The season in which little went right and much was left to wonder about the near future came to an end for the Cleveland State men's basketball team with an 82-59 loss to host Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday night at the Pavilion.
The Vikings, who saw standout center Anton Grady play just seven games before an injury ended his year and had just one senior in Tim Kamczyc, were again swamped by an early slow start in getting eliminated from the Horizon League tournament in the first round meeting with the fifth seeded Flames.
UIC, which advances to the league semifinal on Friday against Green Bay, broke out to a 19-3 lead in a period that saw the Vikings go 1-for-19 from the field with that make a 3-pointer from Kamczyc.
The lead grew to 30-6 before the Vikings, who got 17 points from sophomore Charlie Lee, rallied behind Lee's 3-point shooting. The Vikings saw their point guard hit on four consecutive 3-pointers that helped CSU shave the UIC lead to 36-26 late in the opening 20 minutes.
But that was as close as it got for the Vikings, who bow out at 14-18 overall, failing to win three in a row at any time in the season.
Cleveland State, which will get Grady's sophomore season back with a red shirt, also will be beefed up on offense with the addition of Garfield Heights graduate Trey Lewis, who sat out this season after coming back home following a season at Penn State.
Lewis has fullfilled his NCAA transfer obligation and will be expected to be a big part of a revamped offense that was hurting all year long.
That hurting concluded with the Vikings yet again being held to 60 points or less in all but six of the final 19 games including the season finale which also had Bryn Forbes, the league's newcomer of the year score 16. They were supported by sophomore Sebastian Douglas, who scored nine for the Vikings.
The offense was no problem for the Flames, who snapped a 12-game losing streak to Cleveland State behind five in double figures, led by Josh Crittle with 20 that included 10-for-12 from the free throw line. UIC, 17-14 with the win, also got 16 points from Daniel Barnes, 11 from Gary Talton and 10 each from Hayden Humes and Marc Brown.
UIC's most recent win over the Vikings had been a 74-68 decision on Jan. 31, 2008 on the Flames home court.
While the Horizon League tournament will go on without the Vikings, two others advanced on Tuesday with Youngstown State besting Loyola 62-60 and Green Bay getting past in state rival Milwaukee, 62-46. The Penguins will meet third seed Wright State. Sitting out with their second byes are top seed Valparaiso and second seed Detroit.
Valpo begins play on its home court in the second of two semifinals on Saturday, meeting the Green Bay-UIC winner. That follows the first semifinal pitting Detroit against either YSU or WSU. The championship game, set for March 12, will be played at Valpo if the Crusaders win their semifinal or at the home of the highest surviving seed.