Tag Archives: UIC

UIC Preview, Nov. 14th

Tuesday, November 14, 2023 7:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

Loyola renews its cross-town rivalry with UIC at Gentile Arena on Tuesday night, facing the Flames for the 60th time in a series that dates back to 1986.

Almost every year since parting company as conference rivals– when Loyola left the Horizon League in 2013– Loyola has played local rival UIC. And almost every time in that span, the Ramblermania pre-game preview has expressed a phrase like: “UIC promises to be much improved over last year.” This year, it’s almost definitely going to be true.

Since Loyola left the Horizon League, UIC has had only two seasons with a KenPom better than 200. Yet despite their lower performance metrics (including Loyola’s rocky first years in the MVC and the A-10), the Flames have mostly been a tough challenge. There are bragging rights on the line, and a lot of the players know each other well. In 2016, Donte Ingram hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime that resulted in a Rambler win. Loyola eked out a three-point win at home in 2013, and last year’s final was Loyola 70, UIC 63. They’re usually pretty close games.

Loyola has won the last 10 games against UIC, but still runs a 28-31 deficit in the all-time series against Illinois-Chicago, thanks to a tortuous streak from 1992 to 2005 when UIC won 19 out of 23 games against Loyola. That decade-plus of misery included losing to UIC in the 2002 Horizon League Conference Championship Final– with an auto bid to the NCAA Tournament– by one point in overtime.

But back to UIC’s resurgence…. The Flames are entering their second year in the MVC after going 4-16 for an 11th place finish in their inaugural campaign. As Loyola can attest, it’s rough making a transition to a new conference. The Flames have re-made their lineup from last year thanks to key transfers and underclassmen stepping up.

Coach Luke Yaklich is in his fourth year on Harrison Street, still seeking his first winning season. The Flames were picked to finish 10th this year in the MVC Preseason Poll, ahead of Evansville and Valparaiso. The new-look Flames impressed in their first game of the year at Cincinnati, losing 69-58. After an 86-71 win over Little Rock, the lineups and roles are appearing more defined, even with some injuries.

The Flames are likely to start two forwards and three guards. Toby Okani is a 6’8″ senior forward who can handle the ball and pass like a point guard. In UIC’s season opener at Cincinnati, he had 20 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and three assists. He’s averaging 17.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, and 3.0 apg through two games. Filip Skobalj is a 6’7″ junior forward who averages 4.0 points, 3.5 boards.

The starting guards are 6’5″ senior Isaiah Rivera (a transfer from Colorado State), 6’4″ junior Ethan Pickett, and 6’4″ sophomore Steven Clay. Rivera had a monster game against UALR: 25 points (4 of 5 on threes), and seven rebounds. Picket is a juco transfer who’s averaging 13.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Clay shoots the three well (4 of 6 against UALR), and averages 6.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg.

The top bench players are 6’5″ sophomore guard Christian Jones, 6’3″ sophomore guard Drew King, 6’9″ sophomore forward Jaden Brownell, and 6’10” sophomore center Cameron Fens. Two combo guards that would likely run the point, Marquise Kennedy and Drew King, have struggled with injuries—Kennedy hasn’t played a minute in the two games this season, and King has had foot issues keeping him to limited minutes.

UIC played Cincinnati (now in the Big 12) very close on the road to open the season, thanks to the explosiveness of Okani. His passing ability, mobility, rebounding and outside shooting (a respectable 29.3% last year from distance) makes him a matchup nightmare. Loyola may need to throw double teams or try different combos on defense to limit his production. But don’t forget about Rivera, who shot 37% behind the arc for Colorado State last year and already has a 25-point game under his belt at UIC. This UIC team is dangerous, particularly if more than one player has a super game.

UIC Preview — 12-02-2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017 3:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

Before the start of the season the UIC Flames were considered a likely team to challenge for the Horizon League title. As the Horizon League has seen Butler, Loyola and Valpo exit over the past six years (replaced by Oakland, Northern Kentucky, and IUPUI), it would figure a program like UIC would rise to the top in short order. Considering their history of success in the league, location, resources, academics, and other attributes, how could they not be expected to thrive?

