Flames topple Oakland, head to Horizon semifinals
The sixth-seeded UIC men’s basketball team (10-23) faces No. 2 seed Green Bay (23-7) today in the Horizon League semifinals after the Flames knocked off No. 3 Oakland by a final score of 72-69 in the second round Friday.
The game, which begins at 6 p.m. in Valparaiso, Indiana, will be UIC’s first trip to the Horizon semifinals since 2008.
Friday’s win, UIC’s first victory against the Golden Grizzlies, (16-16), improves the Flames’ Horizon League all-time tournament record to 19-18.
“These guys have it in their eyes right now,” said head coach Howard Moore. “We fought, scratched and found a way to get it done. This group just refuses to lose and they stepped up in a big way tonight.
“I am so proud of my players for continuing to fight through adversity and never give up.”
UIC faced a 15-point deficit late in the first half before executing a 27-6 run, then prevailing in a gripping second-half battle that witnessed 11 lead changes.
The Flames shot 55.6 percent (15-of-27) in the second half after hitting 28.6 percent (8-of-28) in the opening stanza. UIC’s defense scored 20 points off 12 Oakland turnovers and held first team All-League point guard Kahlil Felder to 7-of-25 shooting.
After senior Jay Harris began the game with a three-pointer, Oakland rattled off 17 straight points to grab an early 17-3 lead. Harris snapped UIC’s six-minute scoring drought with another triple at the 12:51 mark.
The Grizzlies built their lead to 26-11 with 7:12 left in the first half before UIC mounted a 14-1 run to pull within two (27-25) with 2:06 remaining in the period. Dante Williams gave Oakland a 30-25 halftime advantage with a three-ball at the 1:50 mark. Williams finished with 21 points on 6-of-7 three-point shooting.
UIC carried its momentum into the second half with a 13-2 run, claiming a 38-32 edge by the 16:28 mark. The Grizzlies knotted the score at 38-38 with back-to-back three-pointers from Williams and Felder.
The final 15 minutes of the game fell witness to eight lead changes and six ties, with neither team holding more than a two-possession lead.
The Flames took hold of their second six-point advantage of the night (62-56) with 1:56 remaining after UIC netted seven straight points. Twelve seconds later, Felder answered with a triple, but freshman Tai Odiase countered with a two-handed jam at the other end.
Williams pulled Oakland to within one of UIC (64-63) with 41 seconds remaining after he converted a four-point play.
OU’s Nick Daniels was whistled for an intentional foul on senior Ahman Fells. Fells sank 1-of-2 from the foul line for a 65-63 UIC lead with 39 ticks on the clock.
Junior Jason McClellan gave the Flames a 67-63 edge with 26 seconds left after he made two shots from the free throw line. Felder answered with a three-point play, pulling OU to within one (67-66) with 21 seconds to play. Harris made the score 69-66 after he was fouled on the in-bounds pass, then drained both foul shots.
With nine seconds left, Odiase delivered a crucial blocked shot against Felder and grabbed the rebound. He made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe after he was fouled, giving UIC a four-point lead (70-66).
Felder again brought Oakland to within one (70-69) of UIC with a deep triple from the top of the key with five seconds left. Harris, the league’s top foul shooter, was sent back to the free throw line after a quick foul and sank the pair to ice the game.
Redshirt freshman Lance Whitaker gave UIC solid play with seven points and seven rebounds in a career-best 33 minutes of action. Fells tallied 11 points and five rebounds.
Harris sank four threes and scored a team-high 20 points, while Brown totaled 19 and surpassed 1,000 for his career. Odiase secured his second double-double of the season with 11 points and a career-high 11 rebounds and added four blocked shots to his stat line, giving him 46 on the season to rank eighth all-time on UIC’s single-season leaderboard.