Illinois-Chicago (5-6) at UC Riverside (3-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 20, 10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: SRC Arena (3,168) -- Riverside, California. Television: None. Home Record: UIC 2-4, UCR 2-2. Away Record: UIC 1-1, UCR 1-4. Neutral Record: UIC 2-1, UCR 0-0. Conference Record: UIC 0-0, UCR 0-0. Series Record: Illinois-Chicago leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The UC Riverside Highlanders try to prevent a third straight setback tonight, as they host the Illinois-Chicago Flames in non-conference action at SRC Arena.
The Highlanders are just 3-6 on the campaign at the moment, but they've yet to drop more than just back-to-back outings. However, the squad has bowed in four of the last five after going down against Northern Colorado on the road Monday by a score of 63-60.
As for the Flames, they've registered five wins in 11 opportunities to this point, but only three of those victories have come against Division I opponents. One of those foes from outside the D-I ranks popped up on the schedule Tuesday night, as the team tackled Purdue Calumet in an 88-61 decision at home. The win was the second in a row for UIC.
The Flames won the only previous meeting between these two programs just last season, a 59-52 final in the Windy City.
The Flames clearly took advantage of an overmatched opponent this week as they shot 57.1 percent from the field and limited Purdue Calumet to just six total field goals in the first half of their meeting, en route to the lopsided 27- point final. Except for Kelsey Barlow who finished with nine points and eight rebounds, every starter scored in double figures for the hosts, led by Jordan Harks with a double-double consisting of 15 points and 12 rebounds. Pat Birt pitched in with 14 points, Marc Brown 13, reserve Jake Wiegand 12 points and Hayden Humes 10.
Barlow, one of two players to have started every game for the Flames this season, checks in with not only 16.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg, both of which pace UIC, but also 55 assists which is more than three times the number of his closest teammate. Brown accounts for another 13.3 ppg and is the only other player on the team with more than 10 assists at the moment, sporting 17 dishes for a group that is putting up 74.0 ppg, but at the same time allowing 75.5 ppg.
In a game that featured eight ties and 11 lead changes, the Highlanders shot 9-of-25 from the floor in the first half, leaving them behind by three points at the break and that ended up being the margin of victory for Northern Colorado. The visitors needed Chris Patton to come off the bench and give them a fighting chance as he tallied 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Starters Steven Thornton and Taylor Johns chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively, the only other players to make more than just a pair of field goals.
Johns currently leads Riverside in scoring with 14.7 ppg, thanks to an impressive 58.4 percent accuracy from the floor. Unfortunately, his productivity could be even greater if not for the fact that Johns, who leads the squad on the glass with 7.7 rpg, is hitting free throws at a dismal 54.9 percent clip. Patton checks in with 13.0 ppg and 7.1 rpg, but between he and Johns they've combined for just 19 assists and 57 turnovers through nine games.
Without much of an offense to speak of and far too many turnovers to count from the players that matter most, the Highlanders will have a tough time putting together a solid effort tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois-Chicago 68, UC Riverside 61
12/20 10:30:55 ET