Flames Drop 60-55 Decision versus First-Place Valpo

Sophomore Hayden Humes
Sophomore Hayden Humes

Jan. 21, 2012

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CHICAGO - The Flames placed three players in double figures, but Horizon League leading scorer Kevin Van Wijk poured in a game-high 20 points, leading first-place Valparaiso to a 60-55 win over the UIC men's basketball team in a Horizon League battle at the UIC Pavilion Saturday afternoon.

With the setback, UIC moves to 6-13 on the season, with a 2-7 Horizon League record. Valparaiso improves to 14-7, 7-2 in the Horizon League, and atop the conference standings, one-half game ahead of Cleveland State and Milwaukee.

UIC was led in scoring by junior point guard Gary Talton, who scored 12 points in 38 minutes - he was joined in double figures by senior forward Paris Carter, and sophomore Hayden Humes, who each chipped in 11 points. Van Wijk's 20 points led three Crusaders in double figures, along with Jay Harris (13) and Ryan Broekhoff (12).

The Flames, who have played in nine games decided by five points or less this season, trailed by just two, 55-53, with 1:09 remaining. UIC then forced a defensive stop with just 37 seconds remaining, but Valpo corralled the offensive rebound, and sealed the win by hitting five free throws in the final 21 seconds.

"We certainly had some opportunities today," said head coach Howard Moore. "I thought we dictated pace. We didn't let them (Valpo) shoot many threes, or get out in transition much. But in the second half, they started putting the ball on the floor, and started driving us. They got to the basket and got the ball inside; 32 points in the paint tells the story. We didn't protect the paint like we should have."

There were a combined 11 ties and lead changes in the opening 7:14, before Valpo went on a 6-2 run, and claimed a 20-15 lead with 10:12 remaining in the first half. The Flames tied the score at 22-22 with 7:01 left after a three-pointer by freshman Sammy Sutter, who played a season-high five minutes off the bench in relief of Talton.

Broekhoff and UIC's Matt Bush traded threes on the ensuing two possessions, followed by back-to-back field goals by Talton and Van Wijk, tying the score at 27-27 with 2:05 left in the opening stanza. Talton scored with 32 seconds remaining in the half, giving the Flames a 29-27 advantage heading into the locker room at halftime.

Humes, a native of Valparaiso, Ind., opened the second half with a three-pointer, giving UIC a 32-27 lead. Carter then added a free throw with 18:01 left to extend the lead to a game-high six points, 33-27. Valpo responded with a resounding 9-0 run, including two field goals by Harris, to claim a 36-33 lead with 15:30 remaining.

Barnes and Talton responded with back-to-back field goals, pushing the Flames back ahead, 38-36 (14:44). But Van Wijk and Harris added ensuing layups, putting Valpo back in front, 40-38, with 12:59 remaining. Carter gave UIC its final lead (43-42) with 10:18 left, converting a low-post move and ensuing layup.

The Crusaders stretched their lead to as large as eight points down the stretch, before the Flames mounted their final comeback. Humes converted two from the charity stripe with 2:47 remaining, pulling UIC within two possessions, 53-47. He then drilled a three in front of UIC's bench with 1:47 remaining to slice the deficit to just five, 55-50. Marc Brown's ensuing three-pointer with 1:09 remaining gave the Flames life.

Harris' ensuing rebound off Van Wijk's miss ended up being the play of the game, because he added two free throws after being fouled by Barnes, and UIC never pulled within a single possession again down the stretch.

UIC will hit the road next Wednesday (Jan. 25), when the Flames travel to Dayton, Ohio, to take on Wright State. The Raiders posted a 74-70 overtime win over the Flames at the UIC Pavilion on New Year's Eve (12/31/11).