LIVE! UIC at United Center

LIVE! UIC at United Center

Illinois 74, UIC 60 — FINAL

It looked like 2010 all over again. But then Rayvonte Rice decided he wasn’t having any of that. After UIC led by as many as 13 in the first half and eight at the break, the Illinois junior took over.

Rice scored 16 of his game-high 28 points after the intermission in leading the Illini to a win against the Flames to avoid a resume-killing loss at the United Center.

The Flames were looking for their second straight win against Illinois after claiming a 57-54 victory in December of 2010 at the United Center.

Rice did it at both ends of the floor. UIC guard Kelsey Barlow, a Purdue transfer, scored 18 first-half points. Guarded primarily by Rice in the second half, Barlow managed three points on 1 of 7 shooting.

Tracy Abrams added 16 points and Joseph Bertrand netted 14 for the Illini, who enter Big Ten play with an 11-2 record.

More later on HQ.

Illinois 60, UIC 55 — 10:16 second half

Who does Rayvonte Rice think he is, Kelsey Barlow? The Illini junior guard has 12 points this half and 24 for the game.

The Illini have outscored the Flames 26-11 this half en route to taking a five-point lead.

Rice is 10 for 13 from the floor. Two of his misses are layups and he’s 1 for 4 from the free throw line.

The Illini forced back-to-back turnovers to start the half and opened on an 8-0 to get back into he game. Rayvonte Rice hit a tough layup and he ht Tracy Abrams in transition for a wide-open three and then Joseph Bertrand converted a three-point play on a circus layup.

Much more energy for the Illini to open the second half, particularly on the defensive end.

Rice’s left-handed layup at the 13:18 mark tied the game, got the crowd fired up and forced Howard Moore and his red blazer to call a timeout. That’s as loud as it got here today.

Jon Ekey’s shot has been flat today. That means he’ll hit a big one late.

Rayvonte Rice has done a nice job this half guarding Kelsey Barlow.

Former Illini in the house today include Kiwane Garris, Robert Archibald and Kevin Berardini.

UIC 44, Illinois 34 — HALFTIME

One of the best defensive teams in the country, Illinois is allowing an opponents to shoot 62.1 percent from the floor in 20 minutes and yielded 44 points to a team that got beat by 20 points against Eastern Illinois. This is like UIC’s Super Bowl and they’re playing like it.

Kelsey Barlow is a man possessed. Not only did he drop 18 points with three assists, he swatted a Tracy Abrams layup at the buzzer. Barlow went 7 for 12 from the floor and 3 of 5 from three-point range.

The other UIC guys are 11 for 17, so it’s not just Barlow killing them.

This would be a really, really bad loss. There’s no other way to put it.

At one points, UIC was 6 for 9 from three. How the heck did Northwestern beat this team by 35. Northwestern!?

Ahmad Starks is here seated in the stands behind the Illinois bench.

After a rough few possessions at both ends of the floor, John Groce replaced Nnanna Egwu with Maverick Morgan.

“He didn’t touch him!” Groce yelled. “That’s bad!”

Illinois shot 12 for 25 (48 percent) from the floor and 2 for 7 (28.6 percent) from long range.

Rayvonte Rice leads with 12 points and Tracy Abrams has eight.

Biggest stat: UIC out-rebounded Illinois 19-8 in the half. Part of that is UIC hasn’t missed many shots, so there haven’t been many defensive rebound opportunities.

Kelsey Barlow 14, Illinois 13 (UIC 21, Illinois 13)— 11:21 first half

Tracy Abrams left the court at 16:44 grimacing and limping a bit. He went to the bench and seemed fine, though. Jaylon Tate replaced him and promptly missed a pair of free throws.

Abrams returned at the 15:23 mark.

Kelsey Barlow, the former Purdue Boilermaker, is killing Illinois.

When the Flames took a 21-11 lead at 12:09, Groce looked at the bench and told them he was going to call a timeout. They agreed.

Early Austin Colbert sighting. Colbert didn’t play in the Missouri game, but Groce said he had practiced really well leading up to it.

UIC brought a pretty strong student section today. They’re seated behind one basket with the band. They went nuts when Kelsey Barlow hit a three to start the game.

Good sign for Illinois, Nnanna Egwu hit a 15-footer from the baseline on his first touch.

The rims are soft here. Rice got a nice roll on a three and Bertrand got one on a floater.

John Giuliani, who donated $5 million to State Farm Center yesterday, was recognized on the court at the first timeout with Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas.

Curtis Granderson is seated right behind the UIC cheerleaders in the front row.

Illinois (10-2) vs. Illinois-Chicago (5-8) — TIPOFF

No surprise on the lineup for Illinois. Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu.

UIC coach Howard Moore wearing the same red blazer he wore for this game three years ago when his team won. It would be cool to see a red blazer-orange blazer showdown.

We talked to Big Ten Network’s Shon Morris before the game and he’s a fan of Egwu. The former big man reminds us that Egwu hasn’t been playing basketball very long and he’s gotten better every year. Defensively, he’s really good. He’s still a bit mechanical on the offensive end, though.

I spent some time with Curtis Granderson the other night and the former Dteroit Tiger and New York Yankee and all-star will be here today. Granderson, who recently signed a four-year deal with the Mets, is a UIC grad. He was my host on my recruiting visit. Great player, better guy.

