By Ben Hercik
Despite posting a losing record for the fifth straight season, there are a lot of positives for the Cleveland State University men’s basketball season to take away. With an 11-20 record the Vikings finished in eighth place in the Horizon League standings. This set them up for a first round game against the University of Illinois-Chicago in the conference tournament. Even though they are in the bottom half of the conference standings, there were many games that were close.
Of the 18 conference games this season, 12 of the games that Cleveland State played were decided by 10 points or fewer. Included in those games were three victories that were decided by just one possession.
The first of the three came against Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. The game saw five different Cleveland State players post double-digit points, with junior Craig Beaudion leading the way with 15 points. The Vikings held the lead for most of the game behind this play, but a 3-pointer by the Jaguars with eight seconds left in the second half tied the game at 80. Cleveland State needed a miracle to walk away with the win. Junior Algevon Eichelberger took a shot from the free-throw line with one second left, but it bounced off the rim. The game seemed to be going to overtime, but sophomore Tre Gomillion had other ideas. He grabbed the rebound and put the ball in the net just before the buzzer went off to get the victory for the Vikings.
After the buzzer beating win, Cleveland State flip-flopped between winning and losing streaks. After a 4-4 record for the month of January, the Vikings began February on a three-game losing streak heading into a game against the University of Detroit Mercy.
After a game that saw the Vikings lead from early in the first half until late in the second half, Detroit Mercy took a one point lead with 1:35 left in the game. A free throw by Eichelberger tied the game at 59 and sent it into overtime. A late 3-pointer by junior Torrey Patton and a free throw by senior Kasheem Thomas put the Vikings up for good, despite a last-second comeback attempt by Detroit Mercy.
After two losses, including an overtime loss to Wright State University, it was on to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and another close win for the Vikings. The game started well for Cleveland State, as they led for the first 10 minutes. A run by the Panthers saw them lead from the middle of the first half to very late in the second half. Despite trailing for a majority of the game, the Vikings stayed within striking distance. A late 5-0 run that saw Patton score all five points resulted in a 70-68 win for the green and white.
With the regular season done, it is onto the Horizon League tournament, where Cleveland State is the seven seed, due to Detroit Mercy being deemed ineligible for postseason participation. The Vikings just miss out on hosting a home game and will travel to Oakland University to take on the Golden Grizzlies March 3.