UIC ended a three-game losing streak with a 87-76 win Tuesday against St. Xavier. It’s tough to learn too much from this win since St. Xavier is an NAIA opponent, but here is The Catch and Shoot’s reaction to the Flames’ victory:
—Having Jay Harris and Lance Whitaker active gives UIC two new weapons. Harris, a senior, and Whitaker, a redshirt freshman, were suspended for the first three games of the season and returned for the team’s weekend losses to Kent State and Southern Illinois. They made significant contributions in those games and did so once more against St. Xavier in their first home games.
Harris recorded 16 points, and he has now scored in double figures in all three of his games as a Flame. He drained four 3-pointers and dished out three assists. Whitaker posted a career-high seven points and added a pair of dimes.
With their skill sets, Harris and Whitaker also balance out UIC’s lineup. Junior forward Jake Wiegand and freshman forward Tai Odiase do most of their work in the post, although Wiegand also has a respectable mid-range game. The UIC backcourt, led by juniors D’Juan Miller and Paris Burns, is all small guards.
Harris and Whitaker are true wings with the ability to play on the perimeter and also slash to the hoop.
—Odiase being able to play major minutes will do wonders for this team defensively. Odiase is a budding star for UIC. He can score inside, although his offensive game needs work. But only six games into his college career, he is excelling on the defensive end. Odiase blocked four shots Tuesday in addition to posting 11 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. He also altered at least a large handful of other shots.
Odiase is not only tall and long, but he has great timing on his jumps. That is why he will be one of the Horizon League’s best defensive players this season.
However, he has struggled a bit with foul trouble. Additionally he is a freshman, which means he is still learning and his body is still adjusting to the physicality of Division I basketball. He will not be able to play 30-35 minutes per game. But if he can continue to average more than 25 minutes per game, UIC’s interior could be in good shape.
—The Flames can shoot from deep better than they did last year. UIC shot just 32.8% from beyond the arc last season and statistically they haven’t been any better this season. But that should change with the shooters on the roster.
Harris and junior guard Gabe Snider have silky strokes. Junior Marc Brown and sophomore Markese McGuire can also make some shots from downtown.