CHICAGO — Dominant performances by Tai Odiase and Dikembe Dixson led UIC to a 64-59 victory Thursday against Wright State. The Flames led for the final 17:42 and have now beaten the Raiders three consecutive times at UIC Pavilion.
Tons of energy from Tai Odiase. The UIC sophomore center made his first six field goals on his way to 18 points. He also had six rebounds and seven blocks.
Defensively, Odiase dominated Wright State forward Michael Karena. Karena made his first two baskets of the game but shot 3-of-7 the rest of the night.
“One thing we’ve talked about with Tai is sometimes he backs away [on defense] instead of holding his ground,” coach Steve McClain said. “I thought tonight he held his ground. And then when [Karena] turns around to shoot it, [Odiase] can still block the shot because he wasn’t moving backwards.”
Odaise is now averaging 3.1 blocks per game in Horizon League play.
His defensive effort played a huge part in holding Wright State to 0.86 points per possession.
“We played really well on defense today,” Odiase said. “We’ve been emphasizing defense in practice.”
Dikembe Dixson has had several great games, and Thursday’s might have been his best yet. Dixson scored his 26 points efficiently, shooting 9-for-16 from the field with three 3-pointers.
While Odiase carried UIC (4-19, 2-10 Horizon) early, Dixson’s offensive burst late in the first half gave the Flames a 33-31 halftime lead. The 6-foot-7 freshman came out firing in the second half as well.
Dixson’s ball control was subpar as he turned the ball over nine times, but he also matched his career-high with four assists. When you put the ball in a freshman’s hands as often as coach Steve McClain puts the ball in Dixson’s, you have to play a bit of a give-and-take game.
“It’s tough when they guard him the way they do,” sophomore guard Lance Whitaker said of his teammate. “They double him a lot and pressure him a lot. Passing out of those double teams is a tough thing to do, being a freshman at this level.”
Dixson also grabbed 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. It looks like his seventh Horizon League Freshman of the Week award could await him Monday.
An uncharacteristically poor shooting night for Wright State (15-11, 9-4). The Raiders entered Thursday as the Horizon League’s third-best 3-point shooting team at 38.2 percent but shot 6-of-25 (24 percent) from deep against the Flames.
“Our guys did a good job of, when they were late, flying and making sure there was still a contested shot,” McClain said. “And then our guys did a good job staying at home when they should. They did a great job of chasing the screens and never really giving them a wide open look.”
Typically, Wright State’s offense is inefficient largely because it gets almost no second-chance opportunities. The Raiders ranked last in Division I entering Thursday with an 18.1 offensive rebounding percentage. The Raiders are usually fine, if not great, when it comes to shooting from 3-point range.
Wright State did a better job on the offensive glass Thursday rebounding 12 of its 48 misses (25 percent). But that was not enough to avoid the upset.
Billy Donlon should send a petition to the Horizon League. No more road games at UIC Pavilion for Wright State?
Wright State has lost three straight games at UIC, including a Horizon League Tournament defeat last season where the Raiders blew a 19-point lead.