Illinois-Chicago players Jelani Poston (35), Scott VanderMeer, Robo Kreps (3), join the rebounding battle with University of Toledo s Ian Salter. Needless to say, Salter was no match.
When the final buzzer went off inside Savage Arena, and a couple of friends were permitted to be friendly again, University of Toledo s Gene Cross and Illinois-Chicago s Jimmy Collins exercised the patting on the back ritual and likely wished each other happy holidays.
Then Collins turned to offer Cross some advice, just as he did when he was Cross coach, and just like he did when he was Cross boss.
He talked to me about my team and gave me some things I might want to work on, Cross said. I ll always ask for his advisement and his guidance.
Cross however is confident he knows what ails his team, but in last night s 65-55 setback it was apparent he doesn t have enough hands to fix it all at once.
It seems like you re plugging up one hole and another pipe bursts, Cross said.
In Saturday s home loss to Houston, it was turnovers 21 of them that hindered the Rockets, who are 2-9. Last night, the deficiencies were rebounding and too many bad offensive possessions, both in the first half and again after UT battled admirably to make things interesting late in the game. Those topics may have come up in the postgame chat between Cross and Collins, who coached Cross at Illinois and coached above him at UIC.
Toledo s Clayton Sterling (21) steals the ball from Illinois-Chicago s Jeremy Buttell, left, and Robo Kreps last night.
The discrepancy on the boards was the most glaring area of the stat sheet, as ICU snagged 47 including 19 on offense to
UT s 29. Seven-footer Scott VanderMeer, who began his career at Bowling Green State University, accounted for six offensive boards and six more on defense. Although never raising his voice perhaps because he was holding his young son Cross was quite agitated with what he considered a lack of fight out of his post players.
It s absolutely unacceptable to get beat by 18 on the boards, Cross said. They re physical, they re tough. To come out and basically lay an egg in the physicality department, in the toughness department is unacceptable.
The night however included a number of positives, notably limiting mistakes just 12 turnovers this time and exercising resiliency after an uninspiring first half.
After trailing 36-21 at the break, UT methodically chipped away at the lead, and after back-to-back buckets by Jonathan Amos, it was a five-point game. Then, with Amos on the sideline for a breather, freshman Clayton Sterling knocked down a jumper before burying a 3-pointer to cut it to 51-49. But the comeback try proved to be a tease as UIC (8-3) scored the game s next eight points. Sterling missed a contested layup that would have tied the score at 51-51.
I believe fatigue set in, Amos said. We just didn t have enough juice to pull it off in the end.
Amos and Tyrone Kent each scored 12 points, and sophomore Justin Anyijong notched a career-high 13 points. Sterling s nine points were also the most in his short career. He logged just one minute in the first half after not playing against Houston his fifth DNP of the year.
JOHNSON OUT: Senior guard Ridley Johnson missed the game with a broken bone in his foot. Cross expects Johnson to miss anywhere from 10 days to three weeks.
We re hoping he can get back by Mid-American Conference play, Cross said. We want to make sure he s as healthy as possible for the rest of the season and for the rest of his life, so we re not going to rush him back at all.
MAC play begins Jan. 10 at Northern Illinois.
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