GAME NOTES: The Illinois Fighting Illini will try to keep rolling this afternoon, as they face the Illinois-Chicago Flames at the United Center.
The Illini last took the court a week ago when they defeated 23rd-ranked Missouri, 65-64, in their annual Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis. Illinois ended a four-year skid against the Tigers and snapped a five-game losing streak against ranked teams.
In a back-and-forth affair featuring 15 lead changes and six ties, Mizzou's Jabari Brown hit a clutch three-pointer, giving the Tigers a 64-63 lead with 15 seconds left. However, Illinois answered when Tracy Abrams, who drove the lane, spun, and was fouled with 4.6 seconds remaining, calmly knocked down both free throws, clinching the Illini victory.
Abrams led the way with team-highs of 22 points and six rebounds, while Rayvonte Rice added 14 points for Illinois, which has won three of its last four games.
Rice, a junior, leads the Illini in scoring this season, averaging 17.4 ppg, while fellow junior Abrams is second with 12.4 ppg. Jon Ekey heads the team's rebounding effort with 6.3 rpg.
This will be the Illini's final non-conference game of the regular season, as they open their Big Ten slate on Tuesday against Indiana. The squad is allowing an average of just 60.7 ppg, which is 15th-best in the NCAA, on 39.7 percent shooting. All-time, the Illini are 34-12 at the United Center.
UIC, meanwhile, comes into today's tilt having dropped two straight and four of six after losing on Monday to Colorado State, 74-61. Senior Kelsey Barlow scored a game-high 20 points against the Rams, including 18 in the second half, but it wasn't enough for the struggling Flames.
Barlow leads the Flames in scoring, rebounds and assists, averaging 16.6 points, 5.2 boards and 4.5 assists. Marc Brown is the only other double-digit scorer, netting 12.3 ppg for a UIC squad which averages 71.6 ppg, but has put up only 58.5 points in its last two contests -- both losses.
These two schools haven't met since 2010 when the Flames escaped with a 57-54 win over the Illini, who were ranked 12th in the nation at the time. However, the Illini have dominated the series, winning 12 of the 14 meetings. This time around, UI shouldn't have much of a problem with the Flames. The Illinois defense is too good and the Flames don't have the firepower to stay competitive.
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