Illinois-Chicago simply couldn't overcome a slow start Friday in its Paradise Jam opener in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The Flames shaved a 14-point halftime deficit all the way down to two on two occasions in the final three minutes, but New Mexico managed to hold them off with the help of a key bucket by Alex Kirk and took a 66-59 win over UIC to advance to Sunday night's semifinals against George Mason. Kirk's tip-in with 1:16 remaining gave the Lobos (2-0) a 57-52 lead, just enough cushion to hold off a UIC run that nearly erased a 37-23 halftime hole. Gary Talton's free throws with 3:28 left drew the Flames (1-1) within 54-52, and Daniel Barnes stole the ball and scored with 34 seconds remaining to make it 58-56. But the Lobos got four free throws each from Kendall Williams, who led all scorers with 23, and Kirk to avoid the upset. Hayden Humes paced UIC with 16 points, while Talton added 14 and Barnes netted 11 points. The Flames will meet Mercer at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in a consolation-round game.
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