Flames lose momentum versus Illini

Jordan Harks

Jordan Harks blocks an Illini shot Saturday at the United Center. Photo: Steve Woltmann

The men’s basketball team (5-9) dropped an in-state rivalry game to Illinois (11-2), 74-60, after leading the majority of the game  Saturday afternoon at the United Center.

Senior Kelsey Barlow paced UIC with 21 points, his fifth 20-plus point effort of the season, adding six assists and five rebounds to his stat line. UIC executed two 9-2 runs in the first half and led by as much as 13 points, taking a 44-34 advantage into the locker room.

“That was by far the best half of basketball we played all year,” head coach Howard Moore said. “Unfortunately, our intensity dropped in the second half and Illinois was able to take advantage. This is a great rivalry game. It’s good for the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago and I hope we continue it.”

Barlow  netted 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting in the first half — UIC’s highest first-period scoring output by any player this season. UIC shot 18-of-29 (62.1 percent) from the field,  the second-best percentage in any half for UIC this season. The Flames also drilled all seven three-pointers in first period, the most for UIC this year.

UIC never trailed in the first half and held the lead for more than 24 minutes of the game.

Illinois began the second half on an 8-0 spurt to pull within two a minute into the period. The Illini  jumped in front at  12:49, their first lead of the game, on a Rayvonte Rice layup and remained in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game. Rice finished the contest with 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting.

The Flames out-rebounded Illinois, 33-32, but held a much wider margin at the break, 19-8. Senior Jordan Harks led all rebounders with nine.

Junior Marc Brown chipped in 12 points, including two threes, for his eighth double-digit game of the season. Freshman Pat Birt scored all nine of his points in the first half.

The Flames begin Horizon League competition, returning to action Jan. 2 at Valparaiso.

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