I didn't expect to write this article—or at least not with this type of ending—but the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames have defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 57-54.
This is a major shocker for everyone. The Fighting Illini came into the game with seven straight wins, while the Flames had a 4-7 record. Illinois is No. 14 in the AP Rankings and UIC isn't even thought of as a top 150 team. Even though the game was scheduled to be a home game for the Flames, most of the United Center was dressed in orange.
Nevertheless, UIC wasn't intimidated and came out swinging. Robo Kreps went three-for-three from the three-point line in the first five minutes and helped the Flames take an early lead.
Illinois couldn't make the ball go in from anywhere and suffered because of it most of the game; they managed to make only 18 out of 55 shots and only got four shots in from downtown.
Although the Fighting Illini had a quick comeback in the second half, the Flames with a three-pointer by Paul Carter and a tip-in by Darrien Williams regained the lead seconds before the end of the game.
This result will surely hurt Illinois' ranking this week, but is this loss worth worrying about for the Fighting Illini?
My answer would be no because of the two reasons:
- Illinois has seen its flaws early in the season and can work them out, before they start Big Ten conference play
- Illinois has no excuse for losing against UIC, other than the Flames wanted it more. Hopefully, they'll learn their lesson and won't underestimate any team from here on out (especially in the Big Dance where this type of mistakes happen).
The bottom line is, this loss came too early in the season for the team to lose any moral, but they have noticed they are vulnerable—like any other team—and will aspire to keep working hard.