Friday, February 15, 2019

Cleveland State's rally falls short against UIC

One of the toughest decisions a coach has to make is how long to sit a star player when he picks up his second foul in the first half.

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."

The Vikings opened the second half, knocking down four of its first six three-pointers.

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.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Appleby's triple-double leads Cleveland State to second conference win

Before Cleveland State's conference game against Milwaukee, head coach Dennis Felton issued a challenge to his star guard.

Felton told Tyree Appleby to be the team's leading rebounder.

On Saturday, Appleby not only led the team in rebounding, but turned in a historic performance, recording the first triple-double in more than 90 years of basketball at CSU.

Appleby, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard, had 19 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in CSU's 78-68 victory over Milwaukee in front of 1,708 fans at the Wolstein Center.

"That's a big accomplishment to know I'm the only one in Cleveland State history to have (a triple-double)," Appleby said.

Felton called it a "prideful performance."

"The truth is he's been out of service for quiet some time," Felton said as Appleby has battled the flu and a hand injury and missed two of the last three games. "He's not conditioned to play the entire game like he did tonight. He showed a lot of heart. Down the stretch, he was exhausted, but found a way to finish doing his job for his team."

Appleby said his teammates told him he was only an assistant away from the triple-double with two minutes remaining.

With 1:38 left, the Arkansas native completed his historic day, finding Jaalam Hill under the basketball for an easy layup that put CSU up 74-64.

"I was just trying to score the ball, then I saw Jaalam open under the basket," Appleby said.

The Vikings (7-19, 2-11 Horizon League) also set a school record with 16 3-pointers.

"Tonight was one of our best offensive games of the year," Felton said. "I thought we executed our stuff well and played with patience. (We had) a lot of extra pass shots."

CSU shot 50 percent from the field and assisted on 21 of its 28 field goals made.

Hill added 19 points for the Vikings, while Dibaji Walker had 15 and Rashad Williams 12.

The Vikings used hot three-point shooting in the first half  to build a 46-36 lead at the half.

Appleby was the catalyst of the offense, knocking down six of CSU's 11 first half three-pointers. He scored 18 of his 19 points in the first 20 minutes, shooting 6-of-8 from three-point range.

"Tyree came out of the gate on fire and knocked down shots to start our good night of shooting," Felton said. "Then his teammates jumped on his coat tail."

CSU also had a big first half from Walker. The freshmen guard attacked the rim fearlessly en route 15 first half points on 6-of-9 shooting. Walker knocked down a pair of threes and had one memorable dunk.

The Vikings shot 61 percent (11-18) from three-point range in the opening half, while the Panthers shot 11 percent (1-9).

In the second half, Appleby played the role of facilitator, dishing out 7 of his 11 assists in the final 20 minutes. Hot three-point shooting from Williams (12 points, 4-6 threes) and dominant inside presence from Hill (12 points, 6-7 shooting) carried the offense in the second half.

Darius Roy led Milwaukee (9-16, 4-8 HL) with 17 points.

The Panthers held a 49-29 edge in rebounding, including 20-2 on the offensive side.

CSU held a 34-13 edge in bench scoring.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Renewed defensive effort has Vikings back on the winning track

For the Cleveland State men's basketball team, 70 is the magic number.

When the Vikings hold opponents under 70 points, they're 5-0 (0-16 when opponents score more then 70.)

Make that 6-0.

CSU closed out the first half of the Horizon League season with a much needed 72-62 victory over Youngstown State Saturday night at the Wolstein Center.

"Our confidence really took a hit after we blew those late leads at Milwaukee and Green Bay. I don't think we have been the same team since," head coach Dennis Felton said. "This game was a step in the right direction after we took a couple of steps backwards."

Felton said with the week off, they put an emphasize on refocusing on playing defense.

"It's not our offense, we are scoring enough points to win games, but we are giving up 80-90 points," he said. "I think the time off helped because we were able to take a couple of days off. We spent a lot of time talking and regrouping after our last game. It was obvious that our young guys were thinking more about their offensive game (then playing defense)

"So we refocused on playing over the top effort and aggression (on defense), physicality and multiple team effort."

Through the first eight league games, CSU has given up atleast 83 points six times. The Vikings entered Saturday's game ninth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 84 points a game

The Vikings (6-16, 1-8 Horizon League) looked like a completely different team in the first half.

They showed a renewed defensive effort, holding the Penguins to just eight field goals in the first half as CSU built a comfortable 37-20 lead at the intermission.

CSU's defense caused 14 turnovers in the first half. The Vikings had an 11-0 advantage in points off turnovers.

