Flames Drop Another Heartbreaker Against First-Place Phoenix, 69-64

Freshman Pat Birt scored in double-figures for the fourth time this season.
Freshman Pat Birt scored in double-figures for the fourth time this season.

Jan. 19, 2014

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CHICAGO - The UIC men's basketball team (5-14, 0-5) used a 13-2 run early in the second half to go in front, 50-42, against first-place Green Bay (15-3, 5-0) on Sunday afternoon, but the Phoenix outscored the Flames, 8-1, in the final four minutes to record their 10th straight win.  UIC owned the lead for 14 minutes and 21 seconds in the second half before a Keifer Sykes alley-oop dunk spurred the Phoenix rally.  Freshman Pat Birt paced UIC with 13 points, while senior Jordan Harks added 11, 10 of those coming in the second half.   Green Bay was led by senior center Alec Brown with 21 points, shooting 9-of-11 from the field, and Sykes with 21. 

"I was proud of how our guys kept fighting," said UIC Head Coach Howard Moore.  "We came into this game expecting to win and you saw that mentality on the court.  Think of how easy it would have been for us to fold and let Green Bay walk away with an easy victory.  There's something special here with this group and we're getting closer to realizing its full potential."

Green Bay led by as much as 10 points early in the contest, but the Flames kept fighting and outscored the Phoenix 21-12 over the next 10 minutes to pull within one at the 2:31 mark.  Senior Hayden Humes capped the spurt with his 115th made three-pointer as a Flame, needing just one more to crack UIC's all-time top-10 leaderboard.

Green Bay owned a 33-29 edge at the break due in large part to Brown's 13 first-half points that included 6-of-7 from the field.  The Flames received 14 points from the bench in the first half and actually outscored Green Bay in the paint, 18-14.

Back-to-back threes by Birt ignited a 21-9 start to the second half for UIC, yielding an eight-point lead for the Flames with less than 13 minutes left to play.  The Phoenix quickly countered and scored the next seven points to pull within one.  The Flames survived GB's run and stretched the lead back out to 58-51 with 8:01 remaining.  Freshman Markese McGuire spearheaded the effort with five points in just over two minutes.  McGuire finished the day with seven points, his highest total since Dec. 14.

Sykes' alley-oop slam at the 2:38 mark knotted the score at 63-63, but the 5-foot-11 point guard gave Green Bay the permanent lead with a triple on the ensuing possession, cementing the 69-64 final.

UIC closes out its three-game homestand on Wednesday night against Cleveland State at 7 p.m. CT.