UIC blows past St. Xavier to end three-game losing streak

CHICAGO — UIC had a rough weekend at the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic. But with a home game against NAIA opponent St. Xavier on Tuesday, the Flames easily ended a three-game losing with a 87-76 win.

“It felt good,” UIC coach Howard Moore said. “The timing of having a home game after that stretch was critical.”

The Flames did not get more than a few points of separation for much of the first half, but back-to-back 3-pointers from junior guards Gabe Snider and D’Juan Miller in the final minute of the period put the team ahead 48-34 at the break. Snider drilled three treys in the win for a season-high nine points.

Miller, a junior college transfer, didn’t have the best game statistically with six points on 2-for-7 shooting and more turnovers than assists. But Moore said he is still pleased with the way his new point guard has performed.

“Running the point, that’s the hardest position to learn at this level,” Moore said. “He’s doing a really good job of being unselfish and trying to find guys and set the tone on the defensive end for us.”

Tai Odiase rejects St. Xavier’s Tony Core at the rim. (Video courtesy of ESPN)
Tai Odiase rejects St. Xavier’s Tony Core at the rim. (Video courtesy of ESPN)

Both teams started slow in the second half with neither team scoring for more than two minutes. But after doing a lot of damage in the first half from beyond the 3-point line, the Flames started having an easier time scoring inside. Back-to-back layups from junior forward Jake Wiegand and a dunk from freshman forward Tai Odiase were part of a 15-8 run that gave the Flames a 21-point lead.

Wiegand led the team with 20 points and 12 rebounds, his third double-double of the season. Odiase turned in another nice strong performance with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for his first career double-double.

“To have a double-double from your four and your five in any game is huge,” Moore said. “We’re really emphasizing getting the ball inside and being an inside-out team. And it’s reliable with Jake and Tai in there as a unit.”

Wiegand had a respectable sophomore season, averaging 7.5 points and 5.1 boards. But he has exploded in the first six games of 2014-15, recording 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest.

“It’s just the work I put in in the offseason,” Wiegand said. “I really put a lot of work in to just expand my game a little bit. I can go outside to shoot the ball a little bit, and I think that’s been the biggest difference.”

The Cougars got within nine points of the Flames in the final minute, but UIC’s lead was never in any real jeopardy. The Flames cruised for most of the second half.

UIC also got help from senior Jay Harris and redshirt freshman Lance Whitaker in their first home games of the season. Harris scored 16 points while Whitaker had a career-high seven.

Harris and Whitaker had been suspended for the first three games of the season and made their first appearances of the year at the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic.

“It’s a work in progress,” Moore said of the team. “We’re still trying to fit it all together.”

UIC returns to action Saturday at Dayton. The Flyers are coming off an Elite Eight appearance in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and already have wins against Texas A&M and Boston College this year.


Video highlights courtesy of UIC Athletics:

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.

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