CHICAGO — Party on, UIC. The Flames deserve to celebrate.
About a mile from its own campus, Illinois-Chicago pulled off one of the biggest wins in school history Saturday, rallying from eight points down in the second half and stunning No. 12 Illinois 57-54 at the United Center.
"Amazing. It can really give our program a shot in the arm recruiting, tremendous exposure," said first-year coach Howard Moore, a former Wisconsin assistant. "For us, it's just a tremendous win. It's just great to have these moments, share these moments with your team."
Darrin Williams scored five points in the final 1:10 as UIC ended the Illini's seven-game winning streak. The Flames also stopped their own four-game losing skid, with three of those losses by two points.
"We cracked the past four games prior to this. It is a testament to my players that they didn't allow it to happen again," Moore said.
After a sluggish start, Illinois (10-2) used a 12-0 run to build a 49-41 lead with 7:30 to go and appeared in control.
But the Flames (5-7), who led for a good portion of the game, weren't about to go away in the United Center, where the crowd was mostly dressed in the orange of Illinois.
Beating Illinois at all was a big deal — the Illini lead the series 12-2 — and doing so at the United Center made it even sweeter. The Illini are 32-10 at the home court of the Chicago Bulls since 1994-95.
UIC's only other win over Illinois came in 1990 at Champaign.
"A huge win. A springboard for us," said Robo Kreps, who led the Flames with 15 points.