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3 Flames collect hardware

Odiase named Horizon Defensive Player of the Year

By Mike Pankow

March 2, 2017

Mike Pankow/Whoosh! file photo

UIC’s Tai Odiase, who was named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, led the conference in blocked shots.

In his first three college seasons, Tai Odiase developed a reputation as one of the nation’s deadliest rim protectors.

The UIC junior center cashed in on that respect by taking home the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year when the conference released its slate of postseason awards on Wednesday morning.

Two of Odiase’s young teammates also earned accolades as guards Tarkus Ferguson and Dominique Matthews were named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team.

Odiase, who became the first player in UIC history to win the honor, led the Horizon League and ranks sixth in the nation with 2.9 blocks per game. He recorded at least five blocks in eight games. His 90 blocks to date this season ranks as the third-highest single-season total in Flames history behind Scott VanderMeer's 111 in 2006-07 and Odiase's 97 last season.

Odiase joins Armond Williams (2003-04, 2004-05) and VanderMeer (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09) as the only Flames to land on the All-Defensive Team at least twice in their careers.

In addition, Odiase led the Flames* with 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 58.8 percent from the field.

(*-Not counting Dikembe Dixson, who appeared in just 10 games before suffering a season-ending injury)

Ferguson, who was a top contender for Horizon Freshman of the Year, averaged 11.1 points and a league-best 4.6 assists. He shot 40.5 percent from the field, 35 percent on 3-pointers and a team-leading 79.8 percent on free throws.

Mike Pankow/Whoosh! file photo

UIC freshman Tarkus Ferguson led the Horizon League in assists.

Ferguson also led the Flames in scoring in conference games at 13.1 points and topped the league at 5.4 assists in Horizon action. His best game came in UIC’s 105-100 overtime win at Milwaukee on Feb. 4 when he scored 12 of his 25 points in the extra session and handed out a career-high 11 assists.

Matthews, who played in only nine games last season because of a broken thumb, emerged as one of UIC’s top scoring threats. He averaged 10.0 points and led the Flames with 44 3-point baskets.

In conference play, Matthews was even better, averaging 12.4 points. He topped 20 points four times this season, including a career-high 28 against Youngstown State on Feb. 9.

This was the fourth time in UIC history that multiple players were named to an All-Newcomer team in the same season, but the first since 2005 when Othyus Jeffers and Josh Mayo were honored.

Mike Pankow/Whoosh! file photo

UIC redshirt freshman Dominique Matthews hit the 20-point mark four times this season.

Odiase, Ferguson and Matthews led one of the youngest teams in the nation to a vast improvement. The Flames, who were 14-17 overall and 7-11 in the Horizon, won nine more games than last season’s 5-25 squad that finished at the bottom of the league.

As for the other big winners in the Horizon League, Valparaiso’s steady senior forward Alec Peters was named the conference’s Player of the Year. Helping the Crusaders to a 24-7 overall record and a 14-4 mark in league play, Peters led the conference with 23.0 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per contest in helping Valpo to a share of the league’s regular-season crown.

Peters was joined on the First-Team All-Horizon by Northern Kentucky sophomore center Drew McDonald, Oakland junior forward Jalen Hayes, Wright State junior guard Mark Alstork and Youngstown State junior guard Cameron Morse.

No Flames were voted onto the Second Team All-Horizon, which consisted of Cleveland State sophomore guard Rob Edwards, Detroit Mercy junior forward Jaleel Hogan, Green Bay senior guard Charles Cooper, Oakland junior forward Martez Walker and Valparaiso senior guard Shane Hammink.

Detroit guard Corey Allen was named the Horizon’s Freshman of the Year as he led all first-year players with 14.3 points per game and was second in the entire league in 3-point percent at 45.2 percent. Joining Ferguson, Matthews and Allen on the All-Freshmen team were Northern Kentucky forward Carson Williams and Oakland forward Isaiah Brock. UIC’s Marcus Ottey was also strongly considered, but fell short, despite averaging 10.6 points per contest.

