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Illinois-Chicago's win streak reaches five

The SportsXchange

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Illinois-Chicago's turnaround season continues.

The Flames won their fifth straight by claiming a landmark 50-44 victory over Northwestern on Saturday.

The Flames (6-1) also picked up their second victory in three seasons over a Big Ten team as Josh Crittle scored 13 points and Daniel Barnes added 10 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

"It's a huge win," Barnes said. "We beat U of I two years ago and we're 2-0 against the Big Ten. It just shows that the hard work we put in in the offseason and coming up to this game is paying off."

Illinois-Chicago was 8-22 last season and 7-24 in 2010-11.

The Flames shook off poor first half shooting as they extended their all-time winning streak over the Wildcats to four and now lead the series 4-3.

Drew Crawford scored a game-high 18 points while Reggie Hearn added 10 as Northwestern (6-2) dropped its second straight.

The Wildcats were plagued by 16 turnovers and missed key rebounds in the late going.

"Our shots weren't falling and whenever you have turnovers in the teens, it's not a good night," Northwestern guard Dave Sobolewski said. "We let up crucial offensive rebounds at the end and missed free throws."

With the game tied 44-44, UIC claimed the lead for good on a Crittle put back while Gary Talton and Hayden Humes each hit a pair of free throws in the final 29 seconds to pad the lead.

Illinois-Chicago shot just 17 of 55 (30.9 percent) from the field but scored 14 points off 16 Northwestern turnovers. The Flames also shot 14 of 15 from the free throw line while the Wildcats were 10 of 20.

"That's 16 times you don't get a shot," said Wildcats coach Bill Carmody. "I thought defensively we did OK -- that shot something like 30 percent -- I did know that offensively we were getting open shots and weren't making them. I'd attribute it to the (poor) offense more than anything today."

After shooting 8 of 19 (42.1 percent) from the field in the first half, the Wildcats hit just 7 of 24 (29.2 percent) during the last 20 minutes.

The second half saw six lead changes and four ties before Crittle and the Flames took control in the final minute.

Illinois-Chicago led by as many as five points midway through the first half but couldn't build on it after hitting a cold-shooting stretch. In the final 4:27, the Flames connected on just 1 of 7 from the field and managed just 8 of 28 (28.6 percent) for the half.

Northwestern eased ahead at 22-21 following a pair of Crawford free throws at the 3:56 mark. Hearn added a bank shot off a Mike Turner feed to make it 24-21 and the Wildcats maintained the edge the rest of the way to a 26-25 halftime lead.

In the second half, it was Northwestern's turn to struggle as center Alex Olah missed two open jumpers. UIC reclaimed a temporary lead at 33-32 on Crittle's 3 point play at the 14:02 mark.

"They've really bought into what we're trying to sell," said Flames coach Howard Moore. "These guys went through a lot of things and haven't had the success we've been looking for. ... Now they're staying to reap the benefits of the hard work in the offseason and determination to turn things around."

Northwestern, which also dropped a 77-57 decision at Maryland on Tuesday, hopes to regroup and bounce back.

"UIC played well; we're not going to take that away from them," Sobolewski said. "This isn't the end of the world. We'll be OK. We'll move on."

Notes: Until Saturday, the Flames and Wildcats had not met since 2005, a 71-62 UIC victory in Evanston. ... UIC's win was the second over a Big Ten foe for Moore. The Flames upset then-top-10 Illinois 57-54 on Dec. 18, 2010. ... Northwestern travels to Baylor Tuesday and entertains Butler next Saturday. Illinois-Chicago hosts Roosevelt Wednesday and Colorado State Saturday.
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