This was not college basketball at it’s finest. Not by a long shot. The Illinois Fighting Illini, playing in their second home, the near west side’s United Center struggled with their sister school, the UIC Flames all day.
Despite the presence of two local teams, the crowd was small. The UC looked 40-60% empty all day, but perhaps that because basketball fans are saving themselves for the NBA headliner, instead of this college hoops matinee. Coincidentally, the Chicago Bulls opponent in that game will be the Los Angeles Clippers and Eric Gordon, the one and done Indiana Hoosiers two-guard who is considered one of the biggest enemies of Illini nation.
But today, the Illini hand their hands full with a program who who celebrated the big upset win like they had just won the Final Four.
UIC came into this came 4-7 w some REALLY BAD losses. And when I say bad, I mean bad. They’ve played a few teams in the state already, and the only one they beat was UIS (UI-Springfield, and that was in an exhibition). Maybe the Illini could have used Deron Williams, the Utah Jazz point guard and the best floor general in the NBA to stop UIC Flames Center Darrin Williams and company.
Yes, we all had fun with that same pronunciation, different spelling joke. Williams had 9 points and 6 boards. Best UIC’s leading scorer was Robo Kreps (15 points, on the strength of four 3 pt FGs) who pretty much has the best college basketball name since Exree Hipp of Maryland! Other great names on the Flames included Zavion Neely and Paris Carter.
If you’re a Big Ten fan, you might recognize the name Paul Carter too, the Minnesota Golden Gophers transfer came home to be close with his sister who is stricken with cancer. He was a huge contributor today, with 12 points and six rebounds.
This was just the second ever win over Illinois in program history, and the first in 20 years for the Flames.
“I think it’s a tremendous deal, it could give us a shot in the arm, and a lot of exposure. I’ll be honest- I haven’t seen this many people in our press conferences,” said UIC Head Coach Howard Moore.
Moore served as an assistant under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, where they almost exclusively played man to man defense. But he talked about facing Demetri McCamey and the Illini on numerous occasions, and he’s aware of what he can do. Moore also mentioned how he had a “curve ball” waiting for the Illini, a 1-3-1 zone that is the partial handiwork of assistant coach Al Biancalana.
“I have a good memory of being in the Big Ten- having memories of how Northwestern had some success in their zone, and Minnesota they gave the Illini some fits with the 1-3-1…but this won’t be a setback for the Illini, if anything it will be a wake-up call for them. I’ve been on the other side in games like this and Bruce Weber has a tremendous program over there,” Moore said.
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