Cleveland State basketball coach Gary Waters cut to the chase after seeing his Vikings blow a 12-point second half lead and drop a 67-55 decision at home to previously struggling Loyola (Ill.) Wednesday evening before 1,565 fans at the Wolstein Center on the CSU campus.
"We let one we should have won slip away," said Waters, whose team fell below .500 for the first time this season at 10-11 with the loss.
The Ramblers, who had lost four consecutive Horizon League games including three by a total of seven points after opening conference play with a win over championship favorite Valparaiso, got 21 points from Christian Thomas and 18 from Ben Averkamp in a game Loyola closed out with a 16-0 run over the final 4:34.
Prior to that run, the Ramblers trailed 48-36 and tied the game at 48 and 51 before the Vikings reclaimed the lead at 55-51 on baskets by Charlie Lee, who had eight points and Marlin Mason, who tallied 10 points off the CSU bench.
"We lost three games at the buzzer, so this has been a very fragile team," said Loyola coach Porter Moser. "Tonight, we had great ball movement in those last five minutes and that's what you have to have to win games. Against a team like Cleveland State, if you don't move the ball, they will eat you alive defensively," he added. "It also helps if you make some shots he laughed.
"Devon Turk (13 points) and Cully Payne (8 points) both hits shots f\rom the corner in that run in the last five minutes," Moser concluded.
For Cleveland State, 2-5 in Horizon League play with the loss, this one for sure did slip away. The Vikings held big leads in both the first and second half only to lose for the third time in a row and second time this season at the Wolstein Center. The other loss was a 72-55 setback to rival Kent State back on Jan. 2.
The Vikings, who got a career best 22 points from freshman Bryn Forbes, raced out to a 21-11 lead in the opening minutres behind nine markers from Forbes.
"What makes his play so good is that he's the only one out there who is shooting the ball well," said Waters of Forbes, a 2-time Horizon League Newcomer of the Week honoree who has now scored in double figures in 12 straight games and 14-of-15 since emerging from the CSU bench.
"The opposition has seen this and has backed off our other players but Bryn is still making his shots."
After taking that 10-point lead at 21-11 with 10:59 in the first half, the Vikings got just two field goals the rest of the half, seeing the lead evaporate into a 25-25 halftime tie.
Cleveland State, led by Forbes' 22 along with 10 points from Mason and eight each from Devon Long and Lee, again had their way in the opening minutes of the second half. The Vikings scored on 10 of their first 11 possessions to open the second half. They were led by a pair of 3-pointers from Forbes and another from beyond the arc from Tim Kamczyc, tbut hen again went into a scoreless funk.
On their final 20 possessions, the Vikings scored just three times. After nine scoreless possessions that allowed the 48-36 lead to disappear, CSU got a 3-pointer from Forbes, a jumper from Lee and a dunk by Mason on consecutive times down the floor for a 55-51 lead.
Moser then called a time out and the rest is history. The Ramblers, 12-7 overall and 2-4 in the Horizon League, scored on their next seven possessions to pull away.
Loyola came out of the time out with 4:57 left and got a lay up from Thomas and a 3-pointer from Turk to take a 56-55 lead with 3:51 remaining.
A pair of baskets by Averkamp, a 3-pointer by Payne gave the Ramblers a 63-55 lead. Free throws by Turk and Averkamp concluded the 16-0-run and made winners of Loyola against CSU to snap a 9-game losing streak to the Vikings dating back to a 65-53 Rambler back on Feb. 2, 2008. Loyola's last win in Cleveland was a 61-57 decision over the Vikings on Feb. 1, 2007.
Cleveland State goes on the road for a 2 p.m. Saturday game at Youngstown State and is off until a Feb. 2 game at Illinois-Chicago. The Vikings are home Feb. 5 against Youngstown State. Loyola, which concluded a 3-game road swing with the win at Cleveland State, is home at 3 p.m. Saturday to host Detroit.