Northern Kentucky coach John Brannen, who led the Norse to a 21-10 mark overall and 12-6 in the conference, was named the Horizon League Coach of the Year. The Norse finished tied for third with Green Bay after they finished eighth a year ago.

Green Bay senior guard Warren Jones was named the Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year by conference coaches. He could’ve won the honor based solely on his performances against UIC, in which he averaged 20.0 points in two close victories over the Flames. He averaged 10.2 points per game overall and shot 38 percent on 3-pointers.

Joining Odiase on the Horizon League All-Defensive Team (as voted on by coaches) were Green Bay senior forward Kenneth Lowe, Green Bay junior guard Khalil Small, Oakland’s Brock and Valparaiso junior guard Tevonn Walker.

The following is a complete list with Horizon League honorees, along with Whoosh!’s official vote:

FIRST-TEAM ALL-HORIZON
League Poll How Whoosh! voted
Alec Peters, Valparaiso* Alec Peters, Valparaiso*
Drew McDonald, NKU Cameron Morse, YSU
Jalen Hayes, Oakland Drew McDonald, NKU
Mark Alstork, Wright St. Mark Alstork, Wright St.
Cameron Morse, YSU Jalen Hayes, Oakland
*--- Player of the Year vote

SECOND-TEAM ALL-HORIZON
League Poll How Whoosh! voted
Rob Edwards, CSU Shane Hammink, Valparaiso
Jaleel Hogan, Detroit Mercy Martez Walker, Oakland
Charles Cooper, Green Bay Charles Cooper, Green Bay
Martez Walker, Oakland Tai Odiase, UIC
Shane Hammink, Valparaiso Justin Mitchell, WSU
Whoosh’s others considered: Tevonn Walker, Valparaiso; Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Oakland; Rob Edwards, Cleveland State; Stephen Davis, Wright State; Lavone Holland II, Northern Kentucky; Kerem Kanter, Green Bay.

HORIZON ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
League Poll How Whoosh! voted
Corey Allen, Detroit Mercy* Tarkus Ferguson, UIC*
Carson Williams, NKU Corey Allen, Detroit Mercy
Isaiah Brock, Oakland Dominique Matthews, UIC
Tarkus Ferguson, UIC Carson Williams, NKU
Dominique Matthews, UIC Marcus Ottey, UIC
*---Freshman of the Year vote
Whoosh’s others considered: Isaiah Brock, Oakland; Godwin Boahen, UIC; Bryce Nze, Milwaukee; K.J. Santos, UIC.

COACH OF THE YEAR
League Poll How Whoosh! voted
John Brannen, NKU John Brannen, NKU
Whoosh’s others considered: Steve McClain, UIC; Scott Nagy, Wright State.

HORIZON ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM

Only head coaches can vote for this team

League Poll
Tai Odiase, UIC
Kenneth Lowe, Green Bay
Khalil Small, Green Bay
Isaiah Brock, Oakland
Tevonn Walker, Valparaiso

HORIZON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Only head coaches can vote

Tai Odiase, UIC

HORIZON 6TH MAN OF THE YEAR

Only head coaches can vote

Warren Jones, Green Bay

In other recent news:
Ferguson caps Flames’ 4-pack (3/1/17)
Wright State 87, UIC 49: Stinging defeat (2/27/17)
Northern Kentucky 90, UIC 82: Career night turns sour (2/25/17)
Green Bay 87, UIC 79: Veterans’ night (2/22/17)
Oakland 87, UIC 75: Turnovers burn Flames (2/20/17)
UIC 74, Detroit 69: Road warriors (2/18/17)
Matthews honored by Horizon League (2/15/17)
Cleveland State 66, UIC 63: Chill in the air (2/13/17)
UIC 84, Youngstown State 81: Flames overcome Morse (2/10/17)
UIC 105, Milwaukee 100 (OT): Ferguson takes over (2/5/17)
Green Bay 84, UIC 80: Faltering late (2/3/17)