Marlin Mason scored a career-high 22 points and Cleveland State snapped a 4-game losing streak with a 77-66 win Saturday evening on the road against Illinois-Chicago before 2,516 at the UIC Pavilion .
Mason, who came off the bench and scored 11 points in each half, allowed the Vikings to take a 7-4 lead with a 3-pointer early in the first 20 minutes. Cleveland State, which never trailed after the game was tied at 2-2 and 4-4, led by as many as eight in the first half, including its 34-26 edge at intermission.
The Vikings, 3-6 in the Horizon League and 11-12 overall with a 2-10 mark on the road with the win, got off to an even better start in the second half. After spotting the Flames a basket by Anthony Kelley, the Vikings ran off the next 12 points for a 46-28 advantage. Cleveland State then pushed the lead out to 22 when Mason drilled third 3-pointer of the evening that gave the Vikings a 58-36 edge.
UIC, which has now lost its last 12 meetings with Cleveland State, had a run of its own, busting off 13 straight points to trail 60-53 with 3:53 remaining in the game. Much of the damage was done by the Flames at the foul line, where UIC hit 10-of-11 and added a basket by Gary Talton, who hit five of six charity shots in that time frame and put a scare in the visiting Vikings.
CSU, back home on Tuesday to host Youngstown, had three others in double figure scoring behind Mason with 13 points from Junior Lomomba, 11 points and 10 assists from Charlie Lee, who overcame seven turnovers and 10 points from Bryn Forbes, who also had a team-best eight boards.
The Flames, who fell to 5-5 in league play and 14-9 overall with the loss, were led by Talton with 16 points including 9-of-10 from the free throw line, 14 points from Daniel Barnes, 12 from Hayden Humes and 11 from Josh Crittle.
UIC is on the road for its next four, beginning with a Tuesday date at league leading Valparaiso. The Flames then visit Youngstown State on Feb. 10 before going cross town to play Loyola on Feb. 16 and head north of the Windy City to play at Milwaukee Feb. 20.
The Vikings play five of the next six at home, starting with the Tuesday date with Youngstown State on Tuesday. That stretch will go a long way in determing if the Vikings can secure at least a first round league tournament date that goes to the teams that finish 4-5-6. The three who receive a home game will host teams that finish 7-8-9.
The top three teams receive a bye with a double bye going to the regular season champion, who will host the tournament semifinal round.