Howard Moore is well too aware of the sorry state of affairs that has become Chicago college basketball.
Currently the head coach at UIC, Moore also served as an assistant at Loyola and was a star high school player at Taft.
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Simply put, Illinois-Chicago, Loyola, DePaul and Northwestern have barely been able to qualify for the NIT in recent seasons.
Moore and his struggling Flames hosted a Loyola team in similar straits Wednesday night at the UIC Pavilion, but the basketball was entertaining.
Senior guard Gary Talton drove down the lane and banked in a layup with 1.7 seconds left to give Illinois-Chicago a 61-59 win over the Ramblers.
"The biggest thing to understand is the city of Chicago is dying for some good college basketball," Moore said after the Flames (11-7 overall, 2-3 in the Horizon League) snapped a three-game losing streak. "What (Loyola coach) Porter (Moser) and I are trying to do is get people to understand these are good, solid programs. It's a good, solid rivalry and Chicago needs that."
UIC has already beaten Northwestern this season, and the Ramblers (10-7, 1-4) own an impressive win over DePaul.
Like the Flames, Loyola came in with a three-game losing streak and wound up dropping a close decision for the third time in four games.
"The last three or four games, we haven't made plays at the end," said senior forward Ben Averkamp, who scored 14 points for the Ramblers. "You know going into this one, UIC-Loyola, it's going to be close, it's going to be a battle. Ultimately, you need to make plays at the end and we came up short."
Talton has been making big plays for the Flames all season, and the Dallas native came up big again against Loyola, blowing past Jordan Hicks and dropping in the winning shot.
"Coach put it in my hands," said Talton, UIC's leading scorer. "Coach opened up the floor for me, and I was able to make a play."
Considering the play came against the Ramblers made it even more special.
"It's a big Chicago rivalry," Talton said. "We understand that and anticipate that and we prepared for it in practice."
Talton led the Flames with 14 points and center Josh Crittle added 12.
Christian Thomas scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half to lead Loyola, which was hurt by a poor shooting night from Schaumburg High School grad Cully Payne (6 points), who was 2-for-10 while misfiring on 6 of 8 3-pointers.