K.C. Robbins let his emotions get the better of him in a competitive city rivalry game and it cost UIC dearly in their game at DePaul. The Blue Demons won 77-56 at Allstate Arena on Sunday.
Robbins was ejected from the game after a flagrant foul with 5:49 remaining in the first half and the Blue Demons up by 5. There were 8 lead changes in the game, but the Flames never took the lead again.
"I want to apologize to the Demons fans and Flames fans for that elbow that K.C. threw," said UIC head coach Jimmy Collins. "I don't teach our kids that. We don't like it. We don't advocate it and I really want to apologize to the fans for that action."
Michael Bizoukas (left) played a key role for the Blue Demons. While Robo Kreps was able to find his shooting stroke at the beginning of the game, when Bizoukas entered he shutdown the Flames star shooting guard. Bizoukas finished with 9 rebounds, 5 points and 8 assists in 34 minutes. Kreps finished the game with 18 points on 6-13 shooting, including 4-7 from three.
"We took him a little out of our team defense and Mike's responsibility was to stop [Kreps] and I thought he did an outstanding job," said DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright. "Mike had an outstanding game and really took his defensive responsibilities seriously."
The victory pushed DePaul's advantage to 4-1 in the series between the two schools. UIC won the last meeting between the two schools before DePaul pulled out a close victory at the Pavilion last season.
Will Walker scored his 1,000th point of his career for the Blue Demons on a three-point shot in the second half. He became the 45th player in school history to hit the historic round number. Walker had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals in the game.
While UIC struggled at times on offense, the return of Spencer Stewart appears to be going well. After playing 12 minutes against Green Bay, Stewart played 33 minutes against the Blue Demons. He had a strong all-around game with 5 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. There are still some signs of rust though as he also committed 6 turnovers.
"There's an adjustment period," Collins said. "Basketball is a fast game. ... You've definitely got to be in shape. You can run from here to Clarksville, Mississippi and you still won't be in shape, and so we're trying to get him into basketball shape. We're going to continue to try to because Spencer's very, very important to what we're trying to get accomplished."
Still, this was the first game of the season for the Flames during which they committed fewer turnovers than assists. UIC was aided by 5 assists from Zavion Neely. He also had 15 points and 2 steals.
Along with playing its typically stingy defense, the Blue Demons were able to out-rebound the Flames 44-38. While forward Devin Hill had 12 points and 9 rebounds, the majority of the work on the glass came from guards Bizoukas (9 rebounds), Walker (7) and Jeremiah Kelly (6).
The Blue Demons were able to assert their physical superiority near the end of the first half. They closed the half on a 10-0 run and then took a tight game and turned it into a rout midway through the second half. DePaul finished with a 22-8 advantage in the paint and led 13-2 on second chance points.
Even after the loss Collins praised the importance of the game and made a passing reference to the comments made by Illinois head coach Bruce Weber about not wanting to play at other schools
from the state of Illinois.
"It's a great game to play," Collins said. "There's no question it's a good game to play. If you look at the long haul and what's good for us in the long run it's good for our universities to play each other. There's interest in it."