YSU shot a miserable 3-of-17 from long range in the first 20 minutes.

Felton said it was his team's best half of the season.

"We played harder [on defense]," he said. "When you hold a team to 20 points (in the first half) that averages 80 and hold them to 28 percent, that's good stuff."

The Vikings scored the first seven points of the second half and pushed its lead to 24.

The Penguins made one last run, but behind Rashad Williams' (20 points, 6-8 3s) hot three-point shooting and Jaalam Hill's (16 points, 8-11 FG) dominant inside game, they never got closer then nine points.

Tyree Appleby also added 16 points and eight assists for the Vikings who snapped an eight-game losing streak.

Lorain native Naz Bohannon (15 points, 13 rebounds) had his second double-double of the year to pace YSU (6-16, 2-7 HL).

The Penguins held a 51-34 edge in rebounding, including 24-6 on the offensive side.

CSU held a 14-0 edge in fast break points.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Vikings Struggle In Conference Opener

Cleveland State closed out the non-conference season, winning three of its last four, giving Vikings fans reason for optimism.

But CSU's 89-77 loss to Oakland in the Horizon League opener shows Dennis Felton's young revamped squad still has ways to go to be competitive.

"Our goal was not allow it to be an offensive game. We wanted to be tough and tenacious defensively." said Felton. "We were not tough enough defensively. We looked like a group of first and second year players in their first conference game going up against a group of third and fourth year players."

OU (5-9, 1-0 HL), who entered Friday's game as the worst rebounding team in the conference (28.5 per game), crushed the Vikings on the boards, 42-31. They also had a 17-6 edge in second chance points.

"Very disappointing," Felton said of the rebounding differential. "We can't let teams get that many second chance points against us. Those 13 offensive boards really bother me."

The Golden Grizzlies made it an offensive game, making six of its first seven shots and jumping out to and early 20-10 lead.

The Vikings (5-9, 0-1 HL), started off 5-14 shooting, would chip away at the lead, using runs of 7-0 and 9-2 to tie it at 33-33.

But hot-shooting from Jaevin Cumberland (27 points), who scored seven straight points, pushed the lead back out to seven.

Tyree Appleby's steal and layup closed CSU within 40-37 at the break.

CSU had another slow start in the second half. They missed its first five shot and fell behind nine points five minutes into the half.

The Vikings would close within four twice, but a big three-pointer by James Beck and a pair of free throws from Xavier Hill-Mais pushed the lead back out to nine.

"That was [Beck's] first three-pointer he made all year," said Felton.

A jumper from Appleby (21 points) closed CSU within seven,73-66, with six minutes to go, but those would be his last points of the game.

The Vikings went into a another scoring drought as they scored only three points in the next 4:29 as a 10-0 OU run pushed the lead out to 17.

"A couple of possessions decided [the game,]" said Felton. "Too many turnovers, too many missed layups, too many possessions were we showed a lack of patience."

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Vikings Gain Much Needed Win

Stuck in a five-game losing skid, the Cleveland State men’s basketball team were in dire need of a win.

The Vikings got exactly what they needed on Wednesday night: a solid performance on both sides of the ball to get back in the win column with a 82-64 victory over Bowling Green at the Wolstein Center.

On offense, CSU shot 50 percent, including a school-record 15 three-pointers. On defense, the Vikings limited the the Falcons to 32.9 percent shooting, including 5-of-23 from three-point distance.

Tyree Appleby hit seven three-pointers and scored a career-high 37 points to lead CSU (3-7) to its second Division I win of the season.

Appleby was 13-of-19 from the field. He also added eight assists and eight rebounds.

"I was feeling it from the beginning of the game," said Appleby. "My teammates kept finding me and that helped me get into my groove."

Stefan Kenic was the only other Viking player to reach double figures with 15.

The Vikings got off to a slow start.

By the second media timeout, CSU trailed by 10 as they made just 2 of its first 10 shots.

However, second-year CSU head coach Dennis Felton would switch the defense up, using a 2-3 match-up zone to stymie the BGSU attack.

An Appleby steal and layup kicked started a 30-8 run to close the first half that saw CSU built a 37-26 lead at the intermission.

"We just put the zone in the last two days," said Felton. "It allowed us to string together some stops that led to some easy transition points that took the lid out of the basket for us."

The Falcons (4-5) opened the game making 6 of its first 13 shots to built an 11 point advantage in the first half, but struggled against the zone, making 4 of its last 23 shots to trail by 11 at the half.

BGSU made one final run, closing within 47-43, but CSU answered back with a three-point play from Appleby and back-to-back three-pointers from Rashad Williams and Appleby pushed the lead back to 12.

"We had to come together as a team," said Appleby.  "They were getting rebounds and we had to calm ourselves down, run our offense and play defense."

The Vikings closed out the game by shooting 55.2 percent in the second half, including 7-of-12 from three-point distance.

Appleby made all four of his three-point attempts in the second half and scored 26 of his 37 points in the final 20 minutes.

Popovic update: Freshmen forward Aleksa Popovic was spotted on the bench wearing a walking boot on his right foot.

Felton said that Popovic suffered a "high-ankle sprain" in practice this week and does not know how long he will be out.

Next up: CSU host Division II Notre Dame College Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Slow start, cold shooting dooms Cleveland State in loss to Samford

For long stretches of the second half, the Cleveland State's men's basketball team could not buy a bucket. Quality looks, open three-pointers, high-percentage layups. None of them seemed to fall.

The Vikings opened the second half making just two of its first 18 shots and couldn't overcome a slow start falling to unbeaten Samford 73-60 Sunday at the Wolstein Center.

"We had plenty of good looks and they weren't going in," said Vikings head coach Dennis Felton. "It was a make or miss game and they were making them and we were missing them."

CSU (2-3) overcame a 14-point deficit in the first half to close within one, 35-34, at the half.

Eleven seconds into the second half, a pair of free throws from Dontel Highsmith gave CSU a brief 36-35 lead.

And then it was all Samford.

The Bulldogs scored the next 14 points as CSU missed its first 11 shots of the second half.

By the time CSU made its second field goal, they were down 13 with nine minutes to go.

When CSU finally made a three-pointer, there was only 17 seconds to go and the game was well in hand.

CSU shot 27 percent in the second half and were 1-of-12 from three-point distance. Samford shot 57.1 percent in the final 20 minutes.

"They did a better job of moving and sharing the ball," said Felton. "We didn't have enough grit to string together enough stops to be able to win and the composure and patience to grind it out on offense."

The lone bright spot for the Vikings were that they made eight of its first 11 free throws in the second half to keep them in the game.

A three-point play by Tyree Appleby closed CSU within 58-49 with 5:21 to go.

But CSU went through another long scoring drought. They didn't make another field goal until the 2:26 mark when they were down 18.

Stefan Kenic lead the Vikings with 15 points, while Dibaji Walker had 10 off the bench.

Former Alabama transfer Brandon Austin led the Bulldogs with 21 points. He was 5-of-9 on three-pointers. Rueben Guerro, a grad transfer from South Florida, added 14 points for Samford (5-0) who are off to their best start since 1996-97.

Next up:  The Vikings visit Ohio State on Friday.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cleveland State basketball team closes with 16-6 run in final six minutes to beat South Carolina State

One of Cleveland State's consistent problems last year was the inability to close out games.

Dennis Felton's young revamped roster had its first opportunity to close out a game and passed the test.

CSU shot 53 percent in the second half and made 11 of 16 free throws to close out an 84-69 victory over South Carolina State Friday night at the Wolstein Center in the opening game of the Buckeye Basketball Classic.

Stefan Kenic scored 19 to lead five Vikings (2-2) players in double figures.Tyree Appleby and Algevon Eichelberger each had 15, while Rashad Williams contributed 11 and Jalaam Hill 10.

"Everybody that played made good contributions to the game," Felton said. "I think our depth helped us against them. Being able to play more people then them, I think that helped factored in the second half as the game wore on."

CSU held a 30-7 advantage in bench points. They also held a 38-22 edge in points in the paint as Eichelberger and Hill combined to go 11-of-15 from the field.

"Al and Jaalam had some big buckets in the paint to separate ourselves," Felton said.

Leading, 37-31 at the half, CSU withstood several late rallies from the Bulldogs who closed within 46-44, 56-53 and 68-63 with six minutes to go.

The Vikings closed the game on a 16-6 run in the final six minutes to pull out its first Division I win of the season.

"Our defense was good enough to string together some stops and hold them at bay," Felton said.

SCSU made just one field goal in the final six minutes. That was a Damni Applewhite layup that made it a nine-point game. The Bulldogs missed its final five shots of the game.

Applewhite, SCSU's leading scorer who came in averaging 20.7 points a game, was held to 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting.

Janai Raynor-Powell led the Bulldogs (1-3) with 23 points.

CSU held its own on the boards as SCSU won the rebounding - 35-34 - both teams had 15 offensive boards.

"They had too many offensive boards, but we competed much better," Felton said. "We got half our misses back with 15 offensive rebounds."

