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First-place ISU now 8-1 in MVC with win over UIC

Jan. 24—Indiana State junior Isaiah Swope let it rip to shake off Illinois-Chicago's second-half surge.

He dropped in a career-high 30 points in an 89-83 win in Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball Wednesday night inside Credit Union 1 Arena.

Sophomore forward Robbie Avila made crucial baskets in the post late as UIC couldn't contain him — he finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double and six assists.

UIC senior guard Isaiah Rivera hit his first five shots of the half, three from beyond the 3-point line. He notched 18 of his 24 points in the second half.

His hot hand yielded a 71-70 lead with 7:31 left following his triple from the left side.

It came on the heels of junior Jayson Kent's triple and layup as he rolled to the rim and Swope threaded the needle with a bounce pass. Kent had a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards.

Then junior guard Julian Larry recorded back-to-back baskets to put the Sycamores (17-3, 8-1) back ahead. He had 12 points and seven assists.

Swope made four of his first five looks in the closing 20 minutes but hit his most clutch bucket with 5:51 left — a triple from the right of the key to push the advantage to 77-73.

The Flames (8-12, 1-8) didn't retreat, a baseline 13-footer by Rivera evened the game.

A second-chance turnaround from in close by Kent was the final go-ahead field goal by the Trees with 3:39 remaining.

Avila backed down his defender on the left block for a four-point edge with 2:49 to go.

The Sycamores have won 16 of their past 18 games, including four in a row, to remain in first in the Valley with four road wins in their pocket.

ISU started the game cold. At the first media timeout, ISU was 1 of 6, but UIC was shooting worse (1 of 9). ISU started 1 of 7 from long range.

Larry attacked downhill early to get to the basket twice for four points and finding Avila for a layin during ISU's first seven points.

The first half closed with Swope gliding to the rim for a layup on a rare shot in the paint for him in the half, and he hit catch-and-shoot 3 to beat the halftime horn after two jabs for a one-point lead.

UIC dropped a fifth straight game to remain in the MVC cellar.

ISU now has sole possession of first place in the conference because previous co-leader Drake lost at Missouri State 83-80 in double overtime Wednesday night.

ISU hosts third-place Bradley (15-5, 7-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Hulman Center, while UIC travels to Nashville, Tenn., to face Belmont.