Tai Odiase secured his fourth double-double of the year behind 20 points and 12 rebounds.
After taking two games in Ohio from Cleveland State and Youngstown State, UIC kept their momentum going full sprint into last night's sole Horizon League matchup. The 71-57 victory puts UIC at (4-2) in conference, while remaining just one game back from conference leader, Valparaiso.
The game quickly turned into UIC's favor behind junior, Tai Odiase's fourth double-double of the year. The Flames fast start was aided by their ball movement, which lead to an early 12-4 lead in the first half. Dominique Matthews helped drive that message home with a big three-pointer with 14:59 left in the half.
After the Panthers cut the lead to three points, the Flames jumped back ahead to a 20-11 lead after a crowd-pleasing alley-oop from Tarkus Ferguson to Tai Odiase. The first half was a struggle for both teams' defenses. UIC's top-ranked Horizon League defense (65.3 PPG) managed to let the Panthers hang around with a lack of interior stops.
After a first half that saw the Flames out-rebound the Panthers (22-16), UIC's defense, lead by Tai Odiase's 6 blocks, managed to come out in the second half blazing. The Flames saw the momentum switch after Michael Kolawole completed a 3-point play after a hard foul to give UIC a 36-26 lead.
After a second half that saw UIC shoot 53.8% from the field and 45.5% from three, the Flames broke the lead to a game-high 19 points. UIC's separation from the Panthers came in multiple scores from Dominque Matthews and Godwin Boahen's closing triples.
In a night that featured men jumping on pogo sticks for the half-time show, the on-court entertainment was fueled by Tai Odiase's 20 points and 12 rebounds. Odiase's 6 blocks helped move him into UIC's 2nd all-time leading position with 205 blocks.
As for Coach McClain, his young squad has already surpassed last year's efforts. Last season, UIC managed to only win three Horizon League games. After leading scorer, Dikembe Dixson went down early this season with a torn acl, McClain's team has rallied to win 11 games thus far. That number is the most since UIC won 18 games in the 2012-2013 season.
The Flames (11-8, 4-2) will travel and face-off against conference leader, Valparaiso (15-4, 5-1) on Jan. 22nd.