Men's Basketball Stifles Mercer, 62-36

Sophomore center Will Simonton
Sophomore center Will Simonton

Nov. 17, 2012

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ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands - The UIC men's basketball tallied a balanced scoring attack, and used a stifling defensive effort to convincingly defeat Mercer, 62-36 in the second round of the US Virgin Islands Paradise Jam Saturday afternoon. The Bears' 36 points marks the lowest scoring output for a UIC opponent since the Flames joined the Division I ranks prior to the 1981-82 season.

With the win, UIC improves to 2-1 on the season, while Mercer dropped to 2-2. The Flames will take on Iona in Monday's fourth-place game beginning at 6:00 p.m. local time, 4:00 p.m. CST. The Gaels upended Wake Forest on Saturday evening, 94-68.

Junior forward Hayden Humes and senior point guard Gary Talton each scored a game-high 14 points, while senior guard Daniel Barnes chipped in with nine points and a career-high seven rebounds. Sophomore wing Marc Brown scored a season-high eight points, while sophomore center Will Simonton enjoyed the best all-around game of his career, scoring six points to go along with four rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.

"Our success is going to be built on defense," said head coach Howard Moore. "Our guys are starting to believe that defense is who we are; it's how you win games, and how you eventually win championships. I was impressed with our guys; they were ready to move on after last night's loss. They were locked in over the last 24 hours, and really put together a very solid game today.

"Offensively, we want to be a balanced team - we don't want to have to rely on just one or two guys. If we get multiple guys touches and multiple guys involved, we're going to be that much tougher to defend."

UIC trailed just once in the game, jumping on the Bears from the opening tip. Between the 11:54 and 6:52 marks of the first half, the Flames went on a commanding 8-3 run, spearheaded by a pair of field goals from Talton, and a transition scoop and score by sophomore Joey Miller. At the under-8 media timeout, UIC led by eight, 18-10.

After Mercer pulled within 23-16, UIC finished the opening frame on a 7-3 run, taking a 30-19 lead into the locker room at halftime. Humes, Miller and Talton all provided field goals in the 2:55 stretch. The Flames switched defensive looks several times in the half, forcing the Bears into 10 turnovers and just a 36.8 percent effort from the floor.

Humes scored five quick points in the early stages of the second half, helping the Flames build a 37-25 lead at the first media timeout (14:24) of the frame. Barnes chipped in another five points in the ensuing 2:29, extending UIC's advantage to 15 points, 42-25, at the under-12 media break (11:53).

The Flames kept the pressure on out of the break, with Talton, Barnes and Humes combining for eight-straight points, forcing Mercer into a timeout trailing by 25 points, 50-25. UIC cleared its bench down the stretch, building its largest lead of 31 points (62-31) with 1:55 remaining.

UIC forced Mercer into 17 total turnovers, and just a 32.6 percent effort from the field. The Flames also posted a 30-27 advantage on the boards, and swiped nine steals. Offensively, it was the Flames' most efficient effort of the season - UIC shot 46.8 percent from the field, including a 50 percent output in the second half, and a 53.3 percent effort from three-point range.

Monday's game against Iona can be heard on ESPN Chicago (WMVP-AM 1000) and on tape delay - the broadcast will be aired at 7:30 p.m. CST.