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Horizon Finals Recap

March 13, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Horizon League Finals Recap

Recap by Nick Dettmann

(2) Illinois-Chicago 65, (1) Wisconsin-Milwaukee 62

The University of Illinois-Chicago Flames did what not many teams, if any, can do – win a championship game on someone else’s floor. That’s exactly what they did. They defeated the top-seeded University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers 65-62 in front of 10,254 at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee.

By beating the Panthers, UIC clinched the Horizon League’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. For UWM, they will have to wait and see if they will make the NIT.

“We feel like we let everybody down,” UWM coach Bruce Pearl said. “As it relates to the loss, we were thinking more of everybody else than ourselves.

“The toughest part is our families and friends, all the people who were unbelievably supportive all year.”

The Panthers were hosting the championship game for the second straight season and it was a tale of two games.

Last year against Butler, UWM rolled to a 14-0 lead in the first half and coasted to victory. This time around, UWM went 3-for-14 in the first 8:15 of the game, but luckily trailed only by one, 8-7.

UWM would take the lead with 11:12 to go in the half on a basket interference call against UIC. The lead would change hands five more times the rest of the half. UIC would take the last lead of the half, as they broke a 21 all tie with 4:56 to go on an Aaron Carr three. UIC would build up a 33-26 halftime lead.

The second half started out better for UWM, as they hit four of their first six shots and took a 38-37 lead with 15:56 to go. The lead would change hands 11 times for the rest of the second half. UWM would hold onto their biggest lead of the night with 9:50 to go on a lay-up by Dylan Page, giving UWM a 51-46 lead.

Cedrick Banks would give UIC a 60-58 lead with 3:31 to go and Elliott Poole would stretch the lead to four with 2:47 remaining. Then, after a Page free throw, Ed McCants drilled a three from the corner to tie the game at 62 with 1:48 to go.

Then, after a turnover by Chris Hill, Banks tossed a pass up the floor to Poole who put up the go-ahead score with 34 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing play, UWM’s Adrian Tigert tried to get a pass down low to Page, but was picked by Poole, forcing UWM to foul.

At the other end, former Wisconsin transfer Marcetteaus McGee hit 1-of-2 free throws to give UIC a 65-62 lead with five ticks left on the clock.

On the inbounds play, Tigert got the inbounds pass to Page who then lofted it up the floor to an open McCants. McCants spotted up the three and just as he got his mark, Banks flew across McCants’ path that disrupted his shot, making McCants miss the game-tying three-point attempt.

And as the final horn sounded, the largest crowd to ever watch a UWM home game was stunned as the student section from UIC rushed the floor in celebration.

“I thought I got an open look and then I saw the guy fly past me,” McCants said. “I felt a body against me. I don’t know what you’d call that.”

“I tell you, we beat a very good team here tonight,” said UIC coach Jimmy Collins of the Panthers. “They’re not exactly chopped liver. They can do a lot of things. They are a good team, a well-coached team.”

Pearl said: “I can’t tell you everything I said to them. I don’t want to take away from the UIC victory. I think they will represent the Horizon League well.

“This isn’t our last game. We’re going to get into the NIT. I’ll be shocked if we’re not considered one of the top 104 teams in the country. We need to start preparing for that.”

All-Tournament Team
Armond Williams, UIC (MVP)
Cedrick Banks, UIC
Elliott Poole, UIC
Ed McCants, UWM
Avery Sheets, Butler

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