CHICAGO, Ill. - The Cleveland State University men's basketball team fought back and forth with host DePaul for most of the night, but the Blue Demons had just enough to fend off CSU's upset bid and claim an 83-73 win Wednesday evening at Wintrust Arena.
The game featured 10 ties and 17 lead changes with neither side leading by more than six points for the first 37 minutes of the contest. CSU had the ball trailing by just four points in the final minute but could get no closer.
"We made progress tonight and saw some good things," head coach Dennis Felton said. "We played with some good confidence on the road. I thought we made a step forward in terms of figuring some things out as a group."
Appleby added a season-high five rebounds and seven assists while Hill contributed a season-best three blocks in a highly efficient performance that saw him shoot 6-of-7 from the floor, including 2-for-2 from downtown.
Thomas shot 4-of-5 from the floor while Kenic had a season-high eight rebounds. Both had three assists.
The Vikings hit 13 three-pointers on the night, their most against a Division I opponent this season and one off the school record. The makes did not come at the expense of efficiency as CSU shot nearly 42% from distance in the game.
Cleveland State jumped out to an 8-2 lead as Appleby and Millner hit triples. DePaul responded with 10 straight points to take a 12-8 lead, but that proved to be their biggest advantage of the half.
Neither team led by more than three points for the final 13 minutes of the first half. CSU led 31-29 with three minutes left, but the Blue Demons scored the final five points of the period to take a 34-31 edge into intermission.
Appleby made back-to-back three-pointers, assisted by Thomas and Kenic, to give CSU a 42-38 lead three minutes into the second half.
The Vikings led 48-47 three minutes later, but DePaul ran off seven straight points and would not trail again.
Cleveland State stayed close, cutting the margin to two points multiple times. DePaul led by three, 71-68, with 3:30 to play but scored the game's next six points to build its largest lead to that point.
Trailing by nine with under a minute to go, the Vikings refused to give up. Appleby hit a trio of free throws and then stole the ball after a DePaul rebound and made the ensuing layup to cut the lead to four points with over 45 seconds left.
CSU forced a turnover on DePaul's subsequent inbounds play, but the Vikings were not able to pull any closer.
CSU had 19 assists on its 26 made field goals on the night.
"It was probably our best game of the year in terms of not wasting offensive possessions," Felton said. "I thought offensively we made a step forward in terms of execution and flow. The difference in the game is we have to get tougher defensively and on the glass. For most of the second half, we were scoring well, but we weren't tenacious enough to get enough stops."
Cleveland State held DePaul's leading scorer, Max Strus, who came in averaging over 21 points per game, to just eight points in 35 minutes on 2-of-7 shooting.
The Vikings remain on the road to close the week as they travel to Toledo this Saturday, Dec. 1.