UIC drops Horizon League opener to Valpo

Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com

Valparaiso defeated UIC 70-59 at the UIC Pavilion on Friday in the Horizon League opener for both teams.

The game was much closer than the final score suggests, as UIC’s freshman backcourt duo of Godwin Boahen and Tarkus Ferguson provided much-needed offense. Ferguson led UIC with 16 points, Boahen added 13 points and junior forward Tai Odiase contributed 11 points.

Odiase Continues to Step Up

Since Dikembe Dixson suffered his season-ending ACL injury, Odiase has become more assertive in the paint. In Dixson’s void, Odiase is averaging 15.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg and 2.3 bpg while shooting 61% from the field through four games. Against Valparaiso, Odiase added 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. He’s UIC’s best scoring option in the paint, complementing the Flames’ solid backcourt, which provides the bulk of the offense.

Protect the Glass

Valparaiso corralled 15 offensive rebounds, which led to 20 second-chance points. That proved to be the difference in the game. Odiase is an elite rim protector, but when he attempts to block shots as a weakside defender, UIC needs to do a better job of boxing out Odiase’s defensive assignment. Odiase was defending Derrik Smits and Jaume Sorolla, who combined for seven offensive rebounds.

Freshman Backcourt Trio

Boahen, Ferguson and fellow freshman guard Marcus Ottey combined to score 39 of UIC’s 59 points. But they also turned over the basketball 11 times (UIC had 14 turnovers as a team). As the aforementioned trio gets more games and Horizon League experience under their belt, the turnovers will lower. UIC needs them on the court producing with Dixson out.

Guice Provides Spark off Bench

Junior forward Kyle Guice’s stat line wasn’t great: three points, two rebounds and five assists in 24 minutes. But with Clint Robinson battling foul trouble and playing only seven minutes, Guice received added playing time.

He’s an x-factor given his 3-point shooting abilities (watch the DePaul game), as UIC’s best catch-and-shoot option. His floor-spacing abilities allow UIC’s freshman guards room to drive the lane, opening up the offense.

Guice also dished out a career-high five assists. He’s a good passer who makes the right play and doesn’t force the issue.

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