UIC (3-4) entered the Gulf Coast Showcase looking for a turnaround from its abysmal start to the 2013-14 season, and it certainly delivered. On Wednesday night, the Flames defeated Wagner (4-4), 94-76, to finish 2-1 at the tournament and earn third-place.
After taking an early 12-4 lead against Wagner, UIC extended its advantage to 46-37 at halftime.
In the second half, the Flames used a dominant 18-2 run to take complete control of the game, and they never looked back.
Senior guard Kelsey Barlow led the way with a career-high 38 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. He also converted 17 of 19 free throws, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out five assists, and committed only two turnovers.
“Kelsey had the hot hand tonight,” said UIC head coach Howard Moore. “He benefitted from many trips to the free throw line, but Kelsey is able to score in bunches and tonight he proved that. I am happy our team was able to rebound after a disappointing outing against Louisiana Tech and more importantly I think this trip reenergized our guys and our season.”
In three tournament games, Barlow averaged 21.3 points with a 61.7 effective field-goal percentage, and he has also shot 85.3% (29-of-34) from the foul line in the last four games.
UIC freshman guard Pat Birt and sophomore forward Jake Wiegand each tied career-highs with 11 points apiece, and sophomore guard Gabe Snider recorded eight points on 4-of-6 shooting.
As a team, UIC shot 12 more free throws than Wagner, which was in large part due to Wagner’s five technical fouls, including two on head coach Bashir Mason.
Wagner was led by junior guard Marcus Burton’s 17 points off the bench, and senior guard Kenneth Ortiz’s 15 points. Latif Rivers (14 points) and Mario Moody (10 points) were the Seahawks’ two other double-figure scorers.
After the Thanksgiving break, UIC returns home to face Southern Methodist (5-1) on Wednesday, Dec. 4 for a 7 p.m. CT tip. The Mustangs are coached by Larry Brown, a Hall-of-Famer who is the only coach to win a national title at both the collegiate and professional levels.