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Forward march

Flames excited about CBI home game

By Mike Pankow

March 16, 2017

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

UIC junior Tai Odiase puts up a left-handed hook shot over assistant coach Seth Cooper during a contact drill in Wednesday’s practice at the Pavilion.

Tai Odiase was doing his homework last weekend when he found about UIC’s appearance in the College Basketball Invitational.

The junior center was cracking the books and little did he realize that his season would get an extension.

"I was coming from study hall and Coach (McClain) had a team meeting to tell us,” Odiase said. “I'm pretty excited. It's the first time in three years I've got to play in a postseason tournament, so I'm looking forward to it."

The Flames welcome Stony Brook (18-13) to the UIC Pavilion on Thursday night in UIC’s first national postseason game since the end of the 2012-13 season.

It is an opportunity for the 15-18 Flames, the youngest team in the nation, to get some additional valuable experience heading into next season. The excitement at Flames’ practice Wednesday was palpable.

“You want to be playing at this time of year,” UIC coach Steve McClain said. “As you try to change a culture of a program, this is what you want your culture to be, still practicing and getting ready for another game. It’s a part of the building I’ve done everywhere. You’ve got to take steps and this is another step for us.”

UIC already has won 10 more games than last season and advanced to the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament, further building the Flames’ confidence and some momentum toward the future.

"We're starting to figure out what everybody can do on the court," said redshirt freshman guard Dominique Matthews, who averaged 18.5 points in the Horizon tournament. "This is a great experience for us. We want to get to the NCAA tournament next year."

McClain said the smaller tournaments were watching the Flames down the stretch.

I knew them (the CBI) and the CIT were keeping track of us and saw us a young team that is getting better and better,” McClain said. “Those are the type of teams these tournaments are looking for.”

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In other recent news:
Surprise party: UIC gets CBI bid (3/14/17)
HORIZON TOURNEY: Milwaukee 74, UIC 68: Underdog ends Flames’ run (3/7/17)
HORIZON TOURNEY: UIC 79, Green Bay 70: It’s madness (3/6/17)
HORIZON AWARDS: Flames collect hardware (3/2/17)
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)