Flames Open Season at No. 4/5 Pittsburgh Wednesday

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Nov. 9, 2010

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CHICAGO - The Howard Moore era at UIC will officially tip-off on Wednesday night, when the Flames travel to No. 4/5 Pittsburgh in the first-round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches versus Cancer. UIC and Pitt will be going head-to-head for the first time in men's basketball.

UIC is coming off an 8-22 (3-15 Horizon League) record during the 2009-10 campaign. The Flames return nine letterwinners from that squad, including their top-two scorers, and welcome eight newcomers to the mix.

The Flames are beginning their 63rd season of college basketball, and their 29th campaign as an NCAA Division I program. UIC's all-time Division I record is 447-414; the Flames have advanced to three NCAA Tournaments (1998, 2002 and 2004), while appearing in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) following the 2002-03 season. UIC captured the Horizon League Tournament titles in both 2002 and 2004.

Seven of the Flames' eight victories last season took place at the confines of the UIC Pavilion. UIC's lone road win was at Evansville in the ESPNU BracketBusters contest (2/20/10).

UIC will play its home season opener versus Roosevelt University on Monday night (Nov. 15), beginning at 7:30 p.m., at the UIC Pavilion. The Flames will then resume action in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer in Toledo, Ohio (Nov. 19-21), taking on the host Rockets (Nov. 19), College of Charleston (Nov. 20) and Rhode Island (Nov. 21).

UIC: Howard Moore (Wisconsin, `95) is in his first season as a college head coach. He spent the previous five seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, helping the Badgers to five straight NCAA tournament berths. Moore, 37, also served assistant coaching stints at Loyola (2004-05), Ball State (2003-04) and Bradley (1999-2003).

Pittsburgh: Jamie Dixon has served as the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh since 2003. Dixon was named Big East Coach of the Year in 2004, Naismith College Coach of the Year in 2009, and Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year in 2010. His 188 career wins headed into the 2010-11 season tied the NCAA Division I record for most wins in the first seven seasons of a head coaching career.

» The University of Pittsburgh is located in Pittsburgh, Pa., and has an enrollment of 28,328. The Panthers are members of the BIG EAST Conference.
» The Panthers return four starters from a team which finished in the top-20 of both major top-25 polls, and advanced to the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
» Pitt opened the season with an 83-75 win over Rhode Island on Monday night. UIC will take on Rhode Island at Savage Arena in Toledo on Nov. 21.

Wednesday night's season opener No. 4/5 Pittsburgh officially represents the beginning of a new era in Flames men's basketball. First-year head coach Howard Moore will coach his first regular season game as the UIC mentor. Moore is a Chicago native who grew up mere blocks from the UIC campus. He takes over the Flames basketball program after serving the last five seasons as an assistant coach at Wisconsin, his alma mater, under Bo Ryan.

Moore joined the Wisconsin staff in 2005 and helped the Badgers to NCAA tournament appearances in each of his five years. The Badgers advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons, including a Sweet 16 run in 2008.

Wisconsin posted three of the top five winningest seasons in school history with Moore on the staff, including a historic 2007-08 campaign that saw the Badgers win a school-record 31 games and capture the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships.

In the UIC's lone exhibition tune-up prior to Wednesday night's lid lifter at Pittsburgh, senior guard Robo Kreps scored a team-high 14 points to lead four in double figures, as the Flames recorded a wire-to-wire 80-53 win over Illinois-Springfield at the UIC Pavilion on Nov. 3.

Brad Birton scored 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds, while Paul Carter scored 10 points with eight caroms in his UIC debut. Junior guard Zavion Neely added 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting. The Flames out-rebounded the Prairie Stars 49-36, and shot 47.1 percent from the field, including a 55.3 percent effort in the second half. The Flames held a decisive 42-18 advantage in the paint.

UIC returns nine letterwinners and three starters from last season's team, which recorded an 8-22 record, including a 3-15 mark in Horizon League play. The Flames' starting backcourt of Robo Kreps and Zavion Neely returns -- Kreps and Neely averaged 15.2 and 12.2 points per game respectively, and were UIC's top-two scorers.

The Flames will welcome eight newcomers, including four junior college transfers (juniors Daniel Barnes, Paris Carter, Dorian Tyler and Darrin Williams), two freshmen (Eddie Denard and Shawn King), junior Matt Bush, who sat out his first season with a medical redshirt, and Minnesota transfer Paul Carter, a senior.

Senior frontcourt members Brad Birton (4.0 ppg/3.6 rpg) and K.C. Robbins (4.0 ppg/4.0 rpg) also return, along with sophomore guard Anthony Kelley, who appeared in 21 games during his first season in a Flames uniform.

