CHICAGO — There were plenty of rocky spots in UIC’s home-opener win against Western Illinois on Monday night. But one piece of the team that looked in midseason form was the Flames’ starting front line of junior Jake Wiegand and freshman Tai Odiase.
Wiegand carried the team down the stretch of the second half and finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Two games into the season, Wiegand has two double-doubles and is averaging 21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds.
Odiase recorded six points, nine rebounds and four blocks in 32 minutes. The big fella also dished a pair of assists.
His offense is still a bit raw, but he showed competence on that end with a pair of tough layups in the second half, including an and-one. Defensively, he is a menacing presence.
Less than a week into his collegiate career, Odiase has shown he is one of the Flames’ best players.
“It’s a good front line,” Moore said. “You’ve got Tai out there getting more and more comfortable with the reps he’s getting. And I think him and Jake play real well off of each other.”
UIC is also waiting for 6-foot-9 forward Jason McClellan to recover from a foot injury. Moore said he hopes McClellan will be back after Thanksgiving.
Last season, UIC’s frontcourt was a weak spot. The Flames had Wiegand, but he was a year younger and less developed. Hayden Humes had size but played primarily on the perimeter. Jordan Harks was efficient around the rim but could not put the ball on the floor and create his own shot.
That is one of a few skills Wiegand developed over the offseason. Last season, many of Wiegand’s points came on dump-offs down low or off offensive rebounds. he displayed some new post moves Monday, and also showed he could step out and knock down some mid-range jumpers and even an occasional 3-pointer.
Wiegand was a little too 3-point happy against the Leathernecks, shooting from deep four times and only connecting on one.
But with a forward like Odiase who does all his work in the post, being able to play outside the key is important for Wiegand.
“It’s really important, especially for our spacing,” Wiegand said. “It’s opened up everything on the floor, allowed me to see things.”