After compiling a nine-game winning streak in the pre-conference season, the University of Illinois at Chicago men’s basketball program has dropped seven out of its last nine games. Needless to say, it’s kind of spoiling the storyline. I was among the writers who saw in UIC’s early season success—quality wins over Northwestern and Colorado State and a close loss to No. 15 New Mexico—reason to get excited.
I’m not ready to completely write them off—but UIC’s dreams of returning to the NCAA Tournament may be deferred for at least another season now.
So what happened? A media curse? Or was the team simply a pre-conference fluke?
“It is not a curse,” Moore said. “I think we were surprised by the quick start. And I definitely don’t think it is a fluke, but we are getting everyone’s best game because of the start.”
The Flames will try to rekindle things tonight when struggling UW-Milwaukee comes to the UIC Pavilion. Both Moore and UWM coach Rob Jeter are former assistants under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, although Moore says that Jeter has strayed further from the Ryan swing offense.
It’s a key game for UIC, which, having been trounced on the road of late – including a 51-point loss at Detroit on Saturday – still maintains a perfect home record.
Moore says the team got “out of rhythm” over the holiday break last month; but, even before then, its defense began to flag.
“Even when we were on the streak, we weren’t scoring a lot of points,” he said. “We probably got a little comfortable. The players got a little comfortable and assumed once we hit a couple of bumps, we could easily get ourselves back.”
But Moore, ever affable and upbeat, says there’s still plenty of time to live up to expectations.
“This is the thing I got to tell the team: We have 11 wins already and we have a lot of basketball to play,” he said.
Moore said he never quite bought into the December hype—and so he’s not buying into the idea that the season has been squandered.
“I took it all in stride,” he said. “I saw more of our flaws than I saw our strengths early on in the season, and our lack of offensive execution and our lack of scoring the ball at will. And I knew that if we couldn’t get that rectified, it was going to put more pressure on our defense. But I think we can get that back.”