Zips dominate boards, extinguish Flames
LACK OF REBOUNDING KILLS UIC
December 22, 2009
Six-foot-five forward Jimmy Conyers scored 10 points and grabbed a career-best 19 rebounds as Akron dominated the boards 42-25 en route to a 77-65 victory at Rhodes Arena in Akron, Ohio.
“We’ve been struggling all year,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said of the Flames’ rebounding. “We had no intensity. We’ve got some big guys that don’t seem to be ready to play on the road.”
Sophomore Zavion Neely led the Flames (3-7) with 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting. Junior Robo Kreps had an off night with his shooting percentage, but he did finish with 13 points, while freshman Corey Gray stepped up with an impressive career-high of 11 points, including three three-pointers.
Despite the one-sided rebounding totals, the Flames managed to keep the close throughout.
UIC led by as many as five in the first half. The Flames went on a 10-2 run, which included six points from Neely, to take a 20-15 advantage. Senior Jeremy Buttell, who had a team-high six rebounds, hit a layup with 8:06 before halftime.
But the Zips (8-3) turned the game around with a 19-4 run. Steve McNees hit a three-point basket to give Akron a 24-23 lead with 5:14 left in the first half and the Zips never trailed again.
Another Achilles’ heel for the Flames in the opening period was 10 turnovers, including five from point guard Spencer Stewart and three from Kreps. All told, it led to a 36-27 Akron lead at intermission.
“You can’t beat anybody when the people who handle the ball 90 percent of time turn it over like that,” Collins said.
The Flames showed a little life in the second half, narrowing the deficit to 40-36 on Buttell’s three-point play with 18:04 remaining in the game. But it seemed as if Akron had an answer every time the Flames got close.
Brett McKnight, who led all scorers with 16 points, converted three straight layups as the Zips used a 14-5 run to open up a 51-44 advantage.
UIC pulled within 59-54 after Dipanjot Singh hit a three-pointer and Gray scored five straight points, including a three of his own with 6:43 left.
Gray had an opportunity to move the Flames even closer, but he missed a three-pointer with the Flames down 63-56 at the 4:54 mark. The Zips slammed the door with an 11-3 spurt, which included five points by Chris McKnight (10 points).
UIC’s big men —K.C. Robbins and Louis Green—were a non-factor, combining for three fouls, no points and no rebounds in eight minutes of play.
“You’ve got to play with intensity, some heart and some desire,” Collins said. “We were in the game, but we allowed 34 points in the paint and 24 off turnovers. We have to continue to work.”
FLAMES FLICKERS: Buttell and Brad Birton each scored 10 points as UIC had five players in double figures. … Stewart did finish with seven assists and didn’t turn the ball over the second half. … Singh scored his first points since tallying four points against UIS in the season opener. … Senior guard Kris Harris did not play for the third straight game. … Akron shot 47 percent while UIC hit on 42 percent.
UP NEXT: After taking a few days off from competition for Christmas, the Flames return to action against Wisconsin in Madison on Sunday afternoon. Tip time is 2:30 p.m. with TV coverage on the Big Ten Network. The UIC radio broadcast will also be available on WMVP-AM 1000 and espnchicago.com.