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Cleveland St. Wins at Eastern Illinois in Rare Late January Non-Conference Game

This deep into the grind of league play, it can be easy to forget about the joyous time that is non-conference season. Thank you, late-season non-conference game, for reminding us that it can be really fun to watch to teams who don't know each other inside and out. Eastern Illinois probably wished it knew Bryn Forbes a bit better, at least well enