CHICAGO — UIC (7-21, 3-10 Horizon) had an opportunity to gain serious ground in the Horizon League standings Thursday. The Flames are competing for a coveted first round home game in next month’s conference tournament.
However, UIC fell to Milwaukee (11-16, 6-7) at home 71-60 in a game where the Flames were favored.
“After everything that happened yesterday in the league, we wanted to take advantage and get a leg up on getting a home game in the tournament,” coach Howard Moore said. “The bottom line is we didn’t guard like we were supposed, and we didn’t bring the urgency to come out and get this win.”
UIC is once again tied with Wright State for 7th place, which currently gives the Flames the No. 6 seed and a home game. The Flames hold the tiebreaker over the Raiders thanks to a head-to-head victory, and 5th-place Milwaukee is ineligible for postseason play.
Despite having plenty to play for, UIC came out flat and trailed for all but two minutes in the contest.
“The only thing is when we come out in games, we just feel like it’s gonna happen,” said senior guard Jay Harris, who scored a game-high 27 points and surpassed 1,000 career points in the loss. “That’s one thing that we have to correct. We have to go back to the drawing board, go back to practice and work harder.”
Despite a poor start and generally mediocre first half, a solid start to the second half kept the Flames within 38-36 at the 14:32 mark.
A few minutes later, Milwaukee rattled off a 10-3 run to take a 57-45 lead with 6:55 remaining. Two free throws by Harris cut the deficit back to five points with fewer than five minutes left, but a late 7-0 run by the Panthers put the game away.
“Milwaukee’s just playing for pride, but they came out as a team with a purpose,” Moore said.
The Panthers found success with guards Steve McWhorter and Akeem Springs. The duo combined for 38 points on 15-of-25 shooting.
UIC returns to the road, where the team has won of their last three outings, with a Sunday matchup against Oakland.