The Flames (7-20) overcame a 14 point deficit with 19 second half points from Robo Kreps to edge Evansville (7-20) 82-80 in Bracketbuster play Saturday for their first road win of the season. The rest of the league split their out-of-conference games with No. 13 Butler downing Siena.
Kreps topped out at game-leading 28 points, six assists and three steals while Spencer Stewart chipped in a career-high 20 more. UIC left their shooting woes behind for the night and hit 54.9% from the floor on the night including 62.5% in the second half, and it was that streaking offensive sharp-shooting that got them the victory, barely.
Powered by an 11-2 Evansville run during the first half, the Flames were down by four points at the half, but the Purple Aces only turned up the heat in the second slice to widen the margin to 14 points in just the first five minutes on an even bigger 15 -2 streak.
And then UIC answered with a 12-2 streak of its own and eventually battled to 80-80 tie with less than a minute left. The Flames defense held, grabbed a board with 28 seconds remaining and got the ball into the hot hands of Kreps for the 12 foot jumper with 4.4 seconds left and the win.
Four Purple Aces entered double digit scoring with Clint Hopf bringing 18 and Ryan Colt downing 16 with six assists and two steals.
The win, the Flames' first on the road, improves their BracketBusters record to 7-1 and their all-time record versus Evansville to 4-1. It's evidence of a more confident lineup heading into the end of the season. We (and Jimmy Collins) now see where the players fit into the equation after a season's worth of experimenting to find a lineup that would work on the court.
Stewart and Kreps both played a full 40, while Chris Buchanan came off the bench for 14 minutes to hit three of four from the floor for six points, but managed two turnovers in just that time. Depth is something the Flames don't have.
Around the Horizon League No. 13 Butler easily overcame a highly overtouted Siena squad on a fourth-straight Gordon Hayward double-double and a 23 point Shelvin Mack performance. Siena was up by three at the half Butler demolished them in the final minutes to win 70-53.
Elsewhere Valpo fell to Bowling Green 87-70, Wright St. was tripped up by Ohio 64-59, Detroit bested E. Michigan 68-66, Milwaukee was downed by Niagara 85-79, Cleveland beat up Toledo 87-63, Creighton leveled Loyola 78-58, Green Bay won over Indiana State 60-59 and Youngstown fell to UC RIverside 62-60.