UIC’s nightmare season came to a close Tuesday in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament. The Flames fell at Valparaiso (18-14, 9-7 Horizon) for the third time this season, 73-63.
UIC (6-25, 1-15) fell behind 15 points late in the first half, largely because of Valparaiso freshman Alec Peters’ offense. The rookie posted 14 points in the first stanza and finished with a game-high 29 points on 10-of-11 shooting.
UIC juniors Marc Brown and Jay Parker finished the half with four straight points to pull their team within 39-28 at the break.
Valparaiso built its lead back to 14 points at the 13:08 mark , but then Parker and sophomore forward Jake Wiegand sparked a run to try and keep the Flames’ season alive.
The guard-forward duo scored six straight points to cut the Flames’ deficit to 54-46. The Flames continued their spurt and trailed only 59-56 with 6:29 remaining after senior Jordan Harks’ layup.
47 seconds later, senior guard Kelsey Barlow picked up a costly technical foul, in addition to a personal foul. Valparaiso senior LaVonte Dority made three of the four ensuing free throws and increased the Crusaders’ lead to seven points.
UIC could not finish off the comeback, making only one field-goal the rest of the way.
“I’ve said this all season, but I am proud of our guys with how they never give up,” UIC head coach Howard Moore said. “There have been plenty of moments where it would have been easy to stop fighting, but this team never did that and they didn’t stop fighting tonight.”
Valparaiso advances to the Horizon League’s second round. The Crusaders face Milwaukee (18-13, 7-9) on a neutral site Friday in Green Bay.