Friday, February 26, 2016

Cleveland State 63, NKU 58: ‘A Total Team Effort’ Lifts Vikings Past Northern Kentucky

With a 63-58 victory over Northern Kentucky Thursday night at the Wolstein Center, Cleveland State moved out of the cellar in the Horizon League and still have a chance to move up to the No. 8 seed in next week's conference tournament.

A CSU (9-21, 4-13 HL) win against Wright State on Saturday and a NKU loss to Youngstown State, also on Saturday, would give the Vikings the No. 8 seed.

If CSU loses Saturday, they could finish with either the No. 9 or No. 10 seed, depending on the outcome of UIC's final two games. The Flames own the tie-breaker over the Vikings because of a win over WSU.

CSU owns the tie-breaker over NKU (8-20, 5-12 HL) because of a season sweep.

The Vikings played without second-leading scorer Demonte Flannigan who suffered a concussion in practice yesterday and was still in the NCAA's concussion protocol. His status for Saturday's game against WSU remains questionable.

"It was a total team effort," said Vikings head coach Gary Waters. "I told them we had three keys to this game; we had to take care of the basketball, we had to limit our fouls and we had to hold them under 60 points. And we did all three."

With Flannigan out, CSU used a balance scoring attack with four Vikings scoring at least eight points.

"(I told them in the locker room) in order to win this game we need a couple of guys that come outside themselves," Waters said. "I told Vinny (Zollo) your goal is to double-your scoring average. I told Rob (Edwards) he had to score more points for us. And Kenny (Carpenter), I told him he had to double what he averages and they did that."

Edwards and Carpenter combined to score 34 points. Andre Yates contributed nine points and five assists with only one turnover. Zollo added eight points and five rebounds.

"We knew if we won the guard battle, we would win the game," Waters said.

Carpenter, who got the start over Terrell Hales, scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half and helped CSU build a 31-24 lead at the half. He played only four minutes in the second half as Waters benched him because of his defense.

The Vikings clamped down on defense in the first half, holding the Norse to just seven field goals in the first 20 minutes.

Edwards carried the offense in the second half as 12 of his 19 points came in the final 20 minutes. His final two points of the game - a pair of free throws - gave CSU the lead for good, 58-51.

But it was back-up center Aaron Scales who made what Waters called "the play of the game."

Scales didn't score a point in the game, but came up with three big offensive rebounds. His last offensive rebound was the one Waters called "the play of the game."

With CSU up one with 1:06 to go, Scales hustled to track down a rebound in the corner, giving the Vikings a second chance - and most importantly - an opportunity to run more clock.

CSU cashed in on the second opportunity as a lay-up by Yates, put the Vikings up 60-57.

The Vikings closed out the game making its free throws to snap its three game losing streak.

Freshmen forward Drew McDonald led the Norse with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Senior forward Jalen Billups added 17, while senior guard Tyler White contributed 11.

Blount returns: Freshmen forward Jibri Blount returned after missing the previous three games with a high-ankle sprain.

Blount came off the bench and contributed eight points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.

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