Flames outlast Vikings in OT

Najeal Young

Najeal Young hit the game-winning shot in overtime Saturday versus Cleveland State. — Photo: Steve Woltmann

UIC junior Najeal Young buried the game-winning jumper from the right wing with two seconds remaining in overtime Saturday to help the Flames beat Cleveland State, 72-70. It was the first Horizon League victory of the season, and the first under first-year head coach Steve McClain.

The Flames host the Valparaiso Crusaders at 3 p.m. Saturday. Students are free with i-card.

The Flames staged a series of significant comebacks Saturday throughout the afternoon. UIC built a slim six-point lead early in the game, 13-7, but after the Vikings got a 3-pointer with 8:44 remaining in the first period, they stayed in control for a long stretch. The lead reached 12 points for the visitors four minutes later, but UIC’s defense kept digging in. The Flames held Cleveland State scoreless over the final 4:45 of the half, and a three-pointer and a free throw from Markese McGuire made it an eight-point game at the break.

UIC methodically chipped away after the break and outscored Cleveland State, 10-4, over the first 2:30 of the second half to trim it down to a two-point deficit. Each time the Flames got close, however, the Vikings countered. Twice the second-half lead reached nine points, and it was a seven-point game with 2:12 after CSU’s Jibri Blount scored underneath.

Over the final two minutes of regulation, the home team fed off the energetic crowd and turned up the tempo on defense. Three Cleveland State turnovers and two missed free throws down the stretch helped the Flames outscore the Vikings, 7-0, over the final 1:54 to force the extra session.

The Vikings scored the first four points of overtime before UIC’s Lance Whitaker drilled a three-pointer with 3:44 on the clock. Cleveland State had a three-point lead when Young made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe with 2:52 to go. After Michael Kolawole stole the ball away from Blount, UIC could not convert but the defense registered another stop when Young ripped down a rebound with 1:45 left. Jake Wiegand scored inside for the Flames with 79 seconds left to tie the score at 70 points.

Wiegand got another rebound to set up the game-winning possession. With leading scorer Dikembe Dixson blanketed by the defense, Whitaker found Young for the biggest basket of the season to date, putting the squad ahead, 72-70.

Cleveland State tried to throw the ball the length of the floor, but the heave sailed long, giving UIC the ball back under its own basket.

Young led all players with 15 rebounds, while pouring in a career-high 17 points in 39 minutes. The junior also led the Flames with a career-high three steals and had two assists.

Dixson was another dynamic offensive force as he scored 24 points, including 17 in the second half.

Wiegand was a key contributor off the bench with seven points, two rebounds and a bundle of energy for the Flames.

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