Chicago Colleges: UIC Flames

UIC gives Moore three-year extension

April, 17, 2013
Illinois-Chicago announced Wednesday men's basketball coach Howard Moore received a three-year contract extension.

Read the entire story.

BU's Simms-Edwards going on defensive

January, 10, 2013
Bradley senior Dyricus Simms-Edwards got a good taste of basketball thievery at the start of the season and he’s been obsessed with it ever since.

“Even in a game, I get mad if I juggle the ball and don’t get a steal,” Simms-Edwards said.

Simms-Edwards has had plenty of games with two, three, four or five steals this year. He’s even had one of eight steals. Yet, none of them fill his craving.

“I just want to repeat it,” he said. “I just want to do it again. I want to top it.

“It definitely drives me. I want to be considered one of the best defenders in the country. I just want to leave my mark when I leave Bradley. I’ve really been thinking about that this season.”

Simms-Edwards appears headed toward achieving that goal. He’s just eclipsed 1,000 points for his career. He’s averaging 3.38 steals, which is second in the country, and with 54 steals in 16 games is near pace to break the Missouri Valley single-season steals record of 96. Finally, Simms-Edwards has been a key piece in Bradley’s program returning to a respectable level.

“Dyricus is going about it the right way,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said. “He was here when the program was really down. He’s been a part of some bad basketball teams. In spite of that, he’s found a way. If he can finish the last half of the year as he’s played the first half of the year, people will remember him for being one of the best to ever play here.”

Simms-Edwards’ love for defense arrived late in his career. A year ago, Ford thought Simms-Edwards was actually a liability as a defender at times.

But at the start of this season, something clicked for Simms-Edwards. He started utilizing his wingspan and strength to begin snatching the ball from opponents, and he hasn’t stopped doing it.

Simms-Edwards had three steals against Michigan. He’s had four games of four steals, two games of five steals and he swiped a career-high eight steals against Drake.

“I didn’t dream he’d get this many steals,” Ford said. “We don’t press and we don’t get out and deny and gamble. For him to get that amount of steals, it’s remarkable what he’s done.”

Western Illinois rolling: Who from the state could be dancing come March and is currently the hottest team in Illinois?

It may be a surprise to some, but the answer is Western Illinois.

Building off last year’s run to the Summit Conference championship game and a CBI tournament appearance, the Leathernecks are 13-3 overall, 5-0 in conference and are currently riding a 10-game winning streak.

And it’s been defense that has put Western Illinois in such a favorable spot. The Leathernecks rank second in the country in defense, allowing 50.8 points a game. They’ve held four opponents to under 40 points and have only allowed one team more than 70 points.

“If you play defense in any sport, you have a chance to win,” said fifth-year coach Jim Molinari. “We really take pride in defending.”

Western Illinois’ effort has been led by seniors Ceola Clark and Terrell Parks. Clark is key to the top of the defense as the point guard, and Parks, a center, is the rim protector. They’ve combined for nearly three steals and three blocks per game.

Clark, who was a granted sixth year of eligibly this season due to multiple injuries in his career, has a special place in Molinari’s heart.

“I say this to people: for our system, I don’t think there’s a guard in the country I would rather have than Ceola Clark,” Molinari said. “I would think Jim Beilein would say the same thing about Trey Burke because they like to run up and down. Because we pack our defense and play a lot of ball-screen offense like we do, I wouldn’t want any other than Ceola Clark.”

UIC, Illinois State declining: Illinois State and UIC were two of the state’s most impressive programs during the non-conference season.

Illinois State looked like a potential NCAA tournament team with a 9-3 non-conference mark and respectable losses to Louisville, Northwestern and Wyoming. UIC opened the year 9-1 and knocked off Northwestern on the road.

As of late, both programs have looked just the opposite.

Illinois State has dropped its first four Missouri Valley games. On top of that, Redbirds coach Dan Muller suspended star guard Tyler Brown indefinitely Wednesday for conduct detrimental to the team.

As for UIC, the Flames have lost five of their last six games and are 1-2 in the Horizon League. Their defense has been the problem lately. They allowed only one opponent to score 70 points in their first 10 games. Four of their last six opponents have reached that mark. Player of the Week: DePaul junior guard Brandon Young is doing all he can to keep the Blue Demons competitive in the Big East. He’s averaged 21.7 points, four rebounds and four assists in DePaul’s three conference games. He scored a career-high 35 points in a loss to Connecticut on Tuesday. Team of the Week: Northern Illinois used a true team effort to snap a five-game losing streak and defeat Miami (Ohio) 72-61 on Wednesday. The Huskies had 11 players score in the win. Aksel Bolin had 11 points and five rebounds off the bench.

