UIC hit nine of its first 10 shots in the second half, including six 3-pointers, as the Flames pulled away for a 77-53 victory over Valparaiso Monday night at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Ill.
“UIC is a great home team [11-1 on the season],” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “They always play well and shoot extremely well at their place, and I think we saw that tonight, especially in the second half.”
The Crusader seniors got the team going in the first half Monday. Calum MacLeod (Wellington, New Zealand/Hutt Valley [Northeastern J.C.]), making his first start of the season, scored a quick basket to give Valpo the early lead, and Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) followed with two triples to put the Crusaders up 8-3 two minutes in. UIC scored the next 10 points, however, to take a five-point lead of its own.
The Flames worked the lead up to double digits at 22-12 with 10:09 to go in the first half on a Josh Mayo 3-pointer, and enjoyed their largest advantage of the opening stanza with 7:36 remaining at 25-14. But Huff stepped up, hitting 3-pointers on back-to-back Crusader possessions to cut the lead down to seven points.
Fellow senior Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) took over from there, scoring eight points of his own. Loyd’s second straight triple tied the ballgame at 28 with 4:35 remaining in the half, capping a 14-3 Valpo run. After a UIC basket, Loyd knocked down another jumper to tie the game at 30, but the Flames scored the final four points of the half to take a 34-30 edge into the break.
“Jarryd and Shawn really sparked our team late in the first half,” said Drew. “Both of them hit some big shots and made some plays for us to get UIC’s halftime lead down to four points.”
Huff hit another jumper to open the second half to cut the deficit down to two points, and after UIC had extended the lead, Samuel Haanpää (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) hit a 3-pointer of his own to bring Valpo back to within two points at 40-38 with 16:48 to play. But the Flames knocked down six straight baskets and hit all four of their free throw attempts following Haanpää’s triple, putting together a 22-3 run over the next 6:13 to go ahead by 21 points and take control of the game.
Huff led Valpo with 19 points, 14 of which came in the opening 20 minutes. Loyd was the only other Crusader to reach double figures, pouring in 14 points to go along with five assists. Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) paced Valpo on the boards with seven rebounds.
Josh Mayo led three UIC (14-10, 8-5 Horizon) starters in double digits with 18 points. Scott VanderMeer contributed 13 points and game-high totals of eight rebounds and five blocks, while Spencer Stewart added 11 points and six assists.
“Three of our starters have been dealing with illness this week, and I think it showed tonight, with guys not being able to play full speed and getting fatigued quicker than normal,” said Drew. “The biggest thing these next couple days is for us to try to get everybody healthy and ready to go for our home games Thursday and Saturday night.”
Valparaiso (14-10, 5-7 Horizon) returns to the ARC on Thursday, February 14 as the Crusaders host Cleveland State. Thursday is Bryce Drew Bobblehead Night presented by Pepsi, with the first 1,000 fans through the gates receiving a free bobblehead. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game will also be broadcast throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television, and can also be viewed online through the Horizon League Network.