CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland State men's basketball team opened the Horizon League portion of its schedule Friday evening, dropping an 89-77 decision to Oakland. The Vikings now stand at 5-9 overall this season and 0-1 in league play.
Tyree Appleby led four Vikings in double figures with 21 points – his fifth 20-point game of the season.
Jaalam Hill was just shy of posting his first double-double of the year, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds, with his nine boards leading all Vikings.
As a team, the Vikings recorded 14 assists, including six from Appleby.
Hill rounded out his box score line with two assists, two blocked shots and three steals, with the two blocks and three steals marking team-highs for the game.
"We knew coming in, Oakland was a very explosive offensive team, and we didn't want it to be an offensive game. We wanted to be very tough and tenacious defensively, and we were not tough enough defensively. We looked like a young group in their first league game, going up against mostly upperclassmen, and that lack of experience crept up on us throughout the game," head coach Dennis Felton said.
After trailing for the entire first half, the Vikings made a surge late in the period, going on a 9-2 run that eventually tied the contest at 33-33 on a Jaalam Hill layup. This run for the Vikings was sparked by a Tyree Appleby three-pointer – his third of the half – and also included baskets from Stefan Kenic and Seth Millner.
Despite the late push from the Vikings, Oakland responded with a 7-2 run of its own, but an Appleby dunk as time expired put the halftime score at 40-37 Golden Grizzlies.
Both teams then traded baskets over the first part of the second period, until six straight points from Oakland put the Grizzlies up 51-42 at the 15:06 mark.
The Vikings were able to slowly work their way back into the contest over the next three minutes then, as a pair of free throws from Dontel Highsmith and Appleby brought Cleveland State within seven points at 59-52 with just over 12 minutes left on the clock.
"It was one heck of a game, we are always going to compete really hard, and we usually always fight and give ourselves a chance no matter what. That's the way basketball games go, they turn on a small stretch, and Oakland was able to take advantage of one of these stretches turning the momentum to their favor," Felton said.
The Vikings would stay within striking distance over the next few minutes, as Cleveland State closed the gap to four points at 61-57 on a Kasheem Thomas layup at the 11:03 mark. This would be as close as the Vikings would get though, as Oakland was able to extend its lead over the final part of the second half, pulling away with the 89-77 victory.
Despite the loss, Cleveland State was able to force Oakland into 13 turnovers, turning these miscues into 21 points.
The Vikings shot 43-percent from the floor, including a .458 clip from three-point and a .909 clip from the free throw line.
The Vikings will continue their #HLMBB opening homestand by hosting Detroit Mercy on Sunday, December 30, with tip set for 7:00 p.m.