UIC finally got its first road win under second-year coach Steve McClain, and it couldn’t have come at a sweeter time. The Flames came from nine points down to upset crosstown rival DePaul (5-4), 80-75, at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
With 54.6 seconds left, Guice drained a corner three off a beautiful drive and kick by Ottey to give UIC (5-5) a 76-73 lead. Guice was the least heralded recruit on UIC’s roster, but the junior college transfer has worked his way into a few starts already and knocked down four 3-pointers Wednesday to reach a career-high 14 points.
After trading points at the foul line, the Flames held a 78-75 lead and forced a huge stop as Odiase stole R.J. Curington’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left. Odiase, a 47.8% free throw shooter, made both tosses to seal the upset.
“When you are trying to build a program, you have to go through steps,” McClain told media after the game. “We had a game like this at Grand Canyon, where we had a chance to win on the road and just couldn’t make a couple of the right plays, but tonight we did. The three that Kyle Guice hit in the corner, Marcus could have tried to shoot a bad layup, but instead he kicked it to a wide-open Guice and made the shot.”
The Flames earned the breakthrough victory with star forward Dikembe Dixson on the bench for the final 33 minutes after he suffered a non-contact knee injury.
While UIC allowed DePaul star guards Eli Cain and Billy Garrett Jr. to each score career-highs, UIC’s bench stepped up big-time in Dixson’s absence. The Flames’ bench outscored DePaul’s 37-7. Cain and Garrett combined for 53 points on 18-of-38 shooting but received minimal assistance on offense.
Ottey added 11 points and 6 rebounds off the bench while starters Odiase and Tarkus Ferguson had great nights. Odiase had 12 points, 5 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Ferguson looked highly comfortable as a freshman point guard in his first game against a high-major team, recording 12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and no turnovers.
The Flames will look to win back-to-back games for just the second time under McClain when they host another rival, Loyola, on Saturday.
—Dixson’s injury will be evaluated on Thursday.
—Last time these two teams met in 2014, UIC also made an amazing comeback, erasing a 21-point deficit to take a lead with 30 seconds left. Garrett made a game-winning 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining as DePaul survived.
—Garrett continued his climb in the DePaul history books. On Wednesday, he moved up 23rd on DePaul’s career scoring list, 14th in assists and 3rd in free throws.
—To UIC’s credit, it has lost back-to-back games only once this season after having three losing streaks of at least six games last year.
—UIC is now 2-0 against local competition. With a win at Loyola on Saturday, the Flames could become the first Chicago team to go 3-0 or better against the five local programs since they went 4-0 in 2007-08.