Talton's Game-Winning Shot Lifts UIC over Western Illinois, 57-56

Junior Daniel Barnes tallied a career-high 22 points in the 57-56 win over Western Illinois.
Junior Daniel Barnes tallied a career-high 22 points in the 57-56 win over Western Illinois.

Dec. 19, 2011

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CHICAGO - The UIC men's basketball has suffered its fair share of heartbreakers in late game situations this season. Over the final 1:55 of the Flames' 57-56 win over Western Illinois Monday night, UIC proved that tough scenarios could be reversed, and would eventually pay off in a positive way. Junior point guard Gary Talton sank a driving layup with just 3.2 seconds remaining, helping the Flames erase a late-game eight-point deficit to edge the visiting Leathernecks at the UIC Pavilion.

With the win, UIC improves to 4-7 on the season, heading into Friday's non-conference finale at Dayton. Western Illinois drops to 4-4.

Talton nearly single-handedly completed the comeback, scoring UIC's final seven points. The game-winning shot was set-up after Talton stole Western Illinois' in-bound pass with just over eight seconds remaining. He came off a high ball screen, sliced to the basket in traffic, and laid the ball off glass to seal the win. UIC trailed 55-47 with 2:25 remaining.

Not to be overshadowed, junior guard Daniel Barnes scored a game-high 22 points, eclipsing his career-high in scoring for the second-straight game. Talton ended the game with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and dished out a season-best six assists. Senior center Darrin Williams chipped in 13 points and corralled seven rebounds. Western Illinois was led by point guard Ceola Clark, who scored 17 points to lead two Leathernecks in double figures.

"I've got a great tactician, Coach Al Biancalana, on my staff, and he always gives me some quick hitters and special situation plays that we can use," said head coach Howard Moore. "The final play was designed for Gary, and our guys did a tremendous job executing it. Once he can get some momentum going, and get to the rim with his right hand, he's tough to defend. It was a great play, and great execution by the team."

UIC got off to a fast start, jumping out to an 11-2 lead through the opening 5:07. The Flames then extended their lead to a game-high 13 points (30-17), after Talton's jumper with 2:32 left in the opening half. Western lllinois ended the half on a commanding 9-2 run, trimming UIC's lead to just six (32-26) heading into the locker room at halftime. Clark had two threes down the stretch to propel the run.

The Leathernecks sustained the momentum early in the second half, tying the game at 43-43 with 11:20 remaining. They maintained the lead until the final possession, stretching their 55-47 with 2:25 left. Barnes sliced the deficit to 55-49 with 1:55 remaining, and Talton added his second three-pointer with 1:16 left on the clock to trim WIU's lead to just three, 55-52.

Clark went 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 1:10 remaining, giving the Leathernecks a two-possession (56-52) lead. Talton then successfully converted a conventional three-point play on the ensuing possession (1:03), pulling UIC within two, 56-54. After committing a turnover after UIC forced a defensive stop, Talton stole the in-bound. Moore called a timeout, drawing up the final play with his staff. WIU's desperation three from just over half court fell short, preserving the one-point win.

Moore, who began his coaching career alongside Biancalana under Western Illinois head coach Jim Molinari during his tenure as the mentor at Bradley, was complimentary of Molinari, and the Leathernecks.

"Tonight was bittersweet. Sometimes you don't like playing against your friends, and your mentors," Moore added. "That's what Coach Molinari is to me. He was the guy that gave me my first opportunity in coaching. I love him like a father, and it's tough when you beat someone that you have so much respect for. "Mo" is going to get that thing going at Western. He's got a great group; this was a very good team that we beat tonight. They're going to do some damage in the Summit League this season."

UIC will take on Dayton from UD Arena beginning at 6 p.m. CST Friday night. The Flames will resume Horizon League play on Dec. 29, when Detroit visits the Pavilion.