Flames land Indiana prep shooting guard

September, 9, 2012
Elkhart Memorial senior shooting guard Markese McGuire committed to Illinois-Chicago on Sunday.

McGuire, a 6-3 guard from Elkhart, Ind., chose the Flames over Evansville. He averaged 16.3 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists last season.

“The whole coaching staff has been committed to me ever since I came to their elite camp over a year ago and (they) stressed the importance of having me there,” McGuire said. “Also with being there, I believe I will become the best player I can be, and they are willing to help me get there. I saw them play a year ago, and I can now see how much they have improved which shows how the coaches are getting their players to reach their potential.

“Most importantly, I have a great relationship with the whole coaching staff and players as well. I’m proud to say I will be a part of the UIC family.”

McGuire is UIC’s first Class of 2013 commitment.

Former Purdue G Barlow transfers to UIC

August, 2, 2012
Former Purdue guard Kelsey Barlow has transferred to UIC, Flames coach Howard Moore announced on Thursday.

Read the entire story.

UIC adds two JUCO transfers

May, 4, 2012
UIC coach Howard Moore announced the addition of two junior college transfers on Friday.

Jordan Lankster, a 6-foot-5 wing, and Carlos Henderson, a 6-9 center, both transferred from Murray State junior college in Oklahoma to UIC. The pair will have two years of eligibility left.

“Jordan and Carlos are two tremendous additions to our team and our program,” Moore said in a statement. “They come to UIC with some very valuable experience at Murray State College under head coach Randy Rutherford. I expect both Jordan and Carlos to immediately contribute to our team next season.”

Lankster averaged 12.8 points, 5.4 rebounds , 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals last season. Henderson averaged 6.3 points and 6.7 rebounds last season.

With the addition of two players, UIC now has seven players in its 2012 recruiting class. The Flames had eight new players last season, but recently announced three of their freshmen were leaving the program.

Rough year doesn't deter Loyola's Moser

February, 10, 2012

Porter Moser had a feeling his first year at Loyola would be a rocky one.

He was wrong.

It’s been worse. For the season to be considered rocky, the Ramblers would have needed some ups to go with their downs. Loyola is winless in the Horizon League at 0-13. It hasn’t won since Dec. 22 and is 5-18 overall.

“It’s not a lot of ups,” Moser said heading into Saturday’s game with crosstown rival UIC.

[+] EnlargePorter Moser
Scott Sewell/US PresswirePorter Moser's Ramblers have yet to win a game in the Horizon League.

Moser recognized when he took the job Loyola’s roster had holes. To make the situation worse, Courtney Stanley, who was expected to start at point guard, was lost for the season with a ACL tear in September, and Jordan Hicks, another expected starter, had an offseason setback while returning from his second consecutive broken foot injury. Hicks didn’t play his first game until Dec. 19 and is only now starting to get back into a rhythm.

The Ramblers’ luck hasn’t improved as the season has unfolded either. Starters Ben Averkamp, Joe Crisman and Walt Gibler have all missed multiple games due to injury. Crisman, alone, has had a concussion, a high ankle sprain, a shoulder blade contusion and a broken left hand.

Moser admitted the season has been trying for him and his players, but he hasn’t lost sight of the ultimate goal. And if he needs any reminding of it, his old boss, Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus, helps with that.

“He keeps on reminding me it’s a journey,” Moser said. “He’s all about the long haul. Too many coaches try to come in and shortcut things whether it’s with recruiting or winning games. I look at Year 5 at Saint Louis, and they’re hovering around the top of the Atlantic 10 and will probably get a NCAA tournament bid. It takes time.

“I didn’t have any illusions of grandeur that it was going to come all this year. I’m obviously extremely disappointed. I have a fire in my belly to win. That’s what you want, but I’m not disconcerted. I think that’s a big difference. I know where we’re going with this program.”

Moser doesn’t think this year’s team is that far off either. The Ramblers lost to Youngstown State in overtime and played within six points of Butler and Wright State.

Despite the difficult season, Moser has stressed to his players they still have a chance to finish the year strong.

“Obviously, we’re not going to win the league,” Moser said. “This whole week we talked about what do we want out of these last few weeks. Are we going to be a team that packs it in?

