Dangerous prey

Take one look at UIC’s record and tell me they scare you. Of course not. A team that is 3-13 in the Horizon League does not strike fear much into anyone.

Take a closer look, and you won’t be so certain. The Milwaukee Panthers last played UIC way back on December 3rd, an overtime victory for the Black and Gold. The Panthers held a 51-40 lead with 4:45 remaining in regulation, but the Flames spread like wildfire and went on a 19-8 run to tie the game and send it to overtime.

And Milwaukee hasn’t been the only team to escape the Flames. Dayton pulled away at the end. Green Bay almost suffered a terrible fate as well. UIC had a legitimate shot at beating Butler at home before letting it slip through their fingers, then had the same thing happen on Tuesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Valpo, Detroit and Wright State have also had to work some magic to escape UIC with a victory. The Titans weren’t so lucky at the Pavilion in Chicago, dropping a 63-59 decision.

So how does UIC keep so many games so close, then lose them all? Pretty much the same way Youngstown State did it last year – the Flames are all about all-out effort. Second chance points, offensive rebounds, anything to extend the possession, the Flames will do it. They fight hard for everything they get, especially on the glass.

Gary Talton is a bomber. The starting guard is the kind of player that doesn’t take a ton of threes and doesn’t shoot for a high percentage, but when he’s hitting them you know it – much like Kaylon Williams. Talton is the clutch guard that UIC has been missing for years, a guy who distributes the ball and gets the entire team to play better with an infectious streak of effort.

But the Flames have a mountain of problems, which has attributed to their 3-13 conference record. They don’t pass the ball around, outside of Talton – the Flames are ninth in the conference in assists. They don’t take care of the ball, leading the league in turnovers per game. Both of those statistics are attributable to the fact that Flames players often dribble around too much to really get themselves set.

The Flames are 3-4 at home in the Horizon League and could conceivably finish with a 5-4 record by sweeping the UW schools at home. However unlikely, you know that the Flames will be gunning for the victory tomorrow to guarantee that they don’t fall behind Loyola, who could theoretically still overtake them should they win out and UIC lose out.

Expect UIC to take no prisoners, fight to the final buzzer and possibly win the battle of the boards en route to a tough result. I still expect Milwaukee to win, but it won’t come easy.

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