Second-half struggles plagued UIC (5-11, 0-2 Horizon) once again Tuesday night as the Flames lost at the UIC Pavilion to Youngstown State (10-8, 1-2 Horizon), 75-62. The Flames are now the only winless team remaining in conference play, sitting alone in last place.
UIC and Youngstown State traded baskets, primarily inside, for the first 15 minutes of the game.
Holding a 27-25, UIC received a 4-0 spurt from Kelsey Barlow to put it up six points.
A three-pointer by DJ Cole and four straight points from Kendrick Perry got the Penguins back within one point, and then Perry found Kamren Belin for a deuce to give them the lead.
UIC junior Marc Brown responded with an old-fashioned three-point play as the Flames regained the lead.
But off a pick-and-roll on the final play of the half Cole found Belin in the left corner for a three-pointer, and the Penguins took a 37-36 lead into the locker room.
The second half followed a storyline UIC has seen a lot of recently.
Youngstown State served up the first punch with a 17-2 run putting its lead at 15 points. While the Flames were finding solid looks on the offensive end, just about nothing was dropping through the net.
“We knew we had to come out and throw the first, second, and third punch,” Perry said.
A pair of free throws from UIC freshman Markese McGuire started a 10-2 run for the Flames to bring them within seven points. Though the Flames had multiple chances to cut the deficit to two possessions, they could not capitalize.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Belin with 2:01 and 1:20 remaining served as the daggers, stretching the Penguins’ lead back to 73-59.
“[Road wins] are tough to get in this league,” Youngstown State head coach Jerry Slocum said. “For us to come in and play well like that, it’s a big win for us.”
Perry led the Penguins with 23 points, seven assists, and five steals. The senior guard proved himself as “the best player in this league” in UIC head coach Howard Moore’s eyes.
“K.P. was special tonight,” Slocum said of Perry. “I thought he shared the ball well, sucked people in at times, made good passes.”
Belin posted 15 points and seven rebounds, and Cole and Bobby Hain each added 12 points.
For a team that entered Tuesday with losses in five of its last seven games, the Penguins played loosely and confidently, especially during the second half.
“We’ve just got to stay positive,” Perry said. “The Horizon League championship isn’t going to be won in one, two, or three games.”
UIC was led by 17 points from Barlow, who shot a mediocre 5-of-12 from the field. Barlow also committed six turnovers while dishing out only two assists.
Brown added 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Youngstown State returns to the Beeghly Center for the first time in 2014 on Monday when its hosts Cleveland State.
Still in search for its first conference win, UIC will travel to Wright State this weekend. The Raiders are unbeaten at home this season.
“We’ve got a few days to get ourselves back on track,” Moore said. “It’s not going to be pretty these next few days, but it’s going to be hard work and a new focus.”