Although no local teams made the NCAA Tournament, 2015 was the best year in a long time for Chicago college basketball.
The Catch and Shoot has chosen its top 10 moments of the year and will be rolling out one per day until New Year’s Eve, when the No. 1 moment will be revealed.
4. UIC advances to Horizon League semifinals
UIC’s Horizon League Tournament run included a pair of improbable comebacks, one of which led to a major upset.
Three days after defeating Wright State at the UIC Pavilion in the final regular season game, the Flames hosted the Raiders once more in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament. A slight favorite, UIC trailed 39-20 at halftime. The Flames started chipping away early in the second half, but Wright State maintained control deep into the period.
With 4:54 remaining, senior Ahman Fells started a 9-0 run that tied the game at 55-55 with just under two minutes remaining. Fells also hit the game-tying 3-pointer.
One possession later, senior Jay Harris hit a go-ahead three. After Harris hit two free throws to put UIC ahead 60-57 with six seconds left, Wright State guard Reggie Arceneaux missed a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
UIC’s win probability was below five percent early in the second half.
That comeback set up a second-round matchup with Oakland, with a semifinal berth on the line.
The Flames were heavy underdogs, and they looked the part early on. Oakland opened the game on a 17-3 run and led 27-16 late in the first half. A 9-0 run by UIC kept the Flames close, and they went into halftime down 30-25.
UIC began the second half on a 6-0 run, taking a 31-30 lead. The Flames led by six points before the Golden Grizzlies regained control. UIC trailed 56-55 with 6:31 remaining.
Senior Marc Brown made two free throws to put UIC ahead, and two minutes later redshirt freshman Lance Whitaker hit a clutch 3-pointer to give the Flames a two-possession lead.
Two ill-advised defensive plays fouling jump shooters gave Oakland a chance for a late comeback, but UIC held on 72-69.
UIC’s run ended in the semifinals against Green Bay. The Flames led 30-29 at halftime, but Phoenix guard Keifer Sykes took control in the second half as Green Bay secured a 70-56 victory.
2015’s Top 10 Moments of Chicago basketball: