On Thursday, Cleveland State standout Tyree Appleby picked up his second foul three minutes into the game. Head coach Dennis Felton gambled and sat him for the rest of the half.
Without Appleby, the Vikings fell behind by 11 points at the half.
It proved to be too much for CSU to overcome.
Behind Appleby and hot three-point shooting, the Vikings made a furious comeback in the second half.
But they never took the lead and couldn't tie the score until 34 seconds remaining.
The comeback ended in heartbreak as Marcus Ottey's driving layup with 10 seconds left proved to be the game-winner.
UIC held on for a 81-77 victory at the Wolstein Center.
"That's one (decision) that I'm still questioning," Felton said about sitting Appleby for the entire first half. "There's no doubt it crossed my mind on several occasions to put him back into the game. Part of the decision as a coach is the maturity of a player. Can he be out there and avoid getting the third foul?"
Felton didn't think sitting Appleby cost them the game.
"We didn't make enough stops (in the second half) to win the game," he said.
With the loss, CSU drops to 7-20, 2-12 Horizon League.
Despite Appleby sitting with two fouls, the Vikings were able to keep the game close for the first fifteen minutes.
The Flames (14-12, 8-5 HL) closed the first half on a 14-4 run and took a close game (31-30 UIC) and turned it into a 45-34 lead at the intermission.
CSU went the final 4:33 of the opening have without a field goal as they missed its last five shots.
"I thought the story of the first half was we were not good enough with our transition defense," Felton said. "We gave up 16 points in transition, far too many."
Back-to-back three-pointers from Appleby closed the Vikings within 52-46.
Twice, CSU closed within one-point (59-58 and 61-60), but they couldn't take the lead.
With 34 seconds left, a deep three-pointer from Rashad Williams as the shot clock ran down tied the game at 77-77.
But a defensive breakdown caused Ottey to drive down the lane for an easy lay-up that allowed UIC to escape with the win.
"We were supposed to be switching all ball screens and failed to switch that ball screen and that's what turned him loose," Felton said.
The Vikings never got a final shot off as Appleby was stripped bringing the ball up the court.
CSU made 9-of-16 three-pointers in the second half.
Appleby led the Vikings with 16 points, all of them coming in the second half. He was 3-of-4 from three-point range. The sophomore guard from Arkansas also dished out five assists and grabbed four boards.
Williams added 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from three-point distance. Dibaji Walker contributed 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Vikings, who have lost four of its last five.
UIC's terrific guard trio of Ottey, Tarkus Ferguson, and Godwin Boahen combined for 57 points and made nine of their 10 three-pointers.
"Those three guards are tough," Felton said. "They're explosive drivers."
Ottey led the Flames with 20 points, while Ferguson added 19 and Boahen 18.
Overall, UIC shot 50.9 percent, including shooting 50 percent in each half. The Flames had a 34-24 edge in points in the paint.