Flames get postseason bid
Good news replaced bad Tuesday when the Flames accepted a postseason bid in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, which begins next week.
The tournament is UIC’s first postseason berth since 2004, and the fifth overall in program history.
The Flames’ quest for a Horizon League championship ended abruptly March 8 when Green Bay drained a contested three-pointer with less than two seconds remaining. The shot lifted the fourth-seeded Phoenix to a shocking 64-63 win over No. 5 UIC in the second round of the Horizon tournament in Valparaiso.
UIC will host a first-round CIT game at the UIC Pavilion March 20 against an as-yet undetermined opponent.
The CIT is a single-elimination tournament consisting of five rounds. All games are played on campus sites, determined by seeding.
“This is an exciting day for our program,” said head coach Howard Moore.
“We’ve taken some very positive steps forward this season, and our guys deserve a chance to keep playing together.
“It gives our seniors a chance to wrap up their careers in the postseason, and our young guys will have more valuable practice and game experience.
“As a team, we’ll embrace the opportunity to play in the month of March — it’s something we want our guys to get used to doing every year.”
The CIT, now in its fifth year, consists of 32 teams and 31 games played in March. First-round games are March 19-20, second-round games March 21-23, quarterfinals March 24-26, semifinals March 28-30 and the championship game, broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network, is April 2.
UIC’s last postseason berth was in 2004, when the Flames played the National Invitation Tournament. The team made the NCAA Tournament in 1998, 2002 and 2004.
In their Horizon League loss to Green Bay, the Flames were led by junior forward and Valparaiso native Hayden Humes, who poured in a career-high 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting — he scored 12 points in UIC’s second half comeback. Seniors Josh Crittle and Gary Talton also chipped in with 12 points.
UIC trailed 34-29 at halftime and fell behind by 10 points early in the second half. But the Flames went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 43. Green Bay regained the lead a possession later and owned a 58-52 lead with six minutes remaining.
The Flames fought back again, scoring seven straight points to claim a 59-58 lead with three minutes left. It marked UIC’s first lead since going up 15-14 early in the first half.
The game was tied at 61 with just over a minute remaining as the teams traded baskets down the stretch. With 44.1 seconds left and the score still tied, Green Bay freshman Jordan Fouse missed two free throws, leading to Talton’s free throws that briefly gave UIC the lead.
Green Bay head coach Brian Wardle was attempting to call a timeout on the Phoenix sideline before the game-winner, but the officials did not see or hear his signal.
UIC’s postseason résumé includes wins over Mercer, Iona, Northwestern, Colorado State, Cleveland State and Milwaukee. In the latest NCAA Ratings Percentage Index, the Flames had an RPI of 164. UIC began the season 9-1 and appeared in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 four consecutive weeks.