Flames Begin 2014 at Defending Horizon League Champion Valparaiso

Hayden Humes posted a career-best 23 points in his last game inside the ARC.
Hayden Humes posted a career-best 23 points in his last game inside the ARC.

Dec. 31, 2013

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UIC (5-9, 0-0) at Valparaiso (8-7, 0-0)
 Date Thursday, Jan. 2
 Time 7:05 p.m. CT
 Location Valparaiso, Ind. | The ARC
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 Game Notes UIC Flames | Valparaiso Crusaders
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 Season Stats UIC Flames | Valparaiso Crusaders
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Opening Tip
The UIC men’s basketball team (5-9) will open the New Year and Horizon League play at defending conference champion Valparaiso on Thursday, Jan. 2.  This will be the 47th all-time meeting between the two programs as UIC holds a 29-18 series advantage against the Crusaders.  Thursday’s contest will be aired exclusively on ESPN3 with tip-off scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.  UIC dropped its most recent outing against rv/rv Illinois, 74-60, despite leading the Fighting Illini for more than 24 minutes.  Valparaiso returns home for the first time since Dec. 14 after stumbling at East Tennessee State this past Sunday by a final of 73-62.


Last Time Out
UIC used a pair of 9-2 runs in the first half against rv/rv Illinois this past Saturday at the United Center to build a 44-34 halftime lead, but the Illini fought back and outscored UIC, 40-16, in the final 20 minutes to capture a 74-60 win. The Flames were in front by as much as 13 points in the opening period with Kelsey Barlow scoring 18 of his 21 points in the first half.  Illinois opened the second period with an 8-0 run and eventually grabbed the lead by the 12:49 mark.  UIC led Illinois for 24 minutes and 24 seconds throughout the contest and never trailed in the first half.

Scouting the Crusaders
Valparaiso enters Thursday’s contest with an overall record of 8-7, having lost their last two games on the road at Central Florida (90-62) and East Tennessee State (73-62).  The Crusaders are led by senior LaVonte Dority and freshman Alec Peters who are averaging 15.5 and 14.3 points per game, respectively.  Valpo touts a high-scoring offense that averages more than 80 points per outing and ranks 26th in the nation in rebounding margin at +7.4.  The Crusaders have won back-to-back Horizon League regular season titles, however only return less than 23 percent of their scoring from 2012-13.

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.

Pat Birt named HL freshman of the week
Pat Birt was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Week for the period of Dec. 23-29 for his performances against Colorado State and rv/rv Illinois, averaging eight points and three rebounds in those contests.  Birt scored all nine of his points in the first half versus the Illini, helping UIC to a 10-point halftime lead.  The Plano, Texas native, netted all seven of this points in the second period against Colorado State as UIC nearly pulled off the comeback.  Birt has started five straight games for UIC and ranks as the third-highest scoring freshman in the conference.

Humes’ Arc
Senior Hayden Humes set a career-high 23 points the last time he played in Valpo’s Athletics-Recreation Center (ARC) in a league tournament quarterfinal matchup versus Green Bay on March 8, 2013.  Humes also drilled a career-best 10 field goals on just 12 attempts.  Humes was a prep player at Valparaiso High School and attended Toledo for one year before transferring to UIC.

Sure Shot Harks
Senior Jordan Harks has been a model of efficiency this season shooting 50-of-79 (63.3%) from the floor, which ranks second among all Horizon League players.  Harks has performed even better as of late, connecting on 20 of his last 25 shot attempts throughout the past four games.  The Lombard, Ill., native scored eight points and sank all four of his field goal attempts against Illinois last Saturday, posting eight or more points for the eighth time this season.

Strength of Schedule
After Monday night’s NCAA slate of games, UIC’s 14 non-league opponents have a combined record of 116-67 for a .634 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. 

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.

Wiegand Over the Middle
At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, sophomore Jake Wiegand has the physical dimensions of an NFL tight end, but he also happens to be pretty good at basketball too.  Wiegand has nearly doubled his point and rebounding totals from last season, while averaging 13 more minutes per game than 2012-13.  The Herndon, Va., native is one of just 10 Horizon League players to average two or more offensive rebounds per contest and ranks fourth in scoring for UIC (6.9) and second in rebounding (4.7).

Defending the Rock
UIC is averaging just 11.7 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 14 opponents so far this year.  

Barlow With The Dish
Senior Kelsey Barlow owns the Horizon League’s third-best assist per game average of 4.6 as he touts eight games with five or more helpers this season and has paced the Flames in assists in 12 of 14 contests.  The 6-foot-5 point guard set a career-high eight assists against SEMO on Dec. 14 and followed that up with another eight assists versus Purdue Calumet on Dec. 17.

What Can Brown Do For You?
Junior Marc Brown is having one of the best breakout seasons in the Horizon League this year.  The Dallas native is averaging 12.3 points per game, up nearly seven points from the end of last year, and began the 2013-14 campaign with three straight 20-point efforts.  Brown became the first Flame to post a trio of 20-point games since Robo Kreps did it in the 2010-11 season.  He currently ranks 16th in the Horizon League in points per game with a 12.3 average and needs just 16 more points to equal his season total from 2012-13 of 188.