“You can’t dwell on what’s transpired. You can only learn and try to get better. That’s our only option.”

No NBA could be good for college hoops

October, 20, 2011
Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy doesn’t want the NBA lockout to last forever, but he wouldn’t mind the sides taking a few more months to resolve their issues.

Growing up in Chicago, Dildy knows where the NBA and college basketball exist in the pecking order for the city’s fans. There’s the starting five of professional sports in Chicago with the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox dominating everyone’s interest. On the bench is college basketball, college football, minor league sports and high school sports.

[+] EnlargeTracy Dildy
Darrell Walker/UTHM/Icon SMIChicago State's Tracy Dildy believes the NBA lockout could be an opportunity for area college basketball programs to gain more exposure.
“When you have a NBA game or a Chicago Bulls’ game on, most of your fans are going to watch the professionals,” Dildy said.

The hope for Dildy and most of the Chicago-area coaches is the absence of the NBA will bring Bulls’ fans into their arenas and spark local interest in college basketball.

“With the NBA lockout, I think college basketball all around is going to benefit,” Dildy said. “You got some fans out there who just need to be in an arena this time of year, so they’re going to find some college arenas. While it’s not good for the NBA, it’s good for college basketball at this time.”

UIC coach Howard Moore is hopeful all of the area teams got a piece of the pie.

“I think for all the city schools it would be great for people to find their niche,” said Moore, who also grew up in Chicago. “Whatever neighborhood you’re in, whether it’s West Loop, North Shore, Lincoln Park, you can find your own brand of basketball.

“I love it. We’re only a couple miles away from the United Center. If the United Center’s closed, come over to the Pavilion for us.”

Chicago-area college basketball hasn’t been a hot ticket for some time. Last season, DePaul led all area teams with an average of 7,676 fans. The Blue Demons were followed by Northwestern (5,291), UIC (3,099), Loyola (2,424) and Chicago State (1,179).

The attendance numbers fell well below what the professional teams average, but the college teams also have to compete with Chicago’s minor league sports and high school basketball for the entertainment dollar.

The Chicago Wolves, an AHL hockey team, averaged 7,463 fans at Allstate Arena in its 40 regular season games last season. The area will also have another minor league hockey team, the Chicago Express, debut this season at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

Even high school basketball often draws more than the college teams. Last season’s matchup between Benet and Simeon at the UIC Pavilion drew 8,184 fans. When Glenbrook North and Jon Scheyer met Lawrence North and Greg Oden in 2006, there were 8,494 fans at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Comparably when No. 1 Ohio State played Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena last year, there were 8,117 fans.

“Chicago is a Bulls-first, high school-second, then college basketball kind of city,” ESPN college basketball analyst Stephen Bardo said.

DePaul is the annual leader in attendance among Chicago-area college basketball programs. In the past decade, it has drawn as low as 5,060 fans a game in 2001-2002 and as high as 10,551 fans in 2006-2007. Often, it’s fallen in between those two numbers, especially after its entrance into the Big East in 2005.

Like anywhere, success has driven attendance figures in Chicago-area college basketball.

DePaul was at its peak in the 1980s. While the Blue Demons were making NCAA tournament appearances almost every season, they attracted 10,000-plus from 1980-1992. Twelve of the program’s 15 most-attended games came in the 1980s.

In recent years, DePaul and nearly everyone else in the area have lost more than they have won. Last season, the five area teams combined for a 56-103 record and 20 of those wins were by Northwestern.

“When DePaul was in its prime, the city got behind them,” Bardo said. “Chicago college teams have struggled as of late. If one can catch fire this season, they might be able to take advantage of the lockout.”

Loyola's first-year coach Porter Moser had a similar thought. Moser doesn't believe the NBA lockout will affect area college basketball attendance, but does believe a team could rise to the city’s attention with some success.

“Everybody in Chicago is craving a college team to step up,” Moser said. “I don’t think the lockout will have any bearing. I think what each of us have to do in Chicago is concentrate on their own program, the recruiting, how we’re winning, how’s we’re playing. I think Chicago is such an awesome sports town that it’ll take care of itself. I think they’re ripe to get behind a team.”

Northwestern is the likely team to be successful again this season. The Wildcats return four starters from last year’s NIT quarterfinal squad.

Northwestern’s attendance average last season was its highest since the 1994-1995 season. The Wildcats are hopeful that with a talented team and an ever stronger marketing push they’ll have more fans this season with or without the NBA lockout.

