UIC (5-9) fell for the third straight time Saturday, as its upset bid against Illinois (11-2) at the United Center fell 14 points short, 74-60.
The Flames were on fire in the first half thanks to senior guard Kelsey Barlow’s 18 points. They built a lead as large as 13 points, and took a 44-34 lead into halftime.
In the first 20 minutes, UIC shot 18-of-29 (62.1%) from the field and 7-of-12 (58.3%) on three-pointers.
“That was by far the best half of basketball we played all year,” UIC head coach Howard Moore said.
That lead quickly evaporated, though, as the Fighting Illini opened the second half an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to two points.
With 12:53 remaining, the heavily favored Illini finally took a lead on junior guard Rayvonte Rice’s layup. That was part of a 9-0 run, which turned into a 16-2 extended run, giving Illinois a 65-55 advantage.
UIC senior Jordan Harks ended the run with a dunk to get the Flames back within the single digits again, but they then struggled on the offensive end down the stretch and could get no closer.
“Unfortunately, our intensity dropped in the second half and Illinois was able to take advantage,” Moore said. “This is a great rivalry game. It’s good for the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago and I hope we continue it.”
Barlow once again led UIC with 21 points, upping his season average 16.9 points per game. Barlow also recorded six assists, five rebounds, and two steals.
Junior guard Marc Brown was the only other Flame to score in double figures with 12 points, and freshman Pat Birt added nine points, all in the first half.
Rice led the Illini with 28 points on 10-of-16 field-goal shooting.
Junior guard Tracy Abrams and senior guard Joseph Bertrand also had major contributions with 16 points and 14 points, respectively. Abrams also dished out four assists.
Saturday’s game marked the last non-conference matchup for both teams. On Tuesday afternoon, Illinois will begin Big Ten play against Indiana (10-3) with a 2 p.m. CT tip. The Illini will return to the Chicago area in the near feature when they face Northwestern on Jan. 12.
UIC opens Horizon League competition at Valparaiso (8-6) on Thursday night. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. CT.