By: Michael Raines
VALPARAISO, Ind. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Trailing by two in a Horizon League Championship quarterfinal, Green Bay junior Sultan Muhammad (Grand Rapids, Mich.) hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with just seconds left on the clock to give the No. 4 Phoenix a 64-63 win over No. 5 UIC despite a career-best 23-point effort by Flames junior and Valparaiso native Hayden Humes.
It appeared UIC had all but secured a come-from-behind win when senior guard Gary Talton hit a pair of free throws with seven seconds on the clock, but the Phoenix advanced the ball quickly up the floor and found Muhammad on the wing for the game-winner from in front of the Green Bay bench as it appeared head coach Brian Wardle was signaling for a timeout.
Green Bay (18-14) advanced to tomorrow night's semifinal round. The Phoenix will face No. 1 seed Valparaiso at 7:30 p.m. EST.
"The way Coach drew it up, we intended for [Keifer Sykes] to blaze past them and see what he could get. Coach wanted a timeout," Muhammad said of the final play. "Obviously, we didn't get it, and [Sykes] saw that I was open. I just had to take the opportunity. There really wasn't any other choice with the time winding down."
"I was trying to call a timeout," Wardle admitted. "Luckily, in the chaos of the game - the noise - they didn't see me or hear me, so I'm thankful for that."
Green Bay controlled much of the game, including holding a 34-29 lead at halftime.
UIC chipped away in the late minutes of the second half, led by Humes. The hometown hero scored 12 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and gave the Flames their first lead since the score was 15-14 with a 3-pointer at the 2:46 mark to put UIC ahead 59-58.
The game was tied 61-61 with just over a minute remaining as the teams traded baskets down the stretch. With 44.1 seconds left and the score still knotted, Green Bay freshman Jordan Fouse - an All-Newcomer honoree - missed a pair of free throws, leading to Talton's free throws that briefly gave UIC the lead. Fouse had eight points and nine rebounds in the game.
Muhammad had been just 1-of-5 from long range before hitting his game-winning 3-pointer. He finished with seven points for the Phoenix, which was led by Brown's 17 points. First-Team All-Horizon League standout Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) had 12 points and five assists, including the one on the Muhammad game-winner.
UIC was led by Humes' 23, while Talton and Josh Crittle each poured in 12 points. The Flames fall to 17-15 and will wait to see if they play in the postseason.
TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets can be purchased for Saturday night by visiting ValpoAthletics.com, calling 219-464-5233 or by visiting the Valparaiso University Ticket Office, located in the main lobby of the ARC (extended hours of 10 a.m.-7 p.m. this week).
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