“We think we have an incredible product this year led by All-American candidate John Shurna,” Northwestern senior associate athletic director for external affairs Mike Polisky said. “We’re hoping that people who haven’t given us a shot would. We have a big Chicago mindset. We hope everything works out with the Bulls. We don’t want to look like we’re taking advantage of that situation.”

DePaul coach Oliver Purnell saw it differently. While he wasn’t cheering for a lockout, he did believe the Blue Demons could benefit from it.

“We’re always marketing,” Purnell said. “We’re always looking to attract more interest to our program in our infant stages. If there’s a NBA lockout, we’ll certainly take advantage of that.”

Move to SG pays off big for UIC's Kreps

February, 15, 2011
CHICAGO -- Life is good when UIC senior guard Robo Kreps plays well.

In the his past five games, Kreps is averaging 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and has made 18 3-pointers while shooting 48 percent from the field.

[+] EnlargeRobo Kreps
Robin Alam/Icon SMIUIC guard Robo Kreps is averaging 22.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in his past five games.
“I care so much about this game,” Kreps said. “I don’t really care what happens in class here or there. If I’m playing good basketball, life is a lot better. If we were winning, life would be even better.”

Kreps hopes to have the best of both worlds Wednesday when he faces inter-city rival Loyola for possibly the final time in his career. Kreps has a 5-3 record against the Ramblers in his four seasons, but Loyola has won the past three meetings, including a 68-59 victory earlier this season.

“No doubt about it, Loyola is one we always want to get,” said Kreps, who has averaged 10.1 points against the Ramblers. “I’ve played most of those kids my whole career. [Loyola senior Andy] Polka has been there since I’ve been here. I was 5-0 against them, and last year wasn’t that good. I want to get them back this coming game.”

Kreps also is eager to just get back on the court the way he has been playing recently.

“I can’t wait to play Loyola on Wednesday,” Kreps said. “The rim just feels so big right now. I feel like I’m going to make everything I shoot. My confidence has skyrocketed.”

Kreps and UIC coach Howard Moore credit his recent play to his confidence and switching positions. The Flames lacked offensive production, and Moore needed more scoring. With sophomore Corey Gray proving recently he could handle the point guard responsibilities, Moore made the logical move -- moving his best shooter to shooting guard.

Kreps wasn’t in love with the idea at first. He was comfortable with the ball predominantly in his hands, running the offense, distributing and shooting when needed. With the switch, he had to give up some of that.

“The first game I wasn’t pleased with it,” Kreps said. “I’ve since fallen in love with it. I’m getting more shots, getting more open shots. That’s helped my game out.”

Moore knew Kreps would come around.

“I don’t know if too many players would be upset if I said to them, ‘I need to get you more shots,’” Moore said. “I didn’t think Robo would fight me too much. I think it’s changed his mentality. The shots he was probably turning down at the point, he’s really hunting those shots. He’s being more assertive because his role has changed.”

Kreps needed two games to adapt to it. He shot 10 times against Cleveland State and nine against Youngstown State. In his third game at the shooting guard, he flipped the switch. He was 10 of 17 from the floor and scored 25 points against Detroit. A game later against Wright State, he was 7 of 15 from the field, made five 3-pointers and scored 20 points. In a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay last week, Kreps was 7 of 12 from the field, scored 21 points and drained a game-winning runner at the buzzer.

“He just has the heart of a lion,” Moore said. “He’s not going to back down in any situation. He’s always going to compete at the highest level. Even though our record isn’t great, he’s led this team to compete at the highest level. He’s not allowed this team to quit.”

Winning has been a struggle for the Flames, who are 7-20 overall and 2-13 in the Horizon League. Since upsetting Illinois on Dec. 18, UIC has gone 2-13.

The Flames’ record is somewhat deceiving. They have been competitive in nearly all their games. They lost five games by three points or less. They trailed Butler by one at halftime on the road. They lost by six points at Wright State. They led Detroit at halftime in their first meeting and were tied with the Titans at halftime in their second game.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s been pretty hard,” Kreps said. “I’ve said this many times -- we’ve been around in every game. We’re right there, but we can’t get over the hump.

“It’s nice I’m playing well, but I still want to get those wins. At the end of the day, you have to perform in the conference tournament. Not a lot of teams get an automatic bid in our conference. We just got to stay aggressive and keep our confidence in the second half. The first half of the games we’re right there.”

