CHICAGO (CBS) — The University Of Illinois-Chicago men’s basketball team boasts eight wins already this year matching their total of all of last season.
The reason: Third-year coach Howard Moore has changed the entire culture of the program including their identity on the floor, CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reports.
“To be honest, after the first year, I thought it would take four or five years,” Moore said. “It took a little bit of what needed to fix, first getting right players in what we like to do and getting them to buy in to be successful and I think we’ve achieved that in a quicker time than we thought we would.”
Forward Josh Crittle, offers this secret to the team’s success: “Coach works his butt off to get us to buy into his system, great job scouting, practice, and getting us prepared. This is the best team, team concept I’ve been a part of.”
The biggest difference: The Flames went from the worst defensive team in the Horizon League last year to a pretty stingy team.
They are actually ranked fifth in the nation in defensive scoring holding opponents to an average 52 points per game.
“We want to be able to say we can hang our hats on getting stops, being tough defensively and grinding it out, and I think this city is all about rolling up your sleeve and getting it done no matter how difficult the task is and do it in a hard nose manner,” Moore said.
UIC guard Danny Barnes: “Chicago gritty is what coach calls it, just trying to limit possessions and take advantage of possessions when we get them.”
Butler had been the big dog in the Horizon League. Now that they’ve left the conference, the title might be up for grabs and the Flames hope to surprise some people.
“It’s very much up for grabs,” Moore said. “We’re excited about where we are as a program, on the rise and doing things we need to do to stay. Why not us to be the next team to have a deep tournament run?”