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Flames extend win streak to 12

MILWAUKEE -- Jimmy Collins wants his personal feud with
Bruce Pearl to die down even as the rivalry grows between
Illinois-Chicago and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"We're never going to be friends, but ... that's the way life
is," Collins said after his Flames beat Pearl's Panthers 65-62 on
Tuesday night in the Horizon League final at U.S. Cellular Arena.

Not only did the Flames (24-7) earn their third NCAA Tournament
berth but they relegated the Panthers (19-10) to an NIT bid -- at
best.

"It's sweeter that we won it in Milwaukee, but it's just really
about these guys," said Collins, who was flanked by all-tournament
selections Armond Williams, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds,
Cedrick Banks, who led the Flames with 14 points, and Elliot Poole,
who scored 11.

The feud between the coaches began in 1989 when both were Big
Ten assistants. Pearl, who was at Iowa, recorded a conversation in
which a recruit implied that Collins promised him extra benefits to
attend Illinois.

Collins was exonerated, but his relationship with Pearl has been
frosty. The two skipped the customary pregame handshake.

"It happened what, 12 years ago? I don't even remember how many
years ago," Collins said. "It's never going to happen again. And
personally, I don't like to relive the past.

"We're never going to be friends. He'll probably never invite
me to his house for dinner and I ... sure ain't going to invite him
to mine."

The rivalry, though, was only magnified with a back-and-forth
game that went down to the buzzer before hundreds of red-and-blue
clad Flames fans rushed the court as the rest of the 10,354 fans --
a school record for the Panthers -- watched in disbelief.

Poole broke a tie at 62 when he went around Adrian Tigert to
muscle in a basket with 35 seconds left.

The Panthers turned the ball over in the paint at the other end,
and Marcetteaus McGee was fouled with 5.7 seconds left. He missed
his first free throw but sank his second.

Ed McCants, who scored 19 points and had hit 5-of-10 from beyond
the arc, had a great look on a 3-pointer that would have sent the
game into overtime, but he was off the mark with a second to go.

The win sent the Flames to the NCAA Tournament on a night that
two other schools won their conference tourneys to earn a berth to
the field of 64. Louisiana-Lafayette beat New Orleans 67-58 for the
Sun Belt title, and Valparaiso defeated IUPUI 75-70 to win the
Mid-Continent championship.

Milwaukee senior Dylan Page, the conference's leading scorer and
player of the year, wanted a return trip to the NCAA Tournament to
atone for his blunder last year. He missed a layup that would've
beaten Notre Dame at the buzzer.

Page scored 20 points Tuesday night, but was just 6-of-15 from
the field and 3-of-6 from the foul line. He missed five short
baskets and layups in the first half as the Panthers fell behind
33-26 at the break.

"I just missed a couple more than I should have," Page said.

The Panthers, 72 percent free throw shooters, were just 8-of-20
from the line, where they were outscored 11-0 in the first half.
That negated a nice job on the boards by the Flames.

"We battled, and UIC is 17-2 when they outrebound their
opponents," Pearl said. "I almost promised our team if we
outrebounded them we would win. When you do the job on the boards,
you wish you had something to show for it. But we obviously missed
a lot of shots that we normally make."

Pearl didn't add any fuel to his feud with Collins, saying only
complimentary things about the Flames, even when asked what he told
his team in the locker room while Illinois-Chicago was celebrating
their win.

"I can't tell you everything I said to them because I wouldn't
want to take anything away from UIC's victory," Pearl said.
"Right now, they're playing the best in the Horizon League. We
wish them well."