Young's Snider commits to UIC

February, 11, 2011

Whitney Young junior guard Gabriel Snider has committed to UIC, giving first-year Flames coach Howard Moore his first 2012 recruit.

The 6-foot-1 Snider is a role player on a Whitney Young team full of Division I recruits, but with his shooting ability and athleticism he’s expected to be an impact player for UIC in the Horizon League.

“I think they’re getting a play who has a tremendous upside in relation to what he’s able to do on the basketball court,” Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “He’s a kid who is a tremendous athlete and is an above-average shooter. He’s a kid who if he wasn’t on Whitney Young would be a starter. His better days are ahead of him. When it all comes together, he’s a kid UIC will look back and say, ‘What a steal.’”

The early decision was a no-brainer for Snider.

“It was easy,” said Snider, who was recruited by Moore and UIC assistant coach Donnie Kirksey. “I felt like it was a great fit for me. I specialize in shooting. UIC’s coaches were in love with me. I respect them, and they respect me. I see their vision.”


UIC Flames

In-state men's hoops rankings

December, 23, 2010
1. Illinois (10-3): A few turnovers, an intentional foul and a six-point Missouri possession led to Illinois’ demise in the final minutes of Wednesday’s rivalry game. The Illini, especially Mike Davis, responded well after losing to UIC on Saturday, but this team has some work to do before being thought of as a Final Four contender again. Jereme Richmond’s progress could determine where this team goes.

[+] EnlargeMichael Thompson and Lamar Trice
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhMichael Thompson and Northwestern improved to 9-1 after routing Mt. Saint Mary's 70-47 on Thursday.
2. Northwestern (9-1): The Wildcats could have been No. 1 on this list and set to coast into the Big Ten schedule with an undefeated record, but they met a hot-shooting St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. While the Red Storm shot lights out, Northwestern was also exposed. The Wildcats still rely too heavily on Michael Thompson, John Shurna and Drew Crawford. The trio combined for 58 of the Wildcats' 69 points on Tuesday. Northwestern’s NCAA tournament fate could rest on its first three Big Ten games -- at Purdue, hosting Michigan State and at Illinois.

3. DePaul (6-6): After Illinois and Northwestern, the state drops off. DePaul has potential, but it’s still a work in a progress. The Blue Demons did show some resilience by rallying to beat Loyola over the weekend. Oliver Purnell picked up his 400th win on Wednesday.

4. Loyola (9-4): The Ramblers are in danger of tanking just like they did last season. Loyola began the season 7-0, but now has lost four of its past six games. Three of those losses were narrow ones against Butler, DePaul and Kansas State, but the Ramblers need to start winning some of the games if they’re going to make an impact in the Horizon League.

5. Illinois State (8-3): It’s hard to fairly judge the Redbirds so far. They have won some games, but haven’t really played anyone. In three of their more notable games, they lost to UNLV by 32 points and Ohio by two points and defeated UIC by 10. Once they begin to face Missouri Valley opponents, we’ll know a lot more about Illinois State.

6. UIC (5-8): The Flames shocked the country with their upset win over Illinois on Saturday. Whether UIC can sustain its success -- it lost to Illinois State and Northern Illinois before playing Illinois -- is unknown. But the Flames took a massive step for the future of Howard Moore’s program. They came back down to earth Wednesday, losing at Oregon State.

7. Bradley (6-5): Along with Illinois and Northwestern, the Braves had a chance at making the NCAA tournament. Those dreams ended with the season-ending injuries to Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown. Bradley could return with a vengeance next season.

8. Southern Illinois (6-5): The Salukis finally got Illinois and Purdue on their schedule, but this wasn’t the year for it. Southern Illinois just isn’t the team of the past. The Salukis have been up and down all season, and this could be the end of the line for Chris Lowery. They defeated Northern Illinois on Wednesday.

9. Northern Illinois (3-6): The Huskies have played better than expected. They have only won three games, but they’ve hung with nearly everyone. It helps that Xavier Silas is putting together a special season. They lost to Southern Illinois on Wednesday.

10. Eastern Illinois (5-7): The Panthers’ record isn’t impressive, but they have fared well against in-state opponents. Eastern Illinois has defeated Bradley and Western Illinois. That has to mean something.

11. Western Illinois (5-6): The Leathernecks don’t have a lot of wins to show for it, but they have stayed competitive in all their games. Even against Missouri, they only lost by five points early in the season.

