Following one of its best performances of the 2013-14 season, UIC (4-6) returns to its home court to host Purdue Calumet, its second NAIA opponent of the season.
Purdue Calumet, though playing a lower level of competition, enters at 9-2. The Peregrines have played one other Division I team, IPFW on Nov. 20, and they lost, 106-72.
UIC, which is looking for back-to-back wins for the first time this season, has lost its last three games at home. The Flames’ only victory at the UIC Pavilion came against Roosevelt, another NAIA opponent.
Last time out, the Flames defeated the Southeast Missouri Redhawks, 75-69.
Senior guard Kelsey Barlow continued to look like an All-Horizon League first teamer, and Marc Brown and Jordan Harks also had big contributions.
If the Flames play just half as well as they played against Southeast Missouri, Purdue Calumet should not pose much of a problem.
The Peregrines do not have much size with only one player taller than 6’7″, but their inside-outside duo of Kaspars Brencans and Noah Allen could pose some trouble.
The Flames have struggled immensely with two-point field-goal percentage defense this season, ranking No. 8 in the Horizon League and No. 317 in the nation, and both Brencans and Allen are very efficient inside the arc.
Brencans, the Peregrines’ leading scorer with 15.5 points per game, shoots 69% on two-pointers. He is also an occasional threat from three-point range at 6-of-13 this season.
Four times this season, Brencans has scored at least 20 points, including his last outing against Indiana South Bend.
Allen is second on the team with 12.6 points per game, and he shoots 63.9% inside the arc. He also leads the Peregrines with 3.8 assists and 3.7 steals per game.
In his last three games, Allen is averaging 16 points.
Barlow will have a big size advantage at the point guard position, but as a player sometimes prone to turnovers, he could be in for a tough night with the pesky Allen.
With Purdue Calumet’s small front line, UIC forwards Jake Wiegand and Jordan Harks could be primed for big games.
Wiegand has had some great performances this season, including a double-double against San Diego and 11 points and six rebounds against Loyola Chicago, but against Southeast Missouri he was a non-factor with four points and three boards.
Meanwhile, Harks is coming off one of his best games as a Flame. The Central Arkansas transfer had 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting, six rebounds, and two steals against the Redhawks on Saturday.
Opening tip between the Flames and the Peregrines will be tonight at 7 p.m. CT, and it will be televised on the Horizon League Network.