Dec. 9, 2010
TV: Comcast SportsNet Chicago (7:05 p.m.) Play-by-Play: Kurt Pegler Color: Bob Morris
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CHICAGO - The UIC men's basketball team will begin a stretch of three-consecutive games against in-state non-conference foes Saturday, when the Flames travel to Normal, Ill., to take on Illinois State. The game will tip-off from Redbird Arena at 7:05 p.m., and be televised by Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
UIC'S PROBABLE STARTERS
#2 Paul Carter, Sr., F
NOTES: Has recorded seven double-digit scoring outputs, including a season-high tying 24 points against Rhode Island (11/21/10) ... Has posted two double-doubles on the season ... Ranks third in the Horizon League in rebounding (8.0 rpg), and eighth overall in scoring (14.4 ppg) ... Enters Saturday's game with 498 career NCAA Divison I points (at Minnesota and UIC).
#3 Robo Kreps, Sr., G
NOTES: Has scored 20 or more points in four contests ... MVP of the 2K Sports Classic Toledo Sub-regional ... Named the Horizon League Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 21 ... Ranks fifth in the league in scoring (15.9 ppg) ... Is the Horizon League's career active leader in three-point field goals (176) ... Ranks 12th on UIC's all-time scoring list (1,248 points).
#23 Zavion Neely, Jr., G
NOTES: Has started all nine games, often drawing the assignment as the Flames' "chaser" on defense ... One-of three Flames players averaging double figures in scoring, and has four double-digit scoring efforts ... Scored a season-high 22 points on a career-best three three pointers against Toledo on Nov. 28.
#35 Brad Birton, Sr., F
NOTES: Has started all nine games, pulling down at least six rebounds on five occasions ... Can defend multiple positions ... His 20 assists rank third on the team ... Has drawn a team-high 18 charges this season ... Shooting 43.2 percent from the field.
#44 K.C. Robbins, Sr., C
NOTES: Started his first game of the season last Saturday (12/4/10) against Akron ... Came off the bench in the previous eight contests in an average of 9.3 minutes per game ... Scored a season-high 12 points and corralled a season-best five rebounds in the season opener at Pitt (11/10/10).
UIC: Howard Moore is in his first season as a college head coach. Moore, 37, comes to UIC after spending the previous five seasons as an assistant coach at Wisconsin, his alma mater, under head coach Bo Ryan.
Moore joined the Badgers staff in 2005 and helped lead them to the NCAA Tournament in each of his five seasons in Madison. The team advanced past the first round of the Big Dance in each of the last four seasons and produced a memorable Sweet 16 run in 2008.
With Moore on the bench, Wisconsin posted three of the top-five winningest seasons in school history, including a historic 2007-08 campaign that saw the Badgers win a school-record 31 games en route to Big Ten regular season and tournament championships.
Under Ryan's tutelage Moore established himself as one of the top recruiters in the Big Ten by utilizing the Chicagoland area as a main pipeline for talent.
Illinois State: Tim Jankovich is in his fourth season at the helm of the Illinois State men's basketball program. In each of his three seasons as head coach, the Redbirds have advanced to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) -- ISU also played in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship game in both 2008 and 2009.
During the 2007-08 season, the Redbirds equaled their highest win total in school history (25), and Jankovich posted the most victories by any Illinois State first-year head coach. The Redbirds opened the 2008-09 campaign with a school-record 14-straight wins, and went on to post a 24-10 overall record. Last season, Illinois State recorded its third-straight 20-win season, going 22-11.
SCOUTING THE FLAMES
UIC is 4-5 (0-1 Horizon) on the season, and 1-1 in true road games. The Flames, who will be playing their first game away from home since Nov. 21, are coming off last Saturday's 54-52 loss against visiting Akron at the UIC Pavilion.
Senior guard Robo Kreps is leading the Flames offensively, scoring 15.9 points per game -- he has also dished out a team-high 33 assists in his first full season running the point. Minnesota transfer, senior forward Paul Carter is averaging 14.4 points per game, while also leading the Flames in rebounding with 8.0 caroms per contest, third-best in the Horizon League. Kreps currently ranks fifth in the conference in scoring, while Carter ranks eighth.
Junior guard Zavion Neely, who scored 12.2 points per game as a sophomore last season, is averaging 10.0 points per contest, and has scored in double figures in two-of the last three games. Kreps (.433), senior Brad Birton (.463) and junior forward Darrin Williams (.488) all are shooting better than 40 percent from the field.
UIC is averaging 64.2 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 66.0 points per contest. The Flames are out-rebounding their opponents by nearly a four-carom margin (+3.9), and are averaging 5.3 steals and 2.1 blocks per game, respectively. UIC currently ranks third in the Horizon League in both offensive rebounds (13.4 rpg) and assists per game (14.1).
SCOUTING THE REDBIRDS
Illinois State is 6-3 on the season, and has played eight of those games at home. The Redbirds are coming off a 67-65 loss against visiting Ohio Wednesday night.
Illinois State fields a balanced scoring attack, with eight players averaging at least five points per game. Senior guard Austin Hill's 11.3 points per contest lead the way, while sophomore forward Jackie Carmichael is scoring 11.2 points per outing.
Senior forward Tony Lewis is averaging 8.4 points to go along with a team-leading 8.6 rebounds per game. John Wilkins, a 6-foot-9 guard, has come off the bench in the last four games, and is scoring 7.8 points per outing.
The Redbirds currently rank third in the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring defense, allowing their opponents to score just 62.8 points per game. Illinois State also ranks second in the league in blocks (4.3 bpg), and third overall in steals per game (5.9).
BREAKING DOWN THE AKRON GAME
There were a combined five ties and lead changes in the game, with UIC holding its largest lead of 13 (40-27) with 17:02 remaining in the game ... The Flames out-rebounded the Zips 41-34, and scored 24 points in the paint ... For the second-consecutive game, the Flames converted just one three-pointer, and attempted only seven threes ... UIC held the Zips to a season-low 37.9 percent shooting effort ... The Flames committed 17 turnovers, and forced Akron into 14 mishaps ... UIC out-scored Akron 32-20 in the first half, but was out-scored in the second stanza, 34-20 ... Senior forward Robo Kreps (14 points) led the Flames in scoring for the fifth time this season, and Paul Carter's nine rebounds paced UIC for the fifth time ... Coming off the bench for the first time this season, junior center Darrin Williams scored a season-high 12 points on a 5-of-6 effort from the field.
QUOTING COACH MOORE: "Our guys came out with a sense of urgency, trying to get a little bit of redemption from Thursday's game (68-66 overtime loss against Valparaiso). We built a double-digit halftime lead again, and in the locker room, we talked about not letting our lead or intensity slip. In the second half, we lost some opportunities offensively, and we didn't execute the way we did in the first half. We allowed Akron to disrupt us, and get us out of our flow."
The Flames and Redbirds will be playing on the hardwood for the fifth-consecutive season. Illinois State holds a 13-7 all-time series lead, and has won four-straight in the series. UIC's last win over ISU was at Redbird Arena on Nov. 30, 2004. In last season's meeting at the UIC Pavilion (11/23/09), the Flames rallied from an eight-point deficit with 2:30 remaining, and had a chance to tie the game, but Robo Kreps' final shot came up short as the Redbirds came away with a 69-65 win.
Zavion Neely led the Flames with 17 points, followed by 15 points apiece from Jeremy Buttell and Kreps. The Redbirds were led by Osiris Eldridge's 19 points -- he was joined in double figures by Dinma Odiakosa (15) and Alex Rubin (15). Illinois State held a six-point (34-28) halftime lead, and scored 21 points off UIC's 14 turnovers.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Senior guard Robo Kreps passed both Nate Chambers (1984-88) and Armond Williams (2001-05) on UIC's all-time scoring list last week. Kreps enters Saturday's game at Illinois State (slated to be his 70th career start) with 1,248 career points; he is just 41 points away from tying John Ellis (1981-84) for 11th on the all-time list, and is only 52 tallies away from becoming the 11th player in UIC history to score 1,300 or more career points.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
UIC has out-rebounded five-of-its nine opponents this season, and in those contests, has done so in convincing fashion, by an average of 14.2 boards per game. The Flames, who have out-rebounded three-straight foes, are 3-2 when recording a rebounding advantage over its opponent this season.
Senior forward Paul Carter has been the catalyst for the Flames' success on the boards this season. The Horizon League's third-leading rebounder (8.0 rpg), Carter has two double-digit rebounding outputs, and corralled nine rebounds on three other occasions. Carter's 5.6 defensive rebounds per game currently rank second in the Horizon League.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
As mentioned, UIC enters Saturday's game against the Redbirds ranked third in the Horizon League in assists per game (14.2). While senior guard Robo Kreps has dished out a team-high 33 assists, he has also had a little help from his friends. Paul Carter (23), Zavion Neely (20) and Brad Birton (20) have each dished out 20 or more helpers through the first nine games of the season.
'Z' BREAKING FREE
Junior guard Zavion Neely, who has been called upon to be a lock-down perimeter defender early on this season, has shown flashes of his offensive ability that produced 12.2 points per game last season, one of the top-20 marks in the Horizon League. Over the last four games, Neely has been the Flames' top scorer, averaging 12.2 points per game -- that stretch includes three double-digit scoring outputs, bolstered by a season-high 22 points on a career-best three three-pointers against Toledo (11/28/10).
POINTS IN THE PAINT
UIC has scored 238 points in the paint this season, nearly 42 percent of its entire offensive output (538 total points). In the past two games against Valparaiso (12/2/10) and Akron (12/4/10), the Flames combined to score 64 points in the paint, accounting for almost 55 percent of the 118 total points UIC scored in those contests.
PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES
In each of the last five games, UIC's defensive field goal percentage has improved, decreasing from a 50 percent mark following the College of Charleston game (11/20/10), to a 45.8 percent mark following last Saturday's contest against Akron. In the past two games, both two-point losses, the Flames held their opponents (Valpo and Akron) to a combined 40.4 percent field goal mark, including a 19 percent clip from three-point range.
Howard Moore PRESENTED RICKY BYRDSONG AWARD
UIC head men's basketball coach Howard Moore is the 2010 recipient of the Ricky Byrdsong Award, the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative (IFI) announced on Dec. 2. Created in 2000 and named after former Northwestern head coach Ricky Byrdsong, the award annually recognizes men who are good fathers, have reached out and made a difference in the lives of youth and have demonstrated a spiritual dimension to their lives.
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 started her high school career at King High School in Chicago this semester.