NORMAL, Ill. - Sophomore Tyree Appleby hit a pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left in regulation to give the Cleveland State University men's basketball team a 75-73 lead, but host Illinois State tied it with a pair of free throws with 1.6 seconds left and went on to claim an 88-77 win in overtime Sunday afternoon at Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.
CSU took its first lead of the second half with just under 13 minutes to play and led for much of the remainder of the period, but the host Redbirds stayed within striking distance before evening the game late.
"We obviously played well enough to win the game," head coach Dennis Felton said. "We unfortunately just let it slip away in the last two seconds."
True freshman Rashad Williams had a season-high 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting as he hit 7-of-11 attempts from distance.
Sophomore Tyree Appleby finished with 21 points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals as he tied his career high with 12 made free throws. It was his fourth 20-point effort of the season and the fifth time in six games he tallied at least 15.
Junior Jaalam Hill notched eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds, which also represented a new team season high by a Viking.
Cleveland State committed 14 turnovers while forcing the hosts into 19. CSU had eight steals, its most against a Division I opponent this season. The Vikings also led in points off turnovers, second chance points and bench points and had fewer fouls than the Redbirds.
Neither team could really separate from the other in the early going as the squads were tied, 17-17, just over 10 minutes in. Williams' third triple of the half gave CSU a small lead at 20-19, but the Redbirds then went on a 12-3 run to open up an eight point edge, 31-23.
Three-pointers by junior Kasheem Thomas and Williams on back-to-back possessions, both assisted by Appleby, cut CSU's deficit to two points with under 90 seconds in the half. However, an old-fashioned, three-point play by ISU in the final minute put their halftime lead at five.
Illinois State led by six, 48-42, just over five minutes into the second half when the Vikings took control. CSU went on a 13-2 run, which started with back-to-back threes by Williams and ended by five straight points from sophomore Stefan Kenic, to take a 55-50 lead.
Cleveland State still had a five-point lead, 70-65, with four minutes left, but ISU scored eight straight points, started by four free throws, to pull ahead with under two minutes to play.
Kenic nailed a three from the right corner assisted by Appleby with 70 seconds left to tie the game. After neither side scored on the game's next three possessions, Appleby hit two late free throws after drawing contact going to the rim.
The Redbirds responded in kind as they hit a pair of free throws they were given on a drive to the paint, forcing overtime.
Cleveland State started slowly in overtime and paid the price as ISU scored the only five points over the first two minutes of the period and never looked back.
"We have to double down on our determination and learn how to close games out," Felton said. "We have to double down on our determination to mature."
Kenic finished with 14 points in CSU's non-conference road finale, reaching double digits for the ninth time in 10 games.
Thomas posted six assists, three rebounds and two steals along with his three-pointer.
Appleby now has at least one steal in 11 consecutive games, extending his career long streak.
Cleveland State has held each of its last six opponents under 30% shooting from three-point range as it held the Redbirds to a 7-for-28 mark Sunday.
The Vikings will close non-conference play Wednesday, Dec. 19, when they host Niagara in a doubleheader with the CSU women's team.