UIC Flames burn Robert Morris in overtime in home finale


Michael Green III makes a pass. Photo credit: Justin Newton

Tyler Gallo

MOON TOWNSHIP– With gusts up to 37 mph in the afternoon, it was no surprise that UIC was in town from the Windy City to take on Robert Morris in the Colonials’ home epilogue of the season.

Overtime games have not been kind to the Colonials in recent seasons as they fell in the extra frame to the Flames by a score of 96-88.

Head coach Andy Toole pointed out the issues that befell the Colonials.

“We slipped away in the second half, we had too many cracks,” Toole said. “We had the ball with the shot-clock off up two, we just had to take care of the ball and get fouled. Every time there was a toughness play that needed to be made today, we chose not to make it.”

Things did not start swimmingly for Robert Morris, as UIC’s Filip Skobalj scored a quick five points, grabbed three boards and dished two assists to give UIC the early six point lead.

Kahliel Spear was at the forefront of RMU’s offensive attack early, tormenting UIC for six points and picking up an important steal and knotting the game at 14.

It was Robert Morris’ turn to go on a run, notching a 10-0 spread following Kam Farris breaking the ankles of a Flames player to get the lead to 18-14.

UIC trimmed the RMU lead down to as much as one, but the Colonials held serve up by three points through the next media. Spear still led the way with nine and Brandon Stone scored six.

Michael Green III sent the Colonials into the under-four media timeout with a pretty floater and a four-point lead.

The Flames grabbed the lead back for a brief moment despite being overwhelmed by Spear, who had 16 points, but Enoch Cheeks sunk both free throws to get it back with 1:11 remaining in the frame.

UIC headed into the half with a 45-44 edge after the shootout in the first. Spear’s 16 were the game-high, and Zion Griffin led the Flames with 13 points.

The Colonials did not hit a three-pointer in the first half but shot 57 percent overall while UIC shot 48 percent and 41 percent from downtown.

To kick off the second half, Green sent a pass through the air to Spear who finished off the alley-oop dunk with some flair.

Jaron Williams finally ended the three-pointer drought, hitting one to stretch RMU’s lead to four.

Spear continued to have his way with the Flames’ defense, torching them for another eight points by the first media timeout and sending his total to 24 and the RMU lead to nine.

A brief run by the Flames brought them within five, but the Colonials got some key stops and buckets as both Brandon Stone and Cheeks found their way into double digits. Green followed with a huge three-pointer to also reach the double-digit plateau.

UIC continued to claw back into the game. Damaria Franklin nailed a three for his 19th point of the game, making it a 79-75 lead for RMU.

Jamie Ahale answered next, hitting a three from the elbow to tie it at 81.

Michael Green III cashed in with another important floater to put the Colonials back in front, forcing UIC to foul with 25.3 seconds remaining.

Jace Carter proceeded to fight for a steal and a fastbreak on the ensuing possession, squaring the game up once more with 13.7 to go.

RMU did not score, sending the game to overtime, their second such contest of the season and first since their home opener against Mount St. Mary’s.

The Flames ran away with it in the early portion of the extra frame, going on a 7-0 run after winning the tip.

Brandon Stone hit a much-needed trey to get RMU within five, and Enoch Cheeks missed a wide-open opportunity that would have made it a one-possession game.

The Flames hit all their free throws to close things out.

Damaria Franklin finished with 28 points and Zion Griffin had 27, while Spear’s 24 paced RMU.

Toole also discussed the team’s seeming lack of execution throughout the season, especially over the past two losses against IUPUI and the Flames.

“At some point, the onus has to be on you to be able to execute and do the right things,” Toole said. “Down the stretch, we had some critical breakdowns in some of our zone slides which is day one stuff. Those kind of plays have been plaguing us all year long.”

RMU has dealt with its share of turnover over the years, including this season, and with questions of who will remain on the roster, Toole offered a statement that could serve as a barometer for the team.

“I don’t think everyone is appreciating the opportunity they have here, because the mindset they have now is that they will have 17 opportunities elsewhere,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the way the real world works, and trying to get guys to understand that has been a challenge.”

The Colonials will close their season with two road games against Northern Kentucky and Wright State before heading to the Horizon League tournament.