When you go 4-11 in non-conference play, the start of conference competition can be like a whole new season.
UIC began this new season Friday in a big hole against Youngstown State. The Flames trailed 29-11 after 11 minutes and by as many as 11 points in the second half.
But UIC (5-11, 1-0 Horizon) used a 19-2 run, including a streak of 14 unanswered points, to take a 71-63 lead in the final minute against Youngstown State (9-7, 0-1). The Flames cashed in at the charity stripe as the Penguins intentionally fouled and won 77-69.
“This team has so much heart,” coach Howard Moore said. “When they put their minds to something there is nothing they can not accomplish. I am very proud of our effort in the second half. We battled on every possession and fought our way to a victory. In our minds we are 1-0 right now.”
UIC was within striking at distance at 61-52 with 6:38 remaining. But the Flames had been in striking distance for the entire second half and had not yet closed the gap significantly. Time for a comeback was running out.
But a 3-pointer by junior guard Gabe Snider followed by a quick layup by fifth-year senior Jay Harris cut the Flames’ deficit to four points. Youngstown State guard Osandai Vaughn stopped the bleeding with a bucket, but then UIC scored 14 straight points with half of them coming at the foul line.
Harris finished with a game-high 25 points on 5-for-11 shooting. He shot 13-for-13 at the foul line.
Three other UIC players reached double figures in scoring. Snider and senior forward Ahman Fells each had 11 points while junior forward Jake Wiegand recorded 15 points.
Junior point guard D’Juan Miller added four points, seven assists and four steals.
Youngstown State forward Bobby Hain led the Penguins with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting while Vaughn tallied 18.
UIC continues Horizon League play Sunday against Cleveland State.