Dec. 27, 2013
UIC Game Notes
The UIC men’s basketball team (5-8) will look for a repeat victory against Big Ten-member Illinois (10-2) at the United Center on Dec. 28 at 1 p.m. CT. The Flames defeated the Fighting Illini in their most recent gathering on Dec. 18, 2010, by a final score of 57-54 in a game that was also played at the United Center. Saturday’s contest will serve as the final non-conference matchup for both squads and will be aired live on the Big Ten Network.
Last Time Out
UIC dropped a road contest at Colorado State this past Monday by a final score of 74-61. The Flames held an early 8-7 lead, but a 10-2 Rams’ run in the first half put CSU in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the night. UIC kept fighting and pulled to within six on two separate occasions midway through the second half, but the Rams held strong down the stretch for the 13-point win. Senior Kelsey Barlow managed a game-high 20 points in just 20 minutes, including 18 in the second half, after picking up two quick fouls to start the game. Barlow wasn’t the only Flame in foul trouble as six UIC players had been whistled on three or more occasions throughout the contest, including four of the five starters.
Scouting the Illini
Illinois enters Saturday receiving votes in both major polls as they carry a 10-2 overall record. Illinois claimed victory in their most recent outing against long-standing rival Missouri by a final score of 65-64 on Dec. 21. Head Coach John Groce is in his second season with the Fighting Illini and holds a record of 33-15 while in Champaign. Illinois is paced by redshirt junior Rayvonte Rice who averages 17.4 point per game. Rice sat out last season after transferring from Drake. The Illini rate as one of the top defensive teams in the country, limiting their opponents to just 60.7 points per game, which ranks 15th in the NCAA.
Recapping the 2010 Win Over illinois
UIC’s 57-54 win over then-No.12/14 Illinois on Dec. 18, 2010, tied for the biggest win over a ranked opponent in program history. The Illini held a seven-point lead in the second half, but the Flames fought back and regained the edge (53-52) on a pair of made free throws with 1:10 left to play. Demetri McCamey countered with two made free throws of his own, but a Darrin Williams tip-in at the other end with 23 seconds remaining put UIC in front for good. The triumph was UIC’s first win against Illinois since Nov. 29, 1990 when the Flames claimed victory in Champaign, 71-60.
A League of His Own
Senior Kelsey Barlow is having one of the best performances in the Horizon League this season as he paces UIC in nearly all statistical categories. Barlow is the lone player in the conference to average 16 points, five rebounds and four assists or more per game. His 38 points against Wagner on Nov. 27 is the second highest single-game point total in the Horizon League this season and the most by a UIC player since Feb. of 2005. For his near triple-double performance against SEMO (21 pts, 12 rebs, eight asts.), Barlow was named the Horizon Player of the Week, his first career weekly conference accolade.
Strength of Schedule
After Thursday night’s NCAA slate of games, UIC’s 14 opponents (including Illinois) so far this season have a combined record of 109-61 for a .641 winning percentage. Nine of UIC’s 14 opponents have eight or more wins, including five teams with 10 or more. Aside from Oakland, the Flames tout the toughest non-conference schedule in terms of opponent record among Horizon League schools.
Neutral Site Success
After finishing 2-1 at the first annual Gulf Coast Showcase, UIC Head Coach Howard Moore improved his neutral site record to 6-4 during his four seasons as the Flames’ mentor. Moore’s biggest neutral site victory was against No. 12/14 Illinois on Dec. 18, 2010, when UIC knocked off the Fighting Illini, 57-54, at the United Center. In that same season, the Flames beat Rhode Island and lost to College of Charleston in the 2K Sports Classic hosted by Toledo. Last year, UIC went 2-1 at the Paradise Jam and then fell to Green Bay in quarterfinals of the Horizon League Tournament.
Barlow’s 30 for 30
Senior Kelsey Barlow recorded back-to-back 30 point performances earlier this season with 38 versus Wagner (Nov. 27) and 31 against SMU (Dec. 4). Barlow stands as just the third player in program history to achieve consecutive 30-point games and the first since former NBA first-round draft choice Sherell Ford did it in Feb. of 1995. The other Flame to do so is UIC’s second all-time leading scorer and the Flames’ radio analyst Kenny Williams.
Birt’s the Word
Freshman Pat Birt has been playing more like a veteran with four consecutive starts and averaging 8.2 points per game in his last eight games. He ranks third among all Horizon League freshmen scorers with a 6.4 ppg average. Birt has missed just one free throw all season, converting on 12-of-13 and has hit 12 in a row, UIC’s longest made free throw streak this season.
Defending the Rock
UIC is averaging just 11.6 turnovers per game this season, which ranks second-best among all Horizon League programs and tied for 89th in the nation. If that mark holds through the season it would set a single-season program record for UIC since entering the Division-I ranks in 1981. The Flames have posted fewer turnovers than nine their 13 opponents so far this year.