Despite losing superstar forward Dikembe Dixson to an injury early in the first half, the UIC Flames rallied from a nine-point second half deficit to defeat their crosstown rivals, 80-75. With the game tied at 73, junior Flames forward Kyle Guice hit a baseline three-pointer to give his team the lead for good. Guice came off of the bench to shoot 4-6 from downtown, which resulted in a team high and career high 14 points. DePaul still had a chance to tie the game, as they were down three and inbounding the ball from the baseline of their own basket with just 5.4 seconds left. R.J. Curington’s pass was deflected and then stolen by Flames junior forward and defensive standout Tai Odiase, who was immediately fouled. Even though he is only about a 48% free throw shooter, Odiase sealed the deal by sinking both shots. He had a solid all-around game, finishing with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and pairs of blocks and steals. Freshmen guards Tarkus Ferguson, Godwin Boahen, and Marcus Ottey all combined for 30 points. They helped to pick up the scoring slack with Dixson out. Sophomore Eli Cain led the Blue Demons with 27 points on 11-20 shooting. Senior Billy Garrett Jr. added 26 points, which included shooting 12-13 from the free throw line. They were the only two DePaul players to score in double-figures.
This is UIC’s second-ever win versus the Blue Demons, and first since 2007. Two years ago, Garrett Jr. hit a game-winning three-pointer to give DePaul a one-point win over UIC. The Flames are one of the youngest teams in all of college basketball, so this huge win will give them a lot of momentum as they compete for a Horizon League title. The team stats for this game were very close. UIC only turned the ball over 13 times, which is impressive for a young team in a hostile environment. The biggest glaring stat difference was that UIC moved the ball around much better than DePaul, as the assists margin was 18 to 8. The Flames also got big rebounds down the stretch, including one by Ferguson on the subsequent defensive possession after Guice’s aforementioned three-pointer. After some tough losses and inconsistent play, it is clear that UIC is getting better and better. They are the deepest team in the Horizon League. But to truly challenge Valpo and Oakland for that league’s title, they need Dixson back and healthy. As for DePaul, things will not get any easier as the Big East is arguably the toughest league in the nation.
The Flames (5-5) will play another crosstown rival on Saturday, when they host former Horizon League foe Loyola (Illinois).
DePaul (5-4) will host Chicago State on Saturday.