Paul Carter had a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards and Robo Kreps scored 22 points, including the 1,500th of his career, but UIC couldn't beat Butler last night in Indianapolis. What did Butler have in the 72-65 win that UIC didn't? Balance.
Carter and Kreps were the only players with more than 6 points for the Flames. On the other side the Bulldogs had four players in double-figures, led by Shelvin Mack's 17 points, and had three other players with 9, 8 and 7 points.
The lack of balance for the Flames has a lot of causes. For one, Kreps shoots a lot. He took 21 shots on Monday. Honestly, that's fine. Kreps is the Flames' second most efficient offensive weapon because of his three-point stroke, free throw consistency, and crafty mid-range game. His 108.2 offensive rating coming into the game was bested only by Dipanjot Singh's 113.7.
But Singh's lack of production, or lack of opportunity was a problem. The redshirt senior played 27 minutes, scored 5 points on 4 shots, had three assists and 2 steals. A very solid overall game. But he didn't play that much against a Butler team that started three guards and had been bothered by a small team, Youngstown State, in the past.
On the other hand, sophomore Corey Gray started and played 24 minutes. Gray went 1-6 from the field, 2-4 from the free throw line and committed 4 turnovers with 1 assist. His offensive rating for the game was 33.3 (4 points, 12 possessions).
Two other things hampered UIC's ability to find balance offensively - missing free throws and failing to convert offensive rebounds into second chance points. The Flames grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and scored 14 second chance points. If you're grabbing 42.4 percent of your misses, you hope to get more out of it. UIC also went to the free throw line 15 times and made 5. A number of players missed free throws and the Flames are now shooting 67 percent on the season from the charity stripe. Thus, if they shot their season average we're still talking about a two-point loss. Still, it can't be Kreps at the line in every situation.
The Flames need balance offensively to compete with teams like the Bulldogs. The opportunities were there, but UIC failed to take advantage of them. They'll get another shot at the Pavilion on February 19.
Note: As a glimmer of hope, it should be noted that UIC played 4 of its final 5 Horizon League games at the Pavilion. While the Flames aren't predicted to win any of the games outright according to Ken Pomeroy, they should have a good chance at getting 1 or 2 more league victories before the season finishes.