Neely, Flames Rally for 63-62 win over Toledo

Nov. 28, 2010

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CHICAGO - Senior guard Robo Kreps drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key with just nine seconds remaining, lifting the UIC men's basketball team to a thrilling 63-62 win over visiting Toledo at the UIC Pavilion Sunday afternoon.

With the Rockets clinging to a 62-60 lead in the final minute, the Flames forced a defensive stop with 16 seconds remaining, setting up the game-winning play in transition. Kreps led the fast break, pulled up from one foot outside the three-point arc near the top of the key, and hit the shot, forcing Toledo (0-7) into an ensuing timeout. UIC (4-3) then forced Toledo's Malcolm Griffin into a tough shot in traffic, preserving the one-point win, the Flames' second victory over the Rockets in nine days.

Junior guard Zavion Neely led UIC's offensive effort, scoring a game-high 22 points, including a career-best three field goals from beyond the three-point arc. Senior forward Paul Carter recorded his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 14 rebounds, and added six assists against just one turnover. Kreps scored nine points, tying his season-low output, but tied his career-high with seven assists, and committed just two turnovers in 36 minutes of action.

Toledo was led by Griffin, a graduate of Hyde Park High School in Chicago, who scored 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Hayden Humes and Reese Holliday each scored nine points for Toledo, which shot 44.4 percent from the field. UIC dominated the boards, posting a 37-20 rebounding advantage, and scored 12 second-chance points.

"It was a grinder all the way to the end tonight," said UIC head coach Howard Moore. "I'm really excited about how our guys stepped up and got this win. We knew Toledo wasn't a typical 0-6 team coming in here. It was a team that was hungry, and felt like this was a win that they could come in here and get.

"Our guys were really willing to buy into the game plan, and adjust on the fly to what we were doing. We had to make a lot of adjustments, and our guys did a nice job of battling. We got a good defensive group into the game that got some stops. I thought `Z' (Zavion Neely) played great tonight. His mentality this season has been more on the defensive end; he's been really locked in on what we ask him to do defensively. Tonight, his focus on defense turned into some timely offense, and he did a great job leading us."

Griffin tallied two early field goals, helping Toledo build a 7-2 lead less than two minutes into the game. The Rockets held the lead for the first 15:03, before UIC took its first lead (21-20) after Neely's fourth field goal. Both teams traded baskets over the ensuing 3:35, before a lay-up by Holliday gave the Rockets a 26-23 lead with 1:45 remaining in the first half.

Out of a timeout, Carter was the beneficiary of a solid pass from freshman guard Shawn King, and dunked in the lane, pulling the Flames within one, 27-26, heading into the locker room at halftime. Neely scored nine first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting, while Griffin scored 11 points in the opening frame, converting five field goals.

The Rockets extended their lead to four points (32-28) less than one minute into the second half. UIC then scored the next four points, tying the game at 32-32 with 17:26 remaining. The Flames' first lead of the second half came with just under 14 minutes left, after Neely hit his third shot from three-point range.

Neely kept the rally going, scoring the next five points, all on free throws - the Flames claimed a 46-39 lead with 12:23 remaining. But the Rockets responded with a 7-2 run, pulling within 48-46 at the 10:23 mark. UIC's lead fluctuated between two and six points over the ensuing eight minutes, before a three-pointer by Toledo's Jay Shunnar tied the game at 58-58 with 2:34 left.

After a missed three-pointer, a turnover and a called foul on Neely, the Rockets' Delino Dear hit back-to-back free throws, giving Toledo a 60-58 lead with 1:18 remaining. Carter answered with a lay-up in traffic on the other end, knotting the score at 60-60. Griffin and Dear then each split two free throws in a 20-second span, giving the Flames the game-winning opportunity via Kreps' three-point shot.

The Flames have now won five-straight over Toledo, dating back to the 2007-08 season. The streak includes a win over the Rockets at Savage Arena just nine days ago in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches versus Cancer.

UIC will wrap up its four-game homestand this week, beginning with a Thursday night (Dec. 2) match-up against Valparaiso (7 p.m.) in the Horizon League opener. The UIC athletic department will work in conjunction with the University of Illinois Medical Center and the Walter Payton Liver Center to honor the late Walter Payton and his family.

$4 from every ticket purchased will go toward finding a cure for Liver cancer at the Walter Payton Liver Center. Commemorative Walter Payton headbands will be sold for $5. All proceeds from the sale of the headbands will directly benefit the Walter Payton Liver Center.