Flames seek fourth victory after overcoming UCF

UIC Flames men's basketball vs Loyola. 22 Jay Harris

Jay Harris (shown here against Loyola) scored a career-high 32 points against UCF. Photo: Timothy Nguyen


The UIC men’s basketball team goes for its fourth victory at home Monday against University of Tennessee-Martin after defeating Central Florida 71-60 at at the UIC Pavilion Dec. 11.

The game starts at 7 p.m. UIC students are free with i-card.

Fifth-year transfer Jay Harris poured in a career-high 32 points as the Flames (3-7) claimed a 71-60 home victory against Central Florida (5-3). The Flames were down three (30-27) at halftime, but outscored the Knights, 44-30, in the final period to secure the non-league win.

“Tonight was the most complete game we have played all season,” said head coach Howard Moore. “Our starters gave us great momentum and our defense had high intensity all night.

“Jay (Harris) hit a bunch of tough shots, which took off some pressure that we have been experiencing in previous games. This was a true team win and everyone contributed.”

Harris becomes the first UIC player in more than seven years to score 32 points in a home game. Former All-League guard Josh Mayo scored 32 points in 2007 against Green Bay.  Harris’ total stands as the highest single-game output in the Horizon League this season. The Aurora native recorded a new career-best with nine made field goals, shooting 9-of-16 and 4-of-9 from three-point range.

Junior Jake Wiegand tallied 12 points for his seventh double-digit effort of the season. The forward grabbed seven rebounds as did junior Jason McClellan, his career-high in Division-I play.

Senior Marc Brown chipped in eight points and dished out a season-high four assists, while going 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Brown is shooting 92 percent from the free throw line this season, first in the Horizon League. Brown was matched with UCF’s freshman standout Adonys Henriquez for most of the night, holding the 6-foot-6 guard to five points.

“Marc (Brown) played locked down defense,” said Moore. “Tonight was the Marc Brown that we’ve been waiting for. We will expect that kind of hard-nosed defense out of Marc for the rest of the season.”

Freshman Tai Odiase finished with six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes of action. Odiase was instrumental down low in the second half as he forced UCF into early foul trouble.

“Tai did not play like a freshman tonight,” said Moore. “He had to play against older and much bigger guys, and I thought he performed very well.”

The Flames started fast and jumped out to a 14-3 lead by the 15:21 mark. The Flames scored its first four points in the paint, and Harris sank two early threes to ignite the offense.

UCF fought their way back and knotted the score at 20-20 with 6:41 left in the first half and eventually took hold of a 30-27 halftime advantage.  The Knights made seven of their last nine shots to end the period. Harris had 15 points at the break to lead all scorers.

UIC began the second frame with an 11-3 run, which included two consecutive fast break layups from junior D’Juan Miller.  Miller had a solid all-around performance with nine points, five assists and two steals.

UCF pulled within one point of the Flames on three occasions over the next eight minutes, but a 7-2 spurt with five minutes remaining gave UIC a double-digit lead (62-52). The Flames sealed the deal by hitting 9-of-10 foul shots in the final two minutes to improve their home record to 3-2.

UIC ramped up its defense in the second half and held the Knights to 38.5 percent shooting in the final stanza. The Flames also forced 17 UCF turnovers and converted those miscues into 13 points.

UIC out-rebounded the Knights, 38-31, and scored 13 second-chance points off of 12 offensive boards.


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