Despite playing without three key players, Cleveland State found a way to overcome the adversity and pulled out a thrilling 78-73 victory over Toledo Saturday afternoon at the Wolstein Center.
"I thought our kids never gave up," said CSU head coach Gary Waters. "They're fighting with all different type of odds against them every game. They're young and we have players down. But they are never quitting and fighting back every moment they get an opportunity."
CSU (6-2) trailed for the first 39 minutes until Charlie Lee's three-pointer with 31 seconds left gave the Vikings its first lead, 74-71.
Lee scored all of his career-high 22 points in the second half.
"(I felt) I let my team down in the first half, "said Lee, who had a team-high seven assists. "Coach (Waters) told us at halftime to be more disciplined and come out with more heart."
CSU's Sebastian Douglas sealed the win with a steal and a layup for a 76-71 advantage with 19 seconds left and Lee iced the game with a pair of free throws.
"That was our defensive scheme all along," said Douglas, who had a team-high five steals. "Those are steals that we have been working on in practice every day."
The Vikings dressed only nine players. They played without sophomore forward Anton Grady (knee), freshman guard Junior Lomomba (foot), and junior center Devon Long (sick).
Grady, who tore his meniscus in his knee against Robert Morris last week, is going to have surgery this week and is out at least four weeks. Lomomba is going to have an X-ray this week to determine if he re-broke his right foot.
The Vikings shot 65.4 percent in the second half and made nine three-pointers.
UT shot 52.1 percent from the field. But it was CSU's defense that came up big down the stretch holding the Rockets without a field goal for the final 4:27.
"Our guys stopped them five times in a row in the final three-and-a-half minutes," said Waters. "I thought that was the ball game."
UT (2-5) jumped out to an early 11-2 lead and led by as much as 10 points in the first half. The Rockets shot 52 percent in the opening half and took a 32-26 lead at the half.
"I thought the big key in the first half was that we didn't guard (Bryn) Forbes," said UT head coach Tod Kowalczyk. "We should have been up a lot more then six at halftime, but we let him get going."
Forbes scored seven points in the first half.
A three-pointer from Forbes tied the game at 39-39 with 16:12 left in the game.
UT would make three three-pointers during a seven minute stretch to take a 59-50 lead with 9:07 to go.
The Vikings would fight back using the three-pointer. CSU's Marlin Mason and Lee hit two three-pointers each in a 19-10 run over the next seven minutes to tie the game at 69-69 on Tim Kamczyc's free throw with 2:33 left.
Forbes had 16 points for the Vikings, while Kamczyc added 15 points and Douglas contributed 10.
Junior forward Matt Smith led UT with 20 points. Junior guard Reese Holliday came off the bench to provide 16 points for the Rockets, while freshman center Nathan Boothe had 15 points and junior guard Rian Pearson contributed 13.
The Vikings will play at No. 18 North Carolina State on Dec. 8.
Tom Mieskoski is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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