The Illinois Fighting Illini ran in to a scorching hot shooting UIC Flames squad in the first half today at the United Center, but managed to put out the fire in the second half and coasted to a 74-60 victory to finish the non-conference portion of their schedule 11-2.
UIC’s Kelsey Barlow set Twitter ablaze with 18 first half points as the Flames scorched the nets on their way to a 10 point half time lead, but Rayvonte Rice’s defense extinguished Barlow’s effectiveness and he was only able to register 3 more points in the second half. The former Purdue Boilermaker, Barlow, finished the game with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.
Meanwhile, Rice’s defense fed into his offense as he repeatedly attacked the rim throughout the second half en route to his finest offensive performance as an Illini. Rice finished the contest with 28 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. It wasn’t just the Rayvonte Rice show today though. It was more like a 3 guard attack.
Rice’s production was augmented by Illinois’ other two primary guards. Tracy Abrams finished the game with 16 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. Joseph Bertrand was the final Illini in double digits as he finished the game with 14 points and 5 rebounds in a solid supporting effort.
Overall, it was a quality effort from the Illinois starting guards in a game that was very much in question at the half time break.
The Illini were once again out-rebounded 33-32, but it could have been much, much worse. The Illini were being out-rebounded at halftime 19-8 and did not have a single offensive rebound. Thankfully, they re-committed themselves in the second half both on the glass and defensively. They were able to close the 10 point deficit quickly behind this defensive assertion, and then continue to stretch the lead throughout the second half behind a rim attacking style that fits this team much better than the jump shooting we all saw throughout the first half.
Illinois returns to action Tuesday afternoon at the State Farm Center against Indiana at 2pm CST.