Illinois-Chicago (6-24) at Valparaiso (17-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 4, 8:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) -- Valparaiso, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: Illinois-Chicago 2-12, Valpo 11-5. Away Record: Illinois-Chicago 2-10, Valpo 5-9. Neutral Record: Illinois- Chicago 2-2, Valpo 1-0. Conference Record: Illinois-Chicago 1-15, Valpo 9-7. Series Record: Illinois-Chicago leads, 29-19.
GAME NOTES: The third and final first-round matchup in the Horizon League Conference Tournament will feature the ninth-seeded Illinois-Chicago Flames traveling to face the defending Horizon League champion and fourth-seeded Valparaiso Crusaders at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The winner of this game will take on either Milwaukee or Detroit in second- round action on Friday.
Illinois-Chicago had a season the team would probably like to forget. The Flames finished the year 6-24 overall, with a 1-15 mark in conference play. UIC dropped its regular-season finale, 68-61, to Wright State on Saturday, and will have to face Valpo for the third time this season.
Valparaiso completed the regular-season sweep of Illinois-Chicago, and will try for its third straight win over the Flames. The Crusaders finished the season at 17-14 overall with a 9-7 record in conference play. Valpo lost its last two games of the regular season, including a 63-52 defeat at the hands of Cleveland State Saturday.
Illinois-Chicago holds the lead in the all-time series with Valpo, 29-19. The last time these teams met on the court was on Feb. 1, which resulted in a 70-46 drubbing by the Crusaders that capped the season sweep.
UIC put up quite the fight in the team's final regular season matchup against the conference's third seed in Wright State. The Flames actually held a one- point halftime lead before the Raiders kicked it into high gear and motored past UIC in the second frame. Kelsey Barlow led Illinois-Chicago with 16 points, adding four rebounds and a perfect 7-of-7 from the free-throw line to his game resume. Jordan Harks chipped in 13 points and Pat Birt added another 12 in the loss.
Barlow provided a spark for the Flames with a 14.9 ppg average and 120 assists to pace the team. Marc Brown was the only other member of the Flames to average a double-digit point total, netting 11.1 ppg. Harks led the team in rebounding this season with a 5.5 rpg average, and led the team with 11 blocked shots. UIC is averaging 66.9 ppg on the year, but is giving up 72.5 ppg to its opponents.
Valparaiso fell to Cleveland State on Saturday on the Crusaders' Senior Day. Valpo trailed by just three points at the end of the first half, but fell further behind in the second frame as the Vikings held them to just 21 points in the period. LaVonte Dority scored a team-high 13 points in the contest, connecting on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor. Moussa Gueye grabbed six rebounds, and the Crusaders as a team shot 44.2 percent from the field.
Dority finished as the Crusaders' top scorer this season and fifth in the conference with 16.2 ppg, adding a team second-best 75 assists to his resume. Alec Peters was the only other Valpo member to average a double-digit scoring total at 12 ppg. Gueye and Vashil Fernandez each had a 5.1 rpg average to lead the team. The defending champion Crusaders averaged 72.7 ppg as a unit, and gave up 67.4 ppg to opponents.
It's no secret how Illinois-Chicago struggled this season, winning two of the team's six games against lesser-division opponents. Barlow and Dority battling it out could serve as an interesting one-on-one matchup, but the supporting case around Dority trumps the Flames' role players. At home, the Crusaders should have no issues moving on to the second round in an attempt to defend their 2013 title.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Valparaiso 75, Illinois-Chicago 59
03/04 10:35:51 ET