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UIC basketball tops Green Bay in battle of defenses 60-57

Updated: January 31, 2013 10:26PM

UIC’s game against Green Bay on Thursday at the UIC Pavilion pitted two of the Horizon League’s best defensive teams against one another. So, knowing points would come at a premium, Flames coach Howard Moore figured it would come down to which team could deliver the knockout blow late.

UIC did so by closing a 60-57 victory on a 6-0 run sparked by its zone defense down the stretch. Green Bay’s decision to abandon its zone defense helped jump-start the Flames on offense.

The Flames improved to 5-4 in league play for the first time since the 2004-05 season. Their three-game conference winning streak is the first since the 2008-09 season.

‘‘It was off of our defense, getting some stops, taking advantage of some situations matchup-wise,’’ Moore said. ‘‘When they got out of the zone, that allowed us to really attack them in the paint.’’

The Flames took the lead when center Josh Crittle hit a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left that put them up 57-56.

On the ensuing Green Bay possession, Flames forward Anthony Kelley stole the ball. After UIC (14-8 overall) inbounded, Crittle was fouled and hit two more free throws to pad the lead to three.

UIC’s Hayden Humes scored a game-high 18 points in his first double-digit scoring effort since Jan. 9.

The most critical point of the game came at 4:06 in the second half with the Flames up five. In a scuffle for a loose ball, Crittle committed a flagrant foul on Green Bay center Alec Brown. Brown hit both free throws to cut the Flames’ lead to three, but UIC managed to force a turnover just seconds into the next possession.

Moore said he specifically challenged his team to force a turnover on that play.

‘‘We have the philosophy of ‘next,’ ’’ Moore said. ‘‘We can’t go back and erase the flagrant, we can’t erase what happened, but we can handle what’s next.’’

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