The Vikings should get another test on Sunday when Samford comes to the Wolstein Center. The Samford Bulldogs (4-0) are off to their best start since 1996-97.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Felton not concerned with free throw woes

Second year head coach Dennis Felton is not concerned about Cleveland State's early free throw woes.

"[I know] we are a better free throw shooting team then that," Felton said following CSU's 83-79 loss to Kent State in which the Vikings missed 15 free throws. "I just chalk that up as inexperience and going through the pains of anxiety of playing at this level for the first time."

In two games this season, the Vikings are shooting just 54 percent (28-54) from the charity stripe.

A year ago, the Vikings struggled at the foul line shooting 62 percent during the first two months of the season, but shot a respectable 76 percent in conference play.

Rebounding a concern:

One area, Felton is concerned about is the struggles on the boards. CSU has been outrebounded 94-59 (including 33-8 offensive) through two games.

"Going into the [Kent State] game our biggest challenge was rebounding. That was our first, second and third emphasize [in practice]," Felton said. "In the first half, I thought we held them down pretty good. Then late in the first half and in the second half, we started to get away from our discipline and our toughness in boxing out."

Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood: Sophomore point guard Tyree Appleby broke out of his shooting slump to score 28 points in the second half against KSU.

Appleby, CSU's leading returning scorer from last season (11.8 points last year), scored just four points in CSU's 83-63 opening day loss at Davidson on Tuesday, missing all seven shots from the field.

His slump continued in the first half against KSU as the Arkansas native missed his first five shots. He missed his first shot in the second half, then made six straight shots, including five straight 3-pointers.

"In our two games so far, Tyree has not been quite himself. He's been pressing a little bit. You could see that in the first half," said Felton. "It's a huge step going from a freshmen that can go out there and play to a sophomore when everything is on your shoulders. I think he's working through that.

"There's been times that he's over dribbled and times when he's trying to make it all happen on each touch. And I'm working with him to get him relaxed. In the second half, he didn't do that. He was just determine to make it happen and made some incredible shots."

Kenic struggles:

Another player that CSU needs to get back on track is Stefan Kenic. The sophomore forward from Serbia was CSU's second leading scorer returning (9.5 points last year), but has scored a total of six points in two games.

"We expect Stef to have a very productive year. Even more productive then last year when he averaged almost 10 points a game," Felton said. "We are kind of clunky right now as a team offensively. We don't have that flow yet, but it will come. It's going to take experience and practice and time to settle in."

National signing day: The early signing period officially begins on Wednesday. CSU has two scholarships to offer, but are not expected to sign anybody.

"We haven't been overly aggressive about recruiting because we have so many new guys and so many good players now," Felton said. "We are being patient to evaluate the players that we have [and see how] the year plays out. There is no great sense of urgency to sign players because we don't have many scholarships [to offer]."

Monday, July 2, 2018

Cleveland State hires Sam Ferry as assistant coach

Cleveland State men’s basketball head coach Dennis Felton announced Monday that Sam Ferry has been hired to fill the program’s assistant coaching vacancy.

"We're excited to have Sam join our program," Felton said in a news release. "He is a sharp, hard-working coach who is tireless when it comes to helping players develop on and off the court. Sam also enjoys tremendous relationships that will serve our recruiting efforts well. Most importantly, he's a leader that will help inspire our players to greatness on a day-to-day basis."

Ferry joins CSU after a one-year stint as assistant coach at Pittsburgh. Before coaching the Panthers, he spent the previous six years as part of King Rice’s staff at Monmouth.

Ferry replaces Drazen Zlovaric, who left the program in March to pursue other opportunities.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cleveland State men's basketball to play at Ohio State as part of Buckeyes Basketball Classic

For the ninth time in its history and first time in the past eight years, the Cleveland State men’s basketball team will take on Ohio State as part of the Buckeyes Basketball Classic.

Other teams participating in the Buckeyes Basketball Classic are South Carolina State, Fort Wayne and Samford.

The Vikings will face OSU on Nov. 23 at St. John Arena, which served as the home of the Buckeyes from 1956-1998.

This is the first meeting between the two schools since the Buckeyes defeated the Vikings, 72-59 in 2009 in Columbus.

OSU leads the series 7-1, with the Vikings only win coming on Dec. 17, 1994 when they defeated the Buckeyes 75-73 at the Q in the inaugural Rock-N-Roll Shootout.

The Buckeyes are coming off a 25-9 season and NCAA tournament appearance under first-year coach Chris Holtmann.

CSU is likely headed for a youth movement in Dennis Felton's second season. The Vikings return only three players from last year's 12-23 squad that included a surprising run in the Horizon League Tournament, advancing to the title game before losing to Wright State.