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Coal in Flames’ stockings

BADGERS SIMPLY TOO MUCH

December 28, 2009

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Robo Kreps scored a team-high 13 points, including a three-pointer from near half-court.

If UIC’s performance on Sunday was a holiday gift, it most resembled a big lump of coal.

The Flames’ post-Christmas week of four games in seven days began with a whimper as Wisconsin flexed its muscle in a 79-43 victory at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.

UIC simply had no answer for Badgers big man Jon Leuer, who finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and a career-best five assists.

After a sluggish start, the Badgers (10-2) picked up steam thanks to the 6-foot-10-inch Leuer who had 13 points in the first half en route to a 35-19 lead at intermission.

“Leuer’s a special athlete, there’s no question about it,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said. “You look at him on film and you know that he’s a guy who is going to make some money playing the game later on.”

Wisconsin shot 52 percent from the field, 48 percent from three-point range and outrebounded UIC 40-19. The Badgers had 16 assists and just nine turnovers.

“In the famous words of Dennis Green, they are who we thought they were,” Collins said. “[Wisconsin head coach] Bo [Ryan] has built a good squad here. We got shots, we missed shots, and we missed layups, and they were very good defensively.”

Jason Bohannon contributed 15 points on five three-point baskets and Trevon Hughes added 12 points as Wisconsin won their 51st straight home game against unranked foes.

Robo Kreps led the Flames (3-8) with 13 points. Zavion Neely added 11 points and Jeremy Buttell chipped in 10 points and a team-high five rebounds as UIC shot 36 percent from the field.

UIC took a 4-0 lead on consecutive baskets by Neely and stayed close for awhile thanks to a 2-3 zone defense that baffled Wisconsin early.

However, the Badgers finally solved the Flames’ zone and went on a 28-10 run late in the first half to take control. Once Wisconsin got comfortable, it hit 7-of-11 from three-point range in the opening period.

Kreps gave UIC a little something to cheer when he swished a three-pointer from just inside half-court to close the first half.

But that was just about the lone highlight for the Flames as the deficit swelled to as much as 38 in the second half.

FLAMES FLICKERS: UIC had 10 of its 12 turnovers in the first half. … In an odd twist, freshman guard Corey Gray played just two minutes on Sunday after scoring a career-best 11 points at Akron last Tuesday. … The all-time series is now tied at 1-1. The Flames won at Wisconsin 74-66 during its inaugural Division I season in 1981-82. … Junior forward Brad Birton was disqualified with five fouls, becoming the fifth Flame in last six games to foul out. The others recently include Spencer Stewart (Dec. 22 at Akron), Jeremy Buttell (Dec. 19 vs. NIU), Buttell (Dec. 13 vs. DePaul), and K.C. Robbins (Dec. 5 at Green Bay).

UP NEXT: The Flames return to the Pavilion for three straight home games, starting Tuesday night against Toledo, which is coached by former UIC assistant Gene Cross.

Freshman guard Jake Barnett leads the Rockets (3-9) with 14.1 points per game and 47 percent three-point shooting. Toledo’s wins have come against IPFW, Maryland-Baltimore County and Rochester (Mich.).

Tip time is 7 p.m. Live coverage is available on the Horizon League Network at horizonleaguenetwork.tv (video) and espnchicago.com (audio).

In other recent news:
Zips dominate boards, extinguish Flames (at Akron)(12/22/09)
Flames take bite out of Huskies (vs. NIU)(12/20/09)
Kreps finishes off Flames' comeback (vs. Oregon St.)(12/17/09)
Flames Sunday schooled (at DePaul) (12/14/09)
Flames extinguished in Green Bay (12/7/09)
Flames crying out for some stability (at Milwaukee) (12/4/09)
Salukis’ 2nd-half spurt douses Flames (at SIU) (11/29/09)
Flames’ comeback falls just short (vs. Illinois St., plus Stewart update) (11/24/09)