Junior forward Tai Odiase scored a career-high 24 points to lead UIC to a 75-65 victory against Northern Arizona on Tuesday. At 6-6, the Flames have their best start through 12 games since the 2012-13 season when they began 9-3.
After an even opening 11 minutes, UIC took a a 20-18 lead on junior forward Kyle Guice’s 3-pointer with 8:18 remaining in the first half and led the rest of the way.
The Flames’ held a slim 34-32 lead at halftime, but Odiase’s second half dominance proved too much for Northern Arizona (3-10). The big man known for his long arms and athleticism had a big dunk during UIC’s 14-1 run early in the second half. He had another dunk with 7:32 left and then made two free throws off an offensive rebound the following possession to bump UIC’s lead to 60-42.
Odiase’s jumper with 2:19 left stretched UIC’s lead to its largest of the game at 19 points.
A pair of desperation 3-pointers by Ako Kaluna in the closing seconds cut a 75-59 deficit to 10 points by the final buzzer.
While Kaluna led Northern Arizona with 22 points, Odiase was the most dominant player on the floor with 11 rebounds and 2 blocks to join his game-high 24 points. Odiase shot 8-of-10 from the field and 8-of-12 at the foul line despite entering as a 45.3% free throw shooter. The eight free throw makes tied a career high.
If the Flames are going to be successful in the Horizon League this season, they will need Odiase to continue performing at a high level with leading scorer Dikembe Dixson out for the season with a torn ACL.
Redshirt freshman guard Dominique Matthews added 11 points for the Flames, all in the first half. Freshman guard Godwin Boahen, the reigning Chicago Freshman of the Week, had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Fellow frosh Tarkus Ferguson had 9 dimes and 2 steals.