GAME NOTES: The Southeast Missouri State Redbirds and the Illinois-Chicago Flames will meet up at UIC Pavilion on Saturday afternoon for a non-conference tilt.
SEMO began its season with the unfortunate task of hitting the road to take on nationally-ranked Kansas, losing 74-55. The Redbirds followed that up with a three-game winning streak, but they fell to 3-3 with back-to-back nail-biting losses to Louisiana Tech (67-63) and Troy (59-56) in the CBE Classic in Chattanooga.
After defeating UC Riverside in its opener at home (59-52), UIC traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands to take part in the Paradise Jam. The Flames went 2-1 in the tournament, losing to New Mexico (66-59) before racking up wins over Mercer (62-36) and Iona (86-81).
This will be the first-ever meeting between the two squads.
SEMO has gotten off to a modest start shooting the ball, connecting on 43.4 percent of its field goals, but it has made up for it with a great presence on the defensive end of the floor as it is holding its opponents to just 35 percent from the floor for 63.2 ppg. The lock-down defense continued the last time out against Troy, as the Trojans made less than 39 percent of their field goal attempts, but unfortunately the Redbirds could not capitalize, going just 19-of-52 in the three-point loss. Corey Wilford nearly single-handedly brought his team back from a double-digit deficit in the second half, shooting 5-of-11 from three-point range en route to a game-high 20 points. Tyler Stone tallied a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Nick Niemczyk added 10 points. Stone (15.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and Corey Wilford (15.5 ppg) are a solid inside-outside duo, while Johnson rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.5 ppg. Lucas Nutt isn't much for scoring (2.7 ppg), but he dishes out four assists per game.
After allowing an average 49 ppg in its first three games, UIC allowed an uncharacteristic 81 points to Iona earlier in the week, but it was able to fight back from 12 points down late in the second half to win. The three-ball was the primary reason for the comeback, as the Flames drilled 12-of-23 from long range (.522), including 7-of-10 after halftime. Drilling four of those treys was Hayden Humes, who finished with team-highs in points (22) and rebounds (eight). Gary Talton (17 points, seven assists), Daniel Barnes (16 points), and Josh Crittle (13 points) also helped in the late offensive explosion. Living by the three-pointer is nothing new for UIC, as 37 of its 88 field goals this season have come from beyond the arc. Humes scores a team- best 15.5 ppg on greater than 56 percent from the field, and Talton (13.8 ppg, 5.3 apg), Barnes (11.0 ppg) and Crittle (10.0 ppg) are also consistent performers.
SEMO has a nice squad with quality depth at guard and forward, but UIC's three-point shooting has been deadly of late, and it should be able to feed off the energy in its home building to keep that success going.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois-Chicago 80, SE Missouri State 70
11/24 10:33:09 ET
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