UIC was having one of its best offensive performances of the season, scoring 0.95 points per possession through the first 24 minutes Wednesday against Illinois State’s man-to-man defense.
After a timeout with 15:55 remaining, Illinois State coach switched his team into a 2-3 zone. UIC (1-7) promptly beat it with a 3-pointer from senior guard Paris Burns. One possession later, freshman guard Dominique Matthews drew a foul and made both free throws, giving the Flames a 47-39 lead with 14:20 to go.
Despite the quick success, UIC’s offense had no success against the zone over the final 14 minutes. The Flames averaged 0.69 points per possession, stumbled through a 12-minute field-goal drought and found themselves on the losing end of a 72-60 decision at the UIC Pavilion.
While UIC scored five points in its first two possessions against Illinois State’s zone, it’s no surprise Muller did not try another defensive switch. Burns’ 3-pointer was a quick look that may have even given the Flames false confidence that they could simply shoot over the zone. Many subsequent UIC possessions ended in long jump shots, and the team did not connect on another one until freshman forward Dikembe Dixson hit a corner triple in the final minute.
UIC had no player movement to find the soft spots in the zone, and the ball moved only slightly more. At times, the Redbirds (5-6) chose to extend their defense and pressure the Flames, but they just sat back and did minimal work when they wanted to, allowing UIC to settle for low-percentage shots.
If there’s a silver lining for UIC to take away aside from its success against man-to-man defense, its Matthews’ performance. A few days after scoring 18 points in the first half against Illinois, the 6-foot-2 freshman netted a career-high 20 points on 6-of-16 shooting. He also had four assists and only two turnovers in 39 minutes of action.
Still searching for its first win against a Division I opponent under first-year coach Steve McClain, UIC will head up Lakeshore Drive on Saturday to face crosstown rival Loyola.