By Robbie Weinstein
In the final moments of UIC’s 74-56 win over Milwaukee, a group of Flames fans celebrated with a chant that filled a mostly empty UWM-Panther arena.
This is our court! This is our court!
An incredulous student stood up, pointing to the Milwaukee logo at midcourt and offering his glasses from one section over. But for at least one Monday evening, UIC felt right at home.
The Flames put on a shooting exhibition that belied their season-long 31.1 percent three-point mark. Head coach Steve McClain’s team shot 10-of-20 from three, including seven-of-12 in the first half. McClain joked that he should find out where Milwaukee gets its rims and install the same ones at UIC.
“I think we’re moving the ball better; we’re getting great-looking threes,” McClain said. “Guys are wide-open, and that’s probably the biggest difference.”
Tarkus Ferguson led the Flames (12-11, 7-3 Horizon League) with 19 points to go with six rebounds and five assists, while Godwin Boahen and Dikembe Dixson each added 13. The Flames didn’t get much help from Marcus Ottey, the team’s most efficient scorer in conference play. Ottey helped defend Milwaukee second-leading scorer Jeremiah Bell but didn’t make a mark offensively and battled foul trouble.
Bell carried the Panthers (12-13, 5-7) in the first half with 15 points, but Ferguson, Ottey and Boahen combined to hold him to two in the second.
“In the first half, he was too comfortable,” Boahen said. “Although we were with him, he didn’t feel us. So the second half, we had to bump him when he’s cutting, just do a lot of stuff to make him feel uncomfortable and not let him get in the rhythm of the game.”
Playing with a lead, the Flames held steady in the second half thanks to defense. UIC put the clamps on Milwaukee leading scorer Brock Stull for the second time this year, holding him to seven points on two-for-11 shooting. Without Stull’s production, Milwaukee didn’t have enough to mount any sustained runs.
“That’s all we talked about: defense,” Boahen said. “We didn’t talk about no offense, we didn’t go over no offense. We play defense, the offense will come for itself.”
A 10-0 run five minutes into the second half gave UIC a 17-point margin to work with, and it coasted to the finish. The Flames next travel to Detroit for Friday and Sunday games against Oakland and Detroit Mercy, respectively.