Cleveland State's Freshmen Step Up, Help Vikings End 5-Game Losing Streak

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Cleveland State's Freshmen Step Up, Help Vikings End 5-Game Losing Streak
Photo courtesy of Cleveland State athletics

Cleveland State got a lift from its freshmen Thursday night as the Vikings snapped their five game losing streak with a 77-64 victory against Detroit at the Wolstein Center.

"This team really needed (this win)," said CSU head coach Gary Waters. "I thought our freshman did a great job of giving us a lift. Our freshman did very well in a lot of areas today and if they continue to do that, that will only make us stronger down the stretch."

Senior Trey Harmon led the Vikings with 16 points. CSU's freshman trio of Marlin Mason, Charlie Lee and Ike Nwamu combined to score 35 points.

Also credit CSU's defense as they held Detroit to five field goals in the second half and held them without a field goal for the final 9:15.

The win also keeps CSU's (21-9, 11-6) chances alive for the No. 2 seed in the Horizon League tournament and the all important double-bye into the semifinals.

The Vikings are currently tied with Butler (18-12, 11-6) for the No. 2 seed.

In order for CSU to get the No. 2 seed, they need a loss by Butler at Valparaiso on Friday night and a Viking win over Wright State on Saturday.

If Butler wins Friday, the best CSU can hope for is the No. 3 seed.

Video courtesy of Cleveland State athletics

If CSU gets the No. 3 seed or less, they would host a first round game on Tuesday and have to win four games in eight days to win the Horizon championship -- something only the 2008-09 Vikings have accomplished.

Midway through the second half, CSU was forced to play Lee, Nwamu, and Mason on the floor as Trey Harmon and Aaron Pogue sat on the bench with foul trouble and Jeremy Montgomery left the game with a thigh bruise.

The freshman trio held its own.

Nwamu's 3-pointer with 11 minutes left gave CSU its first lead, 49-48, since the opening basket.

Two minutes later, Ray McCallum's jumper gave Detroit the lead back, 51-49. That would be the Titan's last field goal in the game. Free throws would keep the Titans in the game as they went 15-of-19 at the line in the second half.

CSU tied the game at 51-51 on a lay-up by Tim Kamczyc with 8:34 left. Then on its next possession, they took the lead for good on a pair of free throws by Kamczyc.

The Vikings would put the game away with a 13-4 run capped off by a pair of free throws from Lee to extend the lead to 66-56 with 2:51 left. The freshmen trio sparked the run as Lee had six points, Mason contributed five points and Nwamu had a bucket.

Detroit never got closer then six points the rest of the game.

"I thought our guys were resilient and they played together regardless of the circumstances," said Waters.

Mason, who made his second career start replacing the injured D'Aundray Brown, finished with career-highs in points (15) and rebounds (nine).

"That was the best I've ever played--at both ends of the floor," said Mason. "I just came out and tried to play hard for the team and help us win."

Nwamu gave the Vikings a spark off the bench with eight points (tying a career-high) in 12 minutes.

"I was just waiting (for my turn) and today I needed to come in and step up," said Nwamu.

Lee had 12 points, five assists and only one turnover in 21 minutes.

Waters praised Harmon's defense on McCallum for limiting Detroit's leading scorer (15.2 points per game) to 13 points on 3-of-9 from the field.

"(Trey) took out their head," said Waters. "I thought that was the key to the game."

The Titans (17-13, 10-7 HL) got a game-high 17 points from Chase Simon and 10 points from Jason Calliste.

Detroit led by as many as 12 in the first half and took a 38-32 lead into the half. The Titans shot 35.5 percent in the opening half and made 12-of-19 at the line.

News and notes: Waters said after the game that Brown "will return Saturday" against Wright State. Brown has missed six of the last seven games with a groin injury. The Vikings went 2-4 without Brown.... Detroit played without starting center LaMarcus Lowe, who missed the game because of a violation of team rules.

 

Tom Mieskoski is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.

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