CHICAGO--UIC pulled the wool over UW-Green Bay's eyes Thursday night when the Flames (8-20, 3-14 Horizon League) uncorked a 54 point second half, for their first win over the Phoenix (19-11, 10-7) since Dec. 8, 2007. Robo Kreps led all scorers with 24 points and nine boards while Jeremy Buttell supplied a 16 point, 11 rebound double-double and Zavion Neely chipped in 18 points and two steals for the 78-71 home win.
The Flames, down by eight at intermission, shot 50% from the floor in the second slice and hit six of nine from beyond the arc to mount a Kreps-Buttell-Neely 23-7 run that eventually tipped the game in UIC's favor. With under five left to play, Kreps dropped a three and found another two to give the Flames the control which they held onto for just their second win over a .500 or better team this season.
Vastly improved shooting earned UIC the win. The team bucketed 45.8% from the floor with five players--Buttell, Kreps, Neely, K.C. Robbins and Kris Harris--finding better than 50% from range.
More interesting to note is the teams' progress from beyond the arc--they've improved their 3-point shooting percentage in each of their last six games from 27.4% Feb. 4 to their current average of 29.9%. However, UIC still ranks last in both of these categories among all Horizon League teams.
Former starting forward Brad Birton made a six minute return to play for UIC off of a left shoulder injury, but likely won't see much more action before the end of the season.
With this win the Flames have their first three consecutive win opportunity that began last week with their upset of Evansville in BracketBuster play and ends with their final regular season game Saturday at home against UW-Milwaukee (17-13, 9-8). This win also clinches UIC the #9 seed for the Horizon League Tournament.