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Green Bay Blocks UIC's Upset Bid

The Flames looked to end their 12 game losing streak against the Horizon League's best team. The Phoenix had other plans, which would include setting a program record.

Green Bay defenders are very good at keeping shots out of the basket.
Green Bay defenders are very good at keeping shots out of the basket.
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix and the Flames were hot right out of the gate. Both teams took, and made, two shots over the first 1:30 of the game. By virtue of a three pointer, Green Bay had a 5-4 lead. Someone must have opened a door or something because both teams went ice cold from there.

Aside from a Greg Mays free throw which extended the Green Bay lead to 6-4, the next three minutes were dreadful. The teams combined to miss ten straight field goals.

A revived UIC offense came out of the TV timeout, scored four points and took an 8-6 lead. Green Bay's offense needed a few offensive rebounds before it got going. Once it did, the Phoenix went on a 6-0 run to retake the lead. After a slow start, it looked as if the hometown crowd would get the game they had expected, a pretty easy Green Bay win.

That wasn't the case, thanks to the three point line. The Flames were able to hang around with outside shooting. They needed to do so, because the Phoenix are one of the nation's best shot blocking teams.

This year's Phoenix team might not finish as the nation's best, but they'll certainly finish as the program's best. With 10:53 remaining, Alec Brown blocked Jake Weigand. That block not only kept a two point lead with the Phoenix, but set a new single-season record for blocks. Green Bay's previous season high, 162, was set last season. The Horizon League's single-season blocks record, also set last season by Youngstown State, is 182.

The Phoenix finished with 11 blocks on the night.

Half number two played out much like number one. The teams traded buckets and blows on almost every possession. Occasionally Green Bay would make back-to-back buckets, or get rewarded with free throws. They couldn't pull away because the Flames were hot from deep. UIC hit six of twelve three point attempts not taken in garbage time.

Over one minute right in the middle of the half Green Bay went on a 7-0 run and pushed their lead out to 57-50. The Flames, specifically Marc Brown, answered with an equally quick 4-0 run (all from the free throw line).

Both offenses were clicking as the game entered its stretch run. So, naturally, the momentum was forced to a halt.

With 6:08 to play, John St. Clair came down with some sort of leg injury. Play was stopped as Green Bay's trainers looked at him for a few moments. No details were given about his injury. Last we heard or saw he was walking, with a slight limp but by his own power, to the locker rooms. From that point forward, Lamar Simpson and Brad Gaston handled the officiating.

Pat Birt set a new career high with 16 points, half of which came in the second half, to help keep the Flames within striking distance. But, just when they needed their scorers the most, they started fouling out. Jordan Harks (17 points) picked up his fifth foul with 2:24 remaining. Just 26 seconds later, Birt joined Harks on the bench. Then, Kelsey Barlow fouled out with a minute and a half to play.

It was a close game, though Green Bay did lead nearly the entire time, until the Flames got into that serious foul trouble. A fitting outcome for UIC. A team that is better than it's record, but unable to get it done in the end.

Green Bay, 19-4 (9-1), is now three games up on Cleveland State and Valparaiso in the win column. UIC, 5-19 (0-10), remains in last place, three games back of Detroit.