, tying his career high. White, Stewart, Kreps and freshman Tori Boyd each had three. The 25 steals were also a Pavilion record for any team. …

For the first time this season, all 14 Flames played, which included the debut of freshman walk-on guard Humberto Huerta. Every Flame scored except Huerta, Harding and Alex Tkaczuk. …

Dailey’s 10 points tied his career high, which he set at Central Michigan, while Bush’s 10 points were a season high. …

Scott VanderMeer played just 12 minutes, because he picked up two quick first-half fouls. He made the most of his time on the floor as he scored four points and dished out a season-high three assists, including a nifty pass to Dailey for a dunk. …

The Flames are shooting 53 percent from the field during their five-game winning streak. …

UIC is 6-0 at home for the first time since the 1997-98 season when the Flames started out by beating Alabama State, Michigan State, Bowling Green, Valparaiso, Illinois State and Louisiana Tech before falling to Marquette. The Flames last started 7-0 at the Pavilion in the 1990-91 season. …

Mayo has now converted 24 straight free throws overall after a 4-for-4 effort and 43 straight at the Pavilion dating back to last season. …

The Flames have a week off before returning to action next Saturday on the road against Akron. Horizon League play kicks back in the next week with visits to Youngstown State and Cleveland State.

In other recent news:
Flames turned up in 2nd half (vs. Toledo) (12/20/07)
Blockbuster trilogy gives UIC win over DePaul (12/16/07)
One more stiff test for Flames (DePaul preview) (12/14/07)
Mayo nets another Player of the Week honor (12/11/07)
Mayo's home cooking serves Flames well (vs. Green Bay) (12/9/07)
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)