Flames Fall 73-61 at Cleveland State; Eliminated from Horizon League Tourney
March 1, 2011
CLEVELAND - Seniors Robo Kreps and Paul Carter combined to score 38 points and corral 16 rebounds, but the UIC men's basketball team's spirited comeback fell short, 73-61 versus Cleveland State in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament at the Wolstein Center Tuesday night.
The loss ends UIC's 2010-11 season with a 7-24 (2-15 Horizon) record. Third-seeded Cleveland State advances to the tournament quarterfinals, where the Vikings will take on No. 6 Wright State Friday night in Milwaukee.
"I just told my team that it's amazing how we play our best basketball after digging ourselves into holes," said UIC head coach Howard Moore. "For some reason, we've had a tendency this season to play harder when we've been in that situation, and I can't understand why we do that. I thought we got off to a great start both offensively and defensively, but then Paul Carter and Paris Carter got into foul trouble, and it really hurt our defense.
"You've got to give Cleveland State credit; they took advantage of that. It was just frustrating that we didn't bring the energy to match their big run in the first half."
Carter scored a team-high 18 points, including a 13-of-16 effort from the free throw line, and pulled down nine rebounds. Kreps chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds. Senior center K.C. Robbins scored eight points and also corralled seven boards. Horizon League Player of the Year Norris Cole poured in a game-high 26 points to lead four Vikings in double figures.
The Flames fell behind 40-23 at halftime, but staged a convincing second half comeback, trimming the deficit to just five points on three occasions during the second stanza. UIC out-scored the Vikings 38-33 in the final 20 minutes.
UIC got off to a solid start, jumping out to a 6-0 lead just over 90 seconds into the game. Cleveland State built its first lead of the game (10-9) with 15:03 remaining after Cole's first field goal. After Kreps tied the game at 12-12 with his first three (13:27), the Vikings went on a 12-0 spurt to claim a 24-12 lead with 6:56 left in the first frame. The Flames were held without a field goal for a total of 8:28, until Robbins' put-back cut the lead to 33-16 at the 4:55 mark.
Cleveland State built as large as a 21-point lead in the final four minutes of the half, but Dorian Tyler and Kreps each hit threes down the stretch, pulling within 40-23 heading into the locker room at halftime. Cole, Jeremy Montgomery and Trevon Harmon combined to score 35 of the Vikings' 40 points in the opening 20 minutes.
Both teams traded baskets to start the second half, before Carter scored seven-straight points to jumpstart a 12-1 UIC run. After two free throws by Darrin Williams with 11:09 remaining, the Flames pulled within 49-44. In the next 2:15, UIC had three chances to trim the deficit to just one possession, but committed two turnovers, and missed one shot.
Cleveland State stretched its lead back to double-digits (56-46) after a jumper by Montgomery. Tyler then hit two free throws with 6:17 left to pull the Flames back within single digits (56-48), but could draw no closer. Robbins' final field goal of the game with 2:13 left cut the deficit to 63-54, but Aaron Pogue answered with two free throws on the other end, eliminating the chance for any further comeback.
"We've got to get back to Chicago, and do some reflecting," Moore said. "I've got to do some analyzing, and evaluate the program going forward. We didn't have the spring to do those things last year, and now that we've got that time, we'll do some deep reflecting, and focus on what we need to do to move the program forward. I'm very fortunate and blessed to have tremendous support from our administration; from our chancellor on down. (Athletic director) Jim Schmidt has been tremendous to my staff and me.
"We're just going to keep battling, and we're going to get this thing turned around the right way. We'll continue to recruit quality, high character kids, and stay true to ourselves and what our philosophy is."