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Suddenly a star, UIC’s Anthony Kelly lights fire under Flames

Updated: February 25, 2013 1:01PM

UIC coach Howard Moore preaches readiness to all his reserves, but senior Anthony Kelly couldn’t have forecast his sudden rise in the Flames’ lineup.

Kelly has spent most of his college career as a little-known backup. But starting his third consecutive game Wednesday against Milwaukee at the Pavilion, Kelly was a defensive spark plug in the second half of UIC’s 60-50 Horizon League victory against the Panthers.

After trailing by 17 points at halftime, the Flames (12-8, 3-4) held Milwaukee (5-15, 1-5) to a Pavilion-record eight points in the second half.

“I didn’t really know what to ­expect coming into the season,” Kelly said. “I thought I may get a little bit of playing time at the beginning of the year.

“I told myself, ‘This is my last year, I really haven’t done what I’ve wanted to do here. Just stay persistent, stay after it.’ ”

Kelly had played in three of UIC’s first 17 games. But Wednesday he played as if he had plenty of experience, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

UIC took its first lead when point guard Gary Talton hit a three to put the Flames up 52-50 with 1:35 left in the game and held the lead for good. Talton scored a game-high 14.

“I don’t know who that team was [in the first half],” Moore said. “But we had a lot of fight in the second half.

“The effort overall was tremendous from Anthony and that’s what I expect from our seniors.”

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