12. Chicago State (3-10): The Cougars have played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the state, and they’ve paid for it. Six opponents have scored 90-plus points on the them. It’s going to take first-year coach Tracy Dildy some time to turn the program around.

13. SIU-Edwardsville (2-11): The Cougars have taken their lumps. It hasn’t helped that they’ve been without star forward Mark Yelovich, who has a broken foot and will miss the rest of the season.

Flames' win over Illini could reap rewards

December, 18, 2010
CHICAGO -- Being the sister school of Illinois, Illinois-Chicago is given the occasional gift by the Illini.

Illinois packs the United Center, slips UIC a cut of the gate, provides the Flames with some exposure, maybe lets them hang around for a bit and then ultimately delivers what the crowd came for -- a no-doubt-about-it Illini victory. Of the 13 times Illinois and UIC had met before Saturday, the Illini had won 12 of them.

On Saturday, UIC took charge of filling its own stocking, swiping the usual Illinois win in one of the bigger victories in Flames history -- a 57-54 win over No. 14 Illinois at the United Center.

Of the 13,117 fans who reportedly attended Saturday's game, the Flames were lucky if 10 percent belonged to them, despite their campus being a few bus stops away. None of it mattered to UIC's players, though.

[+] EnlargeUIC celebrates upset
AP Photo/Charles CherneyThe Flames' celebration ought to last awhile after their win over Illinois on Saturday.
"I think we knew it was going to be like that," said UIC senior guard Robo Kreps, who ignited the upset with three 3-pointers in the opening minutes and finished with a team-high 15 points.

"Midway through the second half, I finally took a look at the crowd, and I saw the second tier was orange and the third tier was orange. When they scored, obviously, the Illinois fans were loud. When we scored, it was kind of quiet. But we've been there before, we've played in some tough games, and I thought we fought through it really good today."

UIC defeating Illinois would be a big deal in any given season. The Illini are supposed to be the better team. Their coaches are paid more. Their recruits have more star power. Their players have more skill. They play in a better conference.

That was the case back in 1990, when UIC pulled off its other win. The Flames' 71-60 upset over the Illini in Champaign was a major achievement for the program then. But it'll probably be nothing like Saturday's win for UIC when history is revisited.

Saturday's victory may be the defining moment that makes the Flames relevant in the college basketball world again. If UIC is dancing in the NCAA tournament a few years from now, it likely will have something to do with Saturday.

The hiring of former Wisconsin assistant Howard Moore put a buzz around UIC's program. Everyone agreed Moore was a smart hire. He had recruited with success in the Chicago area. He had put in his time as an assistant and had learned from a variety of successful head coaches. The cherry on top was Moore's roots were Chicago-based. He was a born-and-bred Chicago player and coach. Everything fit.

Moore quickly built a solid recruiting class and got people optimistic about UIC. But like it does everywhere, the initial buzz began to die down for Moore as the season began. The talk became less about what UIC will do in the future and more about its current status. With the Flames starting off the season 4-7, there weren't many positives to discuss.

Saturday changed that.

If UIC had won at Pittsburgh to start the season, it would have meant less than defeating Illinois at the United Center.

By beating the home state power, one thought to be a Big Ten championship contender and an Elite 8 team (which may have been altered as well Saturday, but that's another story), on the Big Ten Network, before a massive Chicago crowd and with dozens of media outlets in attendance, Moore and UIC placed a major piece into their rebuilding puzzle.

Instantly, Moore earned additional credibility when it comes to recruiting. If "We just beat highly ranked Illinois," isn't the first sentence out of Moore's mouth in the coming weeks when talking to recruits, it will likely be the second. And with the Illini possessing a full cupboard of talented recruits coming in, some of Chicago's top players will be looking at places other than Champaign, and now UIC could be a legitimate option for them. The Flames could be a perfect place for a rising star like Hales Franciscan junior guard Aaric Armstead or Simeon sophomore guard Kendrick Nunn.

Moore understood immediately what the win could mean to his program.

"I think it's a tremendous deal," Moore said. "I think it could really give our program a shot in the arm in recruiting, obviously some exposure. My last few press conferences, I got to be honest with you, I haven't seen so many people. I almost sat down with you guys. I had no idea where to go."

The win also will likely be the top memory of the 2010-11 season for the Flames' seniors. While UIC showed it does have talent, it still has to go through the likes of Butler, Cleveland State and Detroit in the Horizon League.