Pitt returns four starters and seven of its top eight scorers from a 2009-10 team that finished 25-9 overall, ranked second in the Big East regular season with a 13-5 record, advanced to its ninth straight NCAA Tournament and earned a No. 3 seed upon entering the tourney. Last year's squad entered its season picked to finish ninth by the Big East league coaches. Pitt lost only one starter (Jermaine Dixon) from last year's team and returns 86 percent of its scoring, 88 percent of its rebounding and 84 percent of minutes played.

Since joining the NCAA Division I ranks prior to the 1982-83 season, UIC's men's basketball team has compiled a 17-12 record in season-opening games. The Flames defeated Illinois-Springfield in last season's lid lifter, topping the Prairie Stars at the UIC Pavilion, 72-59. UIC's last season-opening win on the road was to kick off the 1997-98 season, when the Flames defeated host Louisiana Tech, 73-68.

Senior guard Robo Kreps, the Horizon League's fifth-leading returning scorer, was named to the preseason All-Second Team in a poll conducted by the league's media, head coaches and sports information directors.

Kreps averaged a team-high 15.2 points per game last season, while leading the Horizon League in minutes played (35.7 mpg). The two-year starter has ranked in the top-10 of the league in scoring in each of the past two seasons, and enters his senior campaign with 1,105 career points, ranking 16th on the all-time scoring list at UIC.

UIC was picked ninth in the preseason team poll, 25 points behind eighth place Loyola and 54 points ahead of 10th place Youngstown State. Butler was the unanimous pick to repeat as Horizon League Champions.

As a junior last season, Robo Kreps set career highs in points (456), rebounds (116), assists (64), steals (42), field goals (142), three-pointers (56), free throws made (116) and minutes played (1,070). He made two game-winning baskets, scored a career-high 31 points against Detroit (12/31/09) and averaged 22.0 points per game in UIC's final four games. He enters his senior season ranked 16th on UIC's all-time scoring list (1,105), ranks fifth in career three-point field goal attempts (428) and is tied for sixth in three-point field goals made (159).

First-year head coach Howard Moore and the UIC men's basketball program received some great news in late September, when Minnesota transfer Paul Carter was granted a legislative relief waiver by the NCAA, allowing him immediate eligibility at UIC for his senior season.

Carter is a versatile 6-8, 203-pound forward who played a key role as the Sixth Man for Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith the past two seasons, helping the Golden Gophers reach a pair of NCAA Tournament berths. With the Golden Gophers, Carter scored more than 300 points and corralled over 200 rebounds.

Carter transferred to UIC with one year of eligibility remaining to be near his sister, Bria, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, last winter. Since Carter joined the Flames, Bria has completed chemotherapy, received a temporary prosthetic leg after amputation, and is planning to begin her high school career at King High School in Chicago next semester.

Carter comes from a strong sports family. Ron Carter, Paul's father, was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1978, and his older brother, Ron III, was an All-American triple jumper at California State-Long Beach.

Junior guard Zavion Neely enjoyed a breakout campaign as a sophomore, averaging 12.2 points per game, the second-best average on the team and the 18th-best mark in the Horizon League. The Chicago native scored in double figures 20 times, and averaged 15.3 points over the final three contests of the 2009-10 season. As a freshman (2008-09), Neely appeared in just eight games, averaging 1.8 points per contest.

Head coach Howard Moore named seniors Robo Kreps and Paul Carter co-captains for the 2010-11 campaign, Moore's first season as the 10th head men's basketball coach at UIC.

Head coach Howard Moore will bring a version of Wisconsin's "Swing Offense" to UIC. The Flames will also employ an aggressive, man-to-man defensive scheme.

Howard Moore assembled an assistant coaching staff that has impeccable local recruiting ties, a wealth of Division I experience and plenty of "blood in the bricks." Al Biancalana brings nearly three decades of coaching experience to UIC at both the college and high school levels. From 1999-2005, the Elmwood, Park, Ill., native was the top assistant at Bradley when Moore was also on the staff. Biancalana was responsible for recruiting the majority of the roster for the Braves' 2006 NCAA "Sweet 16" run.

Mike Mennenga, a native of Rantul, Ill., comes to UIC after a stint as an assistant coach at Central Connecticut State. Prior to that he was the Director of Player Development under head coach Keno Davis at Providence for a year. He has also served assistant coaching stints at Iowa State, where helped bring in a top 25 recruiting class in 2005-06, along with Buffalo and Maine.

Donnie Kirksey joined Moore's staff after serving as the head basketball coach and athletic director at Chicago's Hyde Park Academy since 2007. He also brings college basketball coaching experience from stints at both DePaul and Chicago State.

Matt Ryan, the Director of Basketball Operations, is Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan's youngest son. He most recently served on the Wisconsin staff with Moore as the Badgers' video coordinator, and also served as the basketball operations administrator and lead video coordinator for the USA Men's World University Team for the 2009 World University Games. Ryan played college basketball at Milwaukee, also a member of the Horizon League.