CHICAGO, Ill. — On Wednesday night, the UIC Flames upset heralded Chicago-based basketball program DePaul.
Less than 24 hours later, the Flames discovered their win came at a cost.
Per a press release, Dikembe Dixson, the team’s leading scorer and 2015-16 Horizon League Freshman of the Year, has a torn ACL and will undergo season-ending surgery. He suffered the injury in the first half versus the Blue Demons.
“We’re all disappointed that Dikembe’s season has come to an end,” said UIC head coach Steve McClain. “He was having another great year as one of the top scorers in the NCAA and [is] a fantastic leader in our program.”
A year after averaging 19.8 points per game to go along with 7.3 rebounds, the 6’7″ forward was the Horizon League’s third highest scorer (20.3 PPG) and a top-ten rebounding leader (6.0 RPG) this season. More impressively, Dixson had become more efficient this fall, increasing a 36.9 percent freshman field goal percentage to 47.7 percent.
During his second campaign, the West Virginia native scored 30+ points on three occasions, including a career-high 32-point outburst versus Elon in DeKalb, Illinois.
With his injury being sustained within non-conference play, Dixson will fortunately be able to file for a medical hardship waiver with the NCAA. As a result, he will be able to play as a sophomore again next season.
“I have no doubt that his positive attitude and the relentless support we will give him will help Dikembe come back stronger than ever next season,” finished McClain.
Along with junior Tai Odiase (11.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG), a quartet of freshmen will now be asked to lead the charge for McClain. Currently four freshmen (Marcus Ottey, Tarkus Ferguson, Godwin Boahen, and Dominique Matthews) provide six or more points per game. Their production and development will be key as conference play begins.
The 5-5 Flames eye another victory over a Chicago opponent as they host the Loyola Ramblers on Saturday. Last season, Milton Doyle‘s club downed UIC, 64-47, at the Joseph J. Gentile Arena. Thus far, the Ramblers are sitting at 9-2 and are an underrated gem within the Missouri Valley Conference.
First tip is at 4 p.m. EST.
– P. Wesner