When the UIC men's basketball team found a common goal, it moved mountains.
At the very least, it reached the second round of the Horizon League Tournament with an 82-59 win over Cleveland State on Tuesday. The win was the Flames' first in the last 13 tries against the Vikings.
"We have really focused on coming together as a team," Valparaiso High grad Hayden Humes said. "There are no personal agendas, it felt like the first game of the season. Everyone has really pulled together."
Humes is one of only two players to start all 31 games for the Flames (17-14). Friday, he'll play close to home as UIC meets Green Bay in the second round of the tournament, which moves to Valparaiso University's Athletics-Recreation Center.
Humes played in a game at the ARC in high school, and said he and his teammates used to sneak into VU's gym in the summer to practice.
Now that he'll be there in the postseason, his friends and family are hoping he can help them find a way into the league tournament games.
"A lot of my friends think they're going to get tickets," Humes said. "We'll see."
The 6-foot-8 junior scored 10 points in Tuesday's win over Cleveland State, near his season average of 9.8. His season high of 22 points came against Iona at the Paradise Jam in November in the Virgin Islands.
Humes will graduate in the spring with a degree in business management, then will play his final season with the Flames as a master's student.
He said he's taken over some of the on-court leadership roles, joining the five seniors on the team. Humes is the only junior on the roster.
"I've played a lot of minutes in my career, it's natural to take on that leadership role, because I've experienced a lot," he said.
The Flames split the season series with Green Bay as each team won its home game. Humes scored seven points with eight rebounds on the road against Green Bay, then scored 18 points with nine rebounds at home in the regular season.
Also on the UIC roster is Thornton grad Jay Parker, who averages 1.4 points per game and played in 29 games his season, starting four. He scored four points in 12 minutes the first time the Flames played Green Bay in January.