Flames end record-setting season

Josh Crittle vs Northern Iowa CIT

Josh Crittle takes a shot as the Flames battle Northern Iowa in the second round of the CIT. Photo: Randy Darst

The men’s basketball team stifled host Northern Iowa to 37.0 percent shooting, but the Panthers broke a 41-41 tie with a 23-10 run to defeat the Flames, 63-51, in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament Saturday night.

The loss  at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls ends UIC’s record-setting season with 18 wins, the most since 2007-08.

With the setback, UIC (18-16) was eliminated from the 2013 CIT, ending the Flames’ first postseason run since 2004. UNI improved to 20-14 on the season, and moved onto the CIT’s Round of 8.

In his final game at UIC, senior center Josh Crittle was just one rebound shy of a double-double, scoring a team-high 12 points to go along with nine rebounds.

Senior guard Daniel Barnes chipped in 10 points on four field goals. UNI was paced by leading scorer Anthony James, who scored 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

“It’s always tough to end the season with a loss, but I told the seniors that I’m extremely proud of them,” said head coach Howard Moore.

“They’ve had a heck of a year. When people look at UIC basketball in the future, they’re going to look back on this group of seniors that set the tone for our turnaround.

“We ran into a very tough UNI team tonight,” Moore added. “They’ve got  a great program here. They hit some big shots down the stretch, pulled away and did what they needed to do to advance. They are going to be a tough out for the rest of this tournament.”

UNI led 25-24 at halftime, after the Flames held the Panthers to 33.3 percent (10-30) from the floor. The Panthers led 22-15 with 5:38 remaining, but UIC finished the frame on a 9-4 spurt to pull within one possession. Barnes’ drive and finish with 2:09 left completed the scoring in the opening half.

Crittle and junior forward Hayden Humes combined for five quick points in the opening 4:13 of the second half, helping the Flames claim a 29-28 lead at the first media timeout (15:02).

UIC led three times in the ensuing seven minutes and owned a 41-38 advantage with 8:42 remaining after a three-pointer by senior point guard Gary Talton.

UNI tied the game (41-41) with a three on the ensuing possession and took a 43-41 lead coming out of the under-8 media timeout (7:39) after a pair of free throws by James.

The Panthers never relinquished the lead down the stretch, but UIC was within just five (51-46) with 3:16 remaining. UNI went 7-for-8 from the charity stripe in the final 1:44 to push the final margin to double digits.

Saturday’s game marked the final contest for Barnes, Crittle, Talton and Anthony Kelley.

Barnes finished his career with 718 points and 149 three-point field goals, which ranks eighth all-time in the UIC record books.

Crittle became UIC’s second-straight Horizon League All-Newcomer Team selection, wrapping up his lone season in a UIC uniform as the Flames’ third-leading scorer (10.5 ppg) and leading rebounder (5.5 rpg).

Kelley became a fixture in Moore’s rotation during the second half of his senior season, starting 12-of the final 17 games; he finished his four-year career with 103 points, including a pair of three-pointers on Saturday night.

Talton’s two-year career included two Horizon League All-League honors (Second Team in 2012-13). He ends his UIC career with 768 career points, 250 assists and 237 rebounds.

UIC expects to return nine letter winners to the program next season, including starters Humes and Marc Brown.

The team will welcome Purdue transfer Kelsey Barlow to the mix, along with two incoming freshmen: guard Markese McGuire (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) and wing Lance Whitaker (South Elgin/Barlett).

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