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Flames overcome Morse

Matthews helps UIC rally despite YSU guard’s record night

By Mike Pankow

February 10, 2017

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

UIC’s Dominique Matthews, who scored a career-high 28 points, looks to drive while Youngstown State guard Cameron Morse defends in the first half Thursday night.

Youngstown State’s Cameron Morse made the UIC Pavilion his house Thursday night, setting an arena record with 44 points.

But Dominique Matthews and host UIC didn’t let Morse have all the fun as the Flames overcame the star Penguin’s huge night to post an 84-81 victory.

Matthews showed his own scoring prowess, setting a career high for the third consecutive game with 28 points on 11-for-17 shooting. He felt going up against a prolific scorer stoked him.

“He’s a great player. He can really score the ball,” Matthews said. “I’ve got to give props to that guy, but I’m glad we got the win.”

Matthews, a redshirt freshman guard from St. Rita, also made a career-high five 3-pointers to continue his recent binge. He’s scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games and has averaged 24.3 points in his last three games.

“I basically had the whole year off last year,” said Matthews, who played just nine games because of a broken thumb. “It took me awhile to get back to feeling like myself. My teammates have been doing a really good job of finding me.”

If it wasn’t for Matthews’ counterattack, the Flames (13-12, 6-6 Horizon) might’ve lost this one because of Morse.

Morse was 18-for-28 from the field and 6-for-15 from 3-point range for the Penguins (10-16, 4-9), but he missed pair of 3-point attempts in the final minute and a half as UIC completed a comeback from down eight points in the last 5:30.

Morse hit a free throw with 42.4 seconds left to break the old mark of Detroit’s Willie Green, who scored 43 against the Flames in 2003.

“I felt like I had to be aggressive for my team,” Morse said. “I try not to worry (about how many points I’ve scored). I just try to stay aggressive and help my team win.

“I didn’t even know I surpassed the record. It’s a blessing.”

Down 75-67 with 5:31 left, the Flames were blessed with a late 16-5 run, which included two 3s by Matthews and the go-ahead trey by freshman Tarkus Ferguson with 2:15 remaining.

The game was a seesaw affair that saw both teams grab sizable leads in the first half.

UIC took a 23-15 lead with 13:35 left in the first half after a pair of K.J. Santos’ buckets. But Morse starting carving into the Flames’ defense and fueled a Penguins’ resurgence.

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

UIC center Clint Robinson comes up with a steal in the second half when YSU’s Jorden Kaufman couldn’t handle a pass from Cameron Morse.

Morse drained a 3-pointer with 3:40 left in the half to give YSU a 31-28 edge. He capped a 26-9 blitz with an 8-foot jumper for a 41-32 lead and finished the first 20 minutes with 25 points.

“He’s got a scorer’s mentality,” UIC coach Steve McClain said. “There’s something about us. He just likes playing us.”

Matthews scored eight points, including a 3-pointer and a spinning layup in the lane, and freshman Marcus Ottey, returning from a wrist injury, added six points, to spearhead a 17-8 counterattack to forge a 49-49 tie at the half.

When Morse began the second half with a four-point play after being fouled on a 3-pointer, it appeared like the Penguins were poised to pull away again.

However, the Flames finally clamped down on defense and held YSU in check for a while. UIC took advantage with a 13-4 run that including a layup and floater by Matthews.

“I’ve always been able to put the ball on the floor,” Matthews said. “I’ve just been working on my jump shot. I’ve forgotten that I can still do some of that.”

By the time Tai Odiase soared for a dunk off a nice find by Santos, the Flames opened a 65-59 lead with 12:01 remaining.

But Morse, again, kicked off a 16-2 run with an 8-foot jumper. Freshman Braun Hartfield ended the spurt with short jumper of a Flames’ turnover for an eight-point lead with 5:31 to play.

However, Matthews & Co. showed their resolve in the final few minutes to escape with the victory.

“I was really proud of our composure,” McClain said. “It was a game of runs. When you play Youngstown State, you know it’s going to be a game of runs. They’re a team that can explode really quickly. You can’t overreact to that, because you also know you’ll be able to come back and get baskets.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: UIC shot 47.8 percent for the game after knocking down 57.1 percent in the first half. … The Flames held YSU to 27.7 shooting in the second half after allowing 51.4 before halftime. … Junior reserve center Clint Robinson secured a team-high 10 rebounds as UIC held a 50-42 advantage on the glass. … After a 25-point, 11-assist effort in Saturday’s overtime win over Milwaukee, Ferguson had just eight points and six assists as the Penguins put their focus on the point guard. McClain said Ferguson was slowed and frustrated by two early fouls before playing a little better in the second half. … Santos finished with 10 points. He has now scored in double figures four times in the last five games. … Ottey, who missed the last six games with a wrist injury, collected 10 points and a career-high six assists. … Odiase finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. … Freshman point guard Godwin Boahen was dressed and warmed up before the game, but he did not play as a precaution to rest a pair of lower-body injuries, including an ankle sprain suffered in Milwaukee. … Matt Donlan was the only other Penguin to register double figures with 13 points. … UIC swept Youngstown State in the regular season for the first time since the 2012-13 season. … Former walk-on Hans-Christian Lauer participated in the “Challenge of the Deans” shootout during halftime.

POSTGAME VIDEOS:

In other recent news:
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Green Bay 84, UIC 80: Faltering late (2/3/17)
Wright State 88, UIC 86: Not quite enough (1/30/17)
Northern Kentucky 79, UIC 62: Horror show (1/28/17)
Valparaiso 96, UIC 65: Winning streak extinguished (1/23/17)
UIC 71, Milwaukee 57: Adversity not stopping Flames (1/18/17)
UIC 92, Youngstown State 89 (OT): The few, the proud (1/15/17)
UIC 59, Cleveland State 54: Not pretty, but pretty sweet (1/13/17)
Oakland 58, UIC 57: Measuring up (1/9/17)