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Tyler Ulis of Marian Catholic bring the ball down past Joliet West's Carl Terrell. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
The common denominator between No. 23 Joliet West and No. 11 Marian Catholic entering Tuesday night’s contest was that both teams’ only loss of the season was to No. 5 Homewood-Flossmoor.
The thing that did separate the two during their first meeting since a 2010 regional game was rebounding. And nobody felt the pain of that more than Tigers coach Luke Yaklich after his bigger team lost the rebounding battle and the game, 49-44 in Chicago Heights.
“We outrebounded the bigger H-F team the other night, but couldn’t do the same against this smaller Marian team,” said Yaklich, whose team lost the battle of the boards 24-16.
The Spartans (6-1) had nine offensive rebounds for 12 second-chance points. They did it in collective fashion with four players — Tyler Ulis, KiJana Crawford, Joshua Cohn, and Kevin Phillips — each finishing with four rebounds. Teammate John Oliver led all rebounders with six.
Ulis, with Kansas State coach Bruce Weber on hand watching his every move, scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half. That included 8-for-8 from the free-throw line on a night his three-point shot was not falling.
“That’s what Tyler does late in games,” Spartans coach Mike Taylor said. “Our guards have been doing a real good job of rebounding.”
Morris Dunnigan led the Tigers (4-2) with 14 points and five rebounds, while Ryan Modiest added 13 and Brandon McCullum chipped in 12.
After a 23-23 first-half tie, the Spartans took the lead for good behind a 13-2 run good for a 36-25 lead. Ulis scored eight of his 10 third-quarter points during the run while Joshua Cohn added a three during the spurt. Cohn finished with 15 points, including nine in the first half to lead all scorers at that point.
“I wasn’t shooting well and Joshua came in and stepped it up,” Ulis said. “He’s been playing well the last couple of games. We knew this was going to be a tight game but we played hard in the end.”
The Tigers went on a 9-0 run to pull within 38-36 early in the fourth quarter. But they never recovered from a decisive 11-3 run by the Spartans sparked by six free throws from Ulis and another three by Cohn, his third and final three of the night.
“They outhustled us and deserved the victory tonight,” Yaklich said. “They earned it.”
For Ulis, having a major Division I coach in attendance is starting to become the norm. Weber has been to several games to look at the highly-touted 5-foot-10 guard, while just last week, Weber’s predecessor and first-year Illinois coach John Groce also was in attendance.
Weber had a short conversation with Ulis afterward, telling him, “We’ll be watching.”
“I didn’t know he would be here but I saw him in warm-up,” Ulis said. “It doesn’t affect my game, he’s been to a couple of my games before so I don’t care.”