Friday, January 6, 2017

UIC 78, Detroit Mercy 64: Odiase dominant on defense

                                                          Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— On a frosty Friday night outside, the warmth of the UIC Pavilion indoors provided the backdrop for the battle between frontcourt stars Jaleel Hogan (Detroit Mercy) and Tai Odiase (University of Illinois-Chicago).

Odiase finished on the right side of the pond for the UIC Flames (8-7, 1-1 Horizon League) with a game-high eight blocks, to go along with 11 points in a 78-64-win over the Detroit Mercy Titans (2-13, 0-3 Horizon League) to snap a four-game home losing streak in the series.

Despite early foul trouble, Hogan finished with a team-high 17 points, on 6-of-10 shooting in 27 minutes.

UIC coach Steve McClain's strategy was intended on letting Hogan go one-on-one with Odiase and the strategy worked in the first half.

"I am not a believer in post doubles, but [Jaleel] is a great passer and at times, they set you up to come double, just to get a three," McClain said. "Tai did a great job on [Jaleel] and Clint came in and did a great job. I wasn't worried if [Jaleel] got his average, but I didn't want their guards to get their average."

UIC’s bench provided a much-needed boost with 30 points, compared to UDM’s 14.

McClain credited the bench for providing a lift, despite 23 turnovers.

"Our bench had 30 points tonight and when our bench is productive, we are usually in pretty good shape in a game," McClain said.

Michael Kolawole headlined the Flames’ outburst with 11 points, capped off by a personal 6-0 run towards the end of the first half.

The Titans came out of the gate by scoring the first five and looked nothing like a team who lost 12 of its first 14 games.

Odiase’s two-handed slam provided the Flames their first points of the game at the 18:11 mark. Four turnovers committed in the first 4:14 proved fatal for the Flames as the Titans started out on a 9-2 run.

UIC responded with authority by going on a 22-4 run, highlighted by two three-pointers from bench player Kyle Guice.

The Flames’ lead grew by as many as 15 in the late stages of the first half, highlighted by a personal 6-0 run by Michael Kolawole.

The much anticipated battle between Hogan and Odiase began to take shape at the 2:55 mark as they combined to make the last three baskets.

Odiase’s presence became evident on both sides after the first 20 minutes with nine points and six blocks. Hogan would be limited to nine minutes due to foul trouble and went 2-of-3 from the field (five points).

The Flames continued to hit all of the right notes in the beginning of the second half as their lead ballooned to 20, highlighted by a couple of makes from Marcus Ottey.

The lead would not go back to single digits for the entire second half as UIC’s three-game conference homestand ends on Jan. 8 as Oakland comes to town for a 4 p.m. tip, while Detroit Mercy heads south down I-65 to take on Valparaiso earlier in the day at 1 p.m.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.