Dec 01, 2012; Evanston, IL, USA; Illinois-Chicago Flames guard Daniel Barnes (1) reacts after the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena. UIC won 50-44. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. UIC Flames Preview and Live Thread


Hello again fans of the Illinois Fighting Illini! Game day is once again upon us, and I’m sure more than a few of you are still basking in the afterglow of that heart stopping Braggin’ Rights win over Missouri this past Saturday. It’s been a good week to be an Illini fan for sure, but now it’s time to move on from the win and on to the next one.

Today’s game will take place in the United Center, and will be the third game the Illini have played on an NBA floor this season. Unfortunately, the previous two games this season on an NBA floor have been the Illini’s only losses (10-2). Illinois will be looking to right the ship in the home of a pro team against the UIC Flames, who bring a 5-8 record into today’s contest.

The Flames are coming off back to back losses against UC-Riverside and Colorado State. Coming in to this game they are shooting 43.8% from the floor as a team which ranks them 217th in the nation. They are averaging 71.6 ppg which puts them at 215th in the nation.

UIC has a pair of double digit scorers in Kelsey Barlow and Marc Brown, but Barlow is clearly their go to option. He leads the Flames in all three major categories with 16.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, and 4.5 apg. Stopping Barlow will be one of the defensive keys to the game. The other will be Illinois’ defense of the 3 point line. UIC will hoist threes, and they convert at a 33.8% clip.

UIC has launched 231 attempts from long range, and 5 different players have 20+ attempts. Illinois will have their work cut out for them in identifying shooters. Here are the Flames top options to keep an eye on based on attempts: Barlow (68), Hayden Humes (41), Gabe Snider (35), Brown (32), and Pat Birt (23).

The bottom line is that the Flames are a Horizon League bottom feeder right now, and Illinois needs to come out and impose their defensive will on the Flames today and success should follow closely behind. That said, this is definitely the very definition of a trap game for the Illini as they are coming off a huge emotional victory over Missouri, and Indiana looms on Tuesday when the Illini open Big Ten play.

Three Things I’d Like to See Today

1. Avoid the Trap - Games like this are difficult, especially for the younger guys on the team who might be caught looking ahead to Indiana. The veterans need to provide the leadership to get them past the name on the opponents jersey, and make sure everyone is ready to go today.

2. Win the Rebounding Battle - The Illini lost the rebounding battle against Missouri by 1, and it was the 5th time in the past 6 games that the Illini have been out-rebounded. This game has the opportunity to be a game that can provide the Illini post players a chance to get right on the boards. They need to capitalize on it and build some positive momentum heading into Big Ten play.

3. Defend the 3 Point Line - If UIC finds some success from long range early on they are going to gain the confidence that they can pull a repeat of the December 18th, 2010 upset  that also took place at the United Center. That’s the last thing Illinois fans want to see happen. So, lockdown on the 3 point line and take the Flames out of this one early.

The Skinny

When: Saturday, December 28, 2013 @ 1:00 CST.

Where: United Center – Chicago, IL

TV: BTN (Directv 610 / DISH Network 439)

Announcers: Dave Revsine (Play by Play) & Shon Morris (Analyst)

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.

Tags: Illinois Fighting Illini

  • @RPKraemer

    Five minutes from the opening tip. Hoping to see the Illini crush UIC today and build on last Saturday.

  • @RPKraemer

    Right off the top, Barlow hits the 3. Illinois can’t allow this to happen.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice rattles a triple that ends up dropping. Don’t fall in love with the 3 Ray. Take it to the rack.

  • @RPKraemer

    Abrams left the court in some pain at 16:44 left according to the News Gazette’s Marcus Jackson. Not good.

  • @RPKraemer

    UIC is 4-5 from the floor in the early going. Illinois defense has not shown up yet today.

  • @RPKraemer

    Abrams is about to return. Whew.

  • @RPKraemer

    Abrams wasting little time hoisting a shot attempt after sitting out with a minor knick.

  • @RPKraemer

    Kelsey Barlow is straight up feeling it right now. Hitting 3s in everyone’s face. He has 14 points in less than 8 minutes so far.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois’ perimeter D is getting gashed right now.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois with a quick 6-0 run and they are right back in this.

  • @RPKraemer

    28-21 UIC with 7:30 to play in the first half.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois looked stagnant on that possession and Rice bailed them out with the 3. 37-26 with 4:57 left – sorry I was a shade behind.

  • @RPKraemer

    Here’s something I didn’t think I’d be saying today: Illinois trails by 10 at the half to a sizzling hot shooting Flames squad.

  • @RPKraemer

    So far, the Illini are failing to meet anything I said I’d like to see today. Thankfully, there is another half to play.

  • @RPKraemer

    This first 5 minutes of the second half are critical. Illinois has got to get back in this game right off the get go so they don’t have to expend energy later trying to tie it up.

  • @RPKraemer

    Eight point run to start and UIC with 2 turnovers. Illinois with 5 points off turnovers as part of the run.

  • @RPKraemer

    Seems like John Groce lit a fire, and has the Illini attacking the rack to start the half.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois is back to a 48-47 deficit at the first TO of the 2nd half. Rice and Abrams both driving to the basket and highly effective. Defensive intensity has picked up.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice has 17, Abrams 13, and Bertrand 7 right now.

  • @RPKraemer

    Finally! Tie game after a Bertrand baseline slam and a Ray Rice driving layup. 53-53 as UIC takes the timeout to try and stop the Illini momentum.

  • @RPKraemer

    The lead, and the extension as Ray Rice has taken over. NBA range 3. Bang!

  • @RPKraemer

    Loved seeing Nunn take it into the paint. The guards have got to keep attacking. Settling for threes got them in trouble. The attack has got them back in it.

  • @RPKraemer

    They need to keep shooting threes to keep the defense honest, but the attack is where it’s at for this team. Such good finishers around the cylinder.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois leads 67-57 with 6:07 to play.

  • @RPKraemer

    This half has been full on attack mode, and Illinois has benefited from their approach.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illini are closing in on an 11-2 non-conference record. That’s very solid considering how much turnover they had coming in to this season.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois up 70-58 with just over 2 to play.

  • @RPKraemer

    UIC with no sense of urgency despite only trailing by 12. Barlow has been non-existent thanks to Rice’s defense this half.

  • @RPKraemer

    Well, that’s a 74-60 win and an 11-2 non-conference record for the Illini. Conference play begins Tuesday. It’s going to be much tougher than this one so the Illini will need to bring their A game from the outset.