Whatever happens the rest of the season, UIC's seniors will always be able to think back to the day they knocked off Illinois.

"It's always about your seniors," Moore said. "That's who our team should be playing for. They're obviously playing for me as the head coach, but you want your seniors to have moments like this to relish and to remember.

"This is something when Robo's 40 years old and has got a pot belly, we can sit back and talk about this over a beer. Because it's going to happen, Robo, your metabolism is going to slow down. It's just great to have these moments and share these moments with your team. That's why we do it. To have success, to see guys get degrees, that's the reasons why we should be in this."

For Flames' seniors, the time is now

October, 26, 2010
CHICAGO -- The future appears bright at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

With a new head coach in Howard Moore, a new staff, a new way of doing things and a handful of talented recruits already committed, there is a buzz around the program and a belief the Flames could be on the rise for years to come.

But UIC senior guard Robo Kreps and senior forward Paul Carter, the team’s captains and star players, didn’t want to talk about the future during the Flames’ basketball media day on Tuesday. Their time isn’t a few years down the road or even next season. They only have the present for the Flames to succeed.

[+] EnlargeRobo Kreps
Tim G. Zechar/Icon SMIUIC senior Robo Kreps led the Flames with 15.2 points per game last season.
“Robo and I have had several talks about it,” said Carter, who transferred from Minnesota to be closer to his family while his sister battled cancer. “A lot of people are saying the program is going to be great; coach is going to build it for the years to come. But all we have is now, so all we’re going to be worried about is now. We’re going to work hard like we’ve been here for years, and that’s what we’re going to do this year. We feel like we can win this year.”

The media, coaches and sports information directors who voted in the Horizon League’s preseason poll obviously don’t believe the same. With the Flames coming off a 3-15 conference season, they were picked to finish second to last in the Horizon League this season.

Kreps was aware of the prediction, but didn’t let it bother him.

“Those rankings don’t mean anything,” said Kreps, whose 15.2 points per game led the Flames last season. “It’s not where you start. It’s where you finish. I think we definitely use it as motivation, but we don’t need any motivation this year. We were 8-22 last year. We’re ready to go out and show what we can do.”

Kreps, like Carter, believes the Flames are capable of winning now.

“We’re ready,” Kreps said. “We can win 20 games this year. We’re going to sneak up on a lot of teams. We’re pretty darn good.

“First is our defense. We’re going to be getting into people. The type of defense we’ll be playing is going to help us. Offensively, we’re going to be doing things differently than last year. We’re going to be taking better shots, and everyone’s shooting percentage will go up.”

Moore echoed his players.

“It is what is,” Moore said of the preseason poll. “At the same time, we should be motivated regardless. If we’re picked first, we should be motivated. If we’re picked ninth or 10th, it’s there as well. Can you take it personally? Absolutely. We’re in this together. I told the guys, ‘They picked us ninth. So what? Let’s go play.’ No one wins a championship in October.”

UIC gets fifth commitment for 2011 class

October, 11, 2010
CHICAGO -- University of Illinois-Chicago coach Howard Moore is on a recruiting roll.

Moore added the fifth piece to his 2011 recruiting class on Monday with the commitment of 6-4 shooting guard Marc Brown out of Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas.

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Two Public League stars headed to UIC

October, 10, 2010
CHICAGO -- University of Illinois-Chicago coach Howard Moore is building Chicago’s team.

Moore, who received his first Public League commitment a little over a week ago, got two more Sunday when Curie senior guard Greg Travis and Simeon senior forward Ahman Fells committed to the Flames.

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Flames get commitment from 6-11 center

September, 27, 2010
Newly-named University of Illinois-Chicago coach Howard Moore landed his first recruit with the commitment of 6-11 center Will Simonton.

Simonton, a Class of 2011 recruit, averaged 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks last season at Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va. He will play this season at Fishburne Military Academy in Waynesboro, Va.

“He’s mobile, has very good touch, a really good passer, smart player,” Fishburne Military Academy coach Ed Huckaby said. “He’s just starting to come into his own. He can play inside and out. I coached in the Horizon League for three years, and he reminds me of the bigs you see at Butler and even at Wisconsin at a smaller scale. They get kids who can step out and face up and also play in the post.

“He fits in well with Howard’s swing offense. It’s a really good fit for Will. He’s going to be a very good four-year player at UIC.”

Simonton committed to the Flames after making a weekend visit.