Strong Defensive Effort Not Enough at Toledo

Strong Defensive Effort Not Enough at Toledo

Toledo Boxscore (PDF)

TOLEDO, Ohio - The Cleveland State University men's basketball team posted higher shooting percentages in all three statistical categories Saturday afternoon at Toledo, but the Rockets claimed an 80-67 victory at Savage Arena.

CSU shot 45.3% from the field, 31.6% from downtown and 81.3% from the line compared to 38.7%, 23.5% and 70.0% for the Rockets in the same categories. The Vikings also had a 42-38 lead in total rebounds.

"I love how our team competed," head coach Dennis Felton said. "We defended Toledo well, holding them to 38% shooting and 23% from three, which is not something most teams can do against them. We competed really, really hard on defense. I was really proud of our team in how they handled all of Toledo's offensive prowess with one day of preparation."

Toledo came into the game making 49.3% of its shots from the field and 43.4% from downtown. The Rockets' 23.5% mark from distance is their lowest in their past 36 regular-season games.

Sophomore Tyree Appleby led CSU in scoring with 19 points while adding a season-high six rebounds, three assists and two steals. It was his third straight game with at least 15 points and his fifth such effort of the season.

Sophomore Stefan Kenic netted 10 points, three rebounds and two assists and was +8 in 21 minutes of action. He reached double figures for the sixth time in seven games.

The teams traded baskets throughout much of the first half, swapping small leads back and forth. Neither side led by more than five points for the opening 15 minutes as the teams were tied, 26-26, with 4:30 to play.

Toledo then ran off 15 consecutive points before a Kenic three on CSU's final possession of the half put the score at 41-29 at intermission. During the Rockets' run, the Vikings were whistled for six fouls compared to none called on the hosts.

Kenic also hit a three to start the second-half scoring to cut CSU's deficit back to single digits. The Rockets held a 50-40 lead with 13 minutes to play, but sophomore Algevon Eichelberger scored four straight points before junior Kasheem Thomas hit a driving lefty layup to make the score 50-46.

An old-fashioned, three-point play by Appleby cut Toledo's lead to only 52-49 just over halfway through the second half, but the Vikings would get no closer.

The Rockets scored the next five points, including three free-throws, to get some breathing room and were able to pull away down the stretch.

"We did some good things to get back into the game after the half," Felton said. "The difference is the field goal attempts and the free throw attempts, and that was largely because of our turnovers and our lack of offensive rebounds. When we were on the verge of retaking the lead in the second half, they got a couple of second-shot looks."

Eichelberger finished with eight points and six boards while junior Jaalam Hill had six points, on 3-for-3 shooting, eight rebounds and two assists.

Thomas finished with six points, five rebounds, six assists and no turnovers. Freshman Rashad Williams tallied eight points.

Each team had 34 points in the paint while CSU had a 22-15 advantage in bench points. Saturday was the first game this season in which Cleveland State had more fouls than its opponent, largely due to 14 fouls being called on the Vikings in the first half due to just five on the Rockets.

"We're coming along," Felton said. "We're getting better. Today was another example of that. Our players are pretty coachable about it. We're learning how to play the game, but we need more mental and physical toughness—being strong with the ball, getting on the offensive glass…I told the team we are progressing. We've played a brutal schedule so far."

Cleveland State will return home for a pair of games next week, beginning with another Mid-American Conference opponent. The Vikings will welcome Bowling Green Wednesday, Dec. 5.