The Flames were picked to finish third in the Horizon League 2017-18 Preseason poll, behind Oakland and Northern Kentucky, in Steve McClain’s third season at UIC. So far, they’ve notched wins over North Carolina Central and a 40-point beatdown of Delaware State. Losing at home in overtime to St. Joseph’s and on the road by 34 at Kentucky is understandable. But they’ve lost at home to IPFW by 16 points and on the road at Troy by 21 points. That’s not the kind of performance that was expected after a CBI berth in 2016-17 (with wins over Stony Brook and George Washington) and a contract extension for McClain.

UIC spent a lot of money last season on the CBI, even though they had a 13-18 record against D1 teams going into it. With the core of their young talent entering their third season playing together, and their non-con schedule arranged to have seven home games (plus two exhibitions) against beatable teams, I think most fans would say their 2-4 record thus far has been a major disappointment. Blowing a 4-point lead at home against St. Joseph’s with possession of the ball and :54 left in regulation has set the tone for the early season on Harrison St.

The Flames have a starting lineup of forwards Dikembe Dixson and Jordan Blount, center Tai Odiase, and guards Tarkus Ferguson and (probably) Dominique Matthews. Dixson is the offensive star of the team, named to the Horizon League Preseason first team and the consensus HL Freshman of the Year two years ago when he averaged 19.8 points per game. The 6’7” sophomore forward got a medical redshirt last year after playing in only 10 games, and is averaging a team-leading 12.2 points per game this year. Dixson is only shooting 37% from the field and 31.8% from three, far below his early season effectiveness before his injury last year. His rebounds are also well below his numbers last year or as a freshman. Jordan Blount, a 6’8” sophomore forward out of Ireland, joins Dixson in the frontcourt and adds 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per contest.

Tai Odiase is entering his senior season as the reigning Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year and an HL Preseason Second Team member. The 6’9” center/forward averages 9.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. Last season he averaged 3.2 blocks, so he could still be warming up.

Six-four sophomore guard Tarkus Ferguson does most of the ball handling and averages 7.5 points and 2.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Dominique Matthews, a 6’2” sophomore guard from St. Rita, averages 8.7 points per game and does most of the three-point shooting despite hitting only 29.4% of them in the early going. Three pointers have been a problem for the Flames on the young season. UIC’s three-point field goal percentage as a team in only 29.8%, and their opponents are shooting 35.5% against them.

The Flames have some good depth off the bench, with 6’2” sophomore guard Marcus Ottey (10.8 points per game) and 5’11” sophomore guard Godwin Boahen (10.3 points per game). Both of them shoot 43% from the field and over 70% from the line. Boahen leads the team in steals, ranks second in assists, and collects 3.7 rebounds despite being the shortest player on their roster. Forwards Clint Robinson (6’8” senior averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 boards) and Michael Diggins (6’8” freshman) also play double-digit minutes from the bench.

Last year against the Flames at the Pavilion, the Ramblers built a big early lead and let the Flames chip away until UIC had a lead in the final five minutes. Donte Ingram hit a last second three to move the game to OT, and the Ramblers controlled for their fifth straight win to go to 10-2. It was the game just a couple days after the Flames lost Dixson for the season in their win at DePaul, so the Flames were riding an emotional roller-coaster.

Loyola is coming off their first loss of the year, in beatdown style, at the hands of Boise State. There was no phase of the game where the Ramblers looked comfortable, capable or self-assured. The only bright spots were perhaps gaining an understanding of some of the gaps that remain between where Loyola is now and being a tournament quality team, the play of Aundre Jackson, and some of the bench players getting some significant minutes against tough competition. Lucas Williamson played well. Donte Ingram got his 500th career rebound. Christian Negron played 14 minutes and had some good moments. Nick DiNardi had one of Loyola’s three offensive rebounds in the game. But other than that, it was bleak. With a trip to Gainesville set for Wednesday, the Ramblers need a win against UIC, preferably a big win that will clean the palate and reset attitudes.

Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents/2017/11/30//UIC_Notes.pdf?id=4745

UIC game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video: NBC Sports Chicago

UIC streaming audio: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/uic/

Live stats: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=189595

Vegas odds: Pending