Lots of Illinois media in attendance, as you would expect. I’m seated next to Shannon Ryan from the Chicago Tribune and Steve Greenberg from the Sun-Times. Road game for Steve, he actually lives in St. Louis.

Jeremy Werner from ESPN radio in Champaign is here. He lives in Clifton, about halfway between here and Champaign. Jamal Collier is here working for GateHouse News Service. Jamal is from Bolingbrook, he spent the week up here for Christmas. Mark Tupper, Herb Gould, the Daily Illini also have folks here. I haven’t seen any Champaign television folks, but I’m sure they’ll be here.

As I wrote that, Bret Beherns from WCIA took his place courtside.

I spent the entire week up here, too. There was a fire across the street from our house in South Holland last night. It was a serious fire. The family wasn’t home, but unfortunately the family dog didn’t make it out.

A woman named Jessica Ray sang the National Anthem. She was really good. She's no Jim Cornelison, though.

Game time.

Illinois (10-2) vs. Illinois-Chicago (5-8) — 1 p.m. (BTN)

The doors are open here. Way more orange than red in the building. I expect it to remain that way.

Sounds like Simeon coach Robert Smith wasn’t happy with D.J. Williams and some of the other Wolverines regulars yesterday at Pontiac. Smith benched his starters and went with reserves for the fourth quarter and three overtimes in a win. I’ll be interested to see how he plays it today.

I remember sitting here at the United Center last year for the game and Loren giving e constant play-by-play updates on how Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn were doing in their game. I couldn’t have cared any less at that point as I was trying to keep an eye on what was happening here.

Loren Tate isn’t having any computer issues, but he is trying to scrape some candy or something off the base of his brand-new Dell computer. It’s always something with him.

The Illinois band is seated right behind us here. That’s going to be loud.

The one guy to watch today for UIC is Kelsey Barlow. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Barlow played three years at Purdue before being dismissed from the program.

He leads UIC in scoring (16.6), rebounding (5.2) and assists (4.5). He does it all. Stop him and you’ve got a great chance to win comfortably.

“I had a lot of respect for Missouri’s perimeters going into the game Saturday and I’ve watched a lot of clips on Barlow here over the holidays and he’s really talented. A little bit like (Jordan) Clarkson, it’s unique that you have a point guard at 6-foot-5,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “He’s had seven games of five or more assists, so he can make guys better. He shoots it well enough you have to guard him on the three-point line and then that sets up his drive game. He’s pretty good at finishing at his size around the basket. He can really see, he handles it well, he’s great in transition, good length. I think he’s a really good player.”

The Illinois coaches will be out recruiting again today after the game. Someone will be at Proviso West where Morgan Park’s Kain Harris and Bogan’s Luwane Pipkins are playing. Pipkins is an intriguing prospect. He’s small and not a true point guard, but he can just play. He’s going to be a good one wherever he ends up.

I want to wish a happy 20th birthday to one of my all-time favorite people, Samantha Kohlbecker. Happy birthday, kiddo!

I’ll be back for at the tip.

Illinois (10-2) vs. Illinois-Chicago (5-8) — 1 p.m. (BTN)

Good morning and welcome to the United Center for Illinois’ annual December nonconference game. This year’s opponent, isn’t a particularly juicy one with UIC making the short trip to the West Side.

It’s amazing that just about 14 hours ago, the Blackhawks were in this building continuing their assault on the NHL and the very underrated Patrick Sharp was recording a hat trick on his 32nd birthday.

The United Center crew transformed this building into a basketball arena overnight.

Well, the last time these two teams met here at the UC, it was not a good day for Illinois basketball. You’ll remember the Flames defeated 12th-ranked Illinois 57-54 and left Illini fans shouting expletives at the players and coaches as they left the floor. Maybe you don’t want to remember that.

I’m expecting a much different result today, though you can never be too sure.

Next year, you’ll be getting a different opponent. Oregon will return the game from two weeks ago in Portland here next year against the Illini.

We’re not sure what to expect in terms of a crowd today. I’m bad at guessing those things, so I’m not going to throw any numbers out there. Word is that ticket sales have been pretty good the past couple of weeks. Don’t expect 22,000, but it should be healthy. I believe there’s one more game left in this series in 2015 and that should be it.

Hope you had a chance to listen to Saturday Sports Talk today on WDWS. Steve Kelly and Loren Tate had a stellar guest list. Mike Thomas, Dan Roan, Rod Cardinal, Brad Sturdy and Jimmy Collins were among the guests. If I remember, I’ll link to the podcast for you.

John Giuliani, who provided a $5 million gift to State Farm Center, is expected to be in attendance today. I wish I had $5 million lying around.

Traffic was pretty good coming in today, though I saw some things you only see in Chicago. Just before the Circle, I was behind a guy who was driving about 45 mph. That’s entirely too slow. When I passed him, he had his phone 6 inches from his face texting away. He had University of Illinois plates and he was decked out in UI gear. Sorry to have to inform you of that. Just after I passed him, I drove by another guy who was chugging a Miller Lite. On the highway. At 10 a.m.! He was not wearing UI gear. Unbelievable stuff.

UIC and the Illini have taken the floor for warm-ups. UIC will wear red. The Illini will wear white.

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