Quin Humphrey helped erase 15-point deficit, but Flames still prevailed 71-65.
CHICAGO -- Quin Humphrey scored 18 points, including 16 in the second half, and the Youngstown State men's basketball team almost overcame a 15-point deficit only to fall short, 71-65, to Illinois-Chicago at the UIC Pavilion Thursday night.
Trailing 59-44 with 7 minutes, 21 seconds remaining, the Penguins (4-18, 2-10 Horizon League) worked the deficit to 62-58 with 2:02 remaining on a basket by John Barber.
After UIC's Jovan Stefanov scored to push the lead back to six, YSU was able to creep within four one final time on a Humphrey layup. After that point, the Flames (11-10, 6-5) made 7-of-8 free throws in the final 35 seconds to seal the victory.
"That's about as well as this team can play," said Youngstown State coach John Robic of the Penguins' second-half play. "We had some things [happen] at the end that might help us down the line."
The Penguins were able to keep things close in the first half, thanks to point guard Jon Mends, who had 10 points as the score was tied three times and the lead changed hands four times. The Flames took a 35-32 lead into halftime as Stefanov and Cedrick Banks each had eight points.
"Jon Mends nice game although he didn't score in the second half," said Robic.
Just under two minutes into the second half, YSU pulled with two (37-35) on Khari McQueen's free throw, but that was as close as they could get.
UIC went on a 12-2 run to pull in front, 47-35, with 14:21 remaining.
The Penguins closed to within seven (51-44) before the Flames scored eight straight points stretching the advantage to their biggest margin of the night, 59-44, with just over seven minutes remaining.
The Penguins had four players finish in double figures. Besides Humphrey's 18, McQueen tied his career high with 15, Barber finished with 11 and Mends had 10.
UIC had four players finish in double figures, led by Elliott Poole's 18 points. Stefanov and Rocky Collum added 14 each while Banks finished with 13.
For the game, YSU shot better from the field (43.9 percent to 36.5 percent) and outrebounded UIC, 41-39. The margin of defeat was still the closest the Penguins have ever been at UIC. The previous low was 16 (85-69) in 2002.
"We beat them in every statistical category except from the foul line," said Robic, "and that was because we had to foul them at the end. It was the first time since early in the year that we had more points in the paint than the other team.
"That was the best defensive effort we've had in quite some time. I wish that's the way we would have played all year," he added.
Youngstown State plays at league-leader Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday night. Tipoff at U.S. Cellular Arena is 8 p.m.