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Right through their fingers

20 turnovers costly in another tight road loss

By Mike Pankow

December 28, 2017

Mike Pankow/Whoosh! file photo

UIC’s Marcus Ottey scored a game-high 16 points Thursday against Wright State.

UIC is getting closer to that elusive road win.

However, the Flames seem to do just enough to let the victories slip through their fingers. The turnover bug bit UIC yet again as 20 miscues Thursday night led to the Flames’ 65-61 loss to Wright State at the Nutter Center.

The Flames (5-9, 0-1) were in great position to win their first road game in six tries this season and their Horizon League opener after Marcus Ottey hit a close-in shot to put them ahead 57-56 with 2:24 left.

Wright State answered by making nine of 10 free throws down the stretch to frustrate the Flames again.

Senior guard Grant Benzinger had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four steals to lead the Raiders (9-5, 1-0), who were coming off a road win over Georgia Tech. Junior guard Mark Hughes contributed 13 points and three crucial 3-pointers and underrated senior guard Justin Mitchell added 14 points and six rebounds.

Ottey led UIC with 16 points, often beating the Raiders to the basket off the dribble. Dikembe Dixson was the only other Flame to hit double figures with 11 points.

Sophomore Godwin Boahen returned after missing two games due to a head injury and played 16 minutes off the bench, providing seven points on 2-for-6 shooting. Despite the point guard’s return, the Flames had just eight assists to go with 20 turnovers.

UIC did just about everything else right, shooting 43.4 percent to 32.8 percent for the Raiders, outrebounding Wright State 39-36 and missing just one free throw in 11 attempts.

The Raiders seemed ready to pull away after taking a 25-15 lead with 5:53 left in the first half, but the Flames countered with a 14-4 run, including five points apiece from Tai Odiase and Dominique Matthews, to pull into a 29-29 tie at halftime.

Dixson scored the first six UIC points of the second half as the Flames took a 35-31 lead with 18:03 left.

After the Raiders wrested the lead back, the Flames had one burst left in them.

Boahen hit a tough jumper in the lane and followed with a 3-pointer with 3:46 left to put UIC back in front at 54-53.

Hughes buried a 3-pointer at the other end on the Raiders’ next possession for a 56-54 lead.

After Dixson split a pair of free throws, Ottey gave the Flames their last lead of the game on a drive to the basket with 2:24 left.

Mitchell made a pair of free throws with 2:10 left to put WSU back up by a point. Ottey tried to answer on the other end, but his baseline layup attempt came up just short and WSU got the rebound.

After a pair of Raider misses, the 6-foot-3 Benzinger soared for an offensive rebound and was fouled with 1:26 left. He made both free throws for a three-point lead and the Flames never had a shot to tie again.

FLAMES FLICKERS: Dixson needs just five points to become the 22nd player in UIC history to reach the 1,000-point mark. … Odiase finished with seven points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. … Sophomore Jordan Blount had a mixed bag, producing six points on a pair of 3-pointers, six rebounds and five turnovers. … Wright State had 13 assists to just nine turnovers. … The Flames lost their road opener for the third straight season. … Sophomore guard Tarkus Ferguson made the trip with the Flames, but his right foot remained in a boot.

In other recent news:
UIC 84, Trinity Christian 45: Tandem offense (12/26/17)
Northern Illinois 69, UIC 63: State of disappointment (12/22/17)
Illinois State 71, UIC 70: Cruel road (12/20/17)
UIC 76, Dartmouth 60: Point made (12/16/17)
DePaul 65, UIC 55: The kid that got away (12/12/17)
UIC 76, Wis.-Parkside 48: That’s more like it (12/7/17)
Loyola 85, UIC 61: Crosstown classic beatdown (12/4/17)
Troy 87, UIC 66: Lost trip continues (12/1/17)
Kentucky 107, UIC 73: Brush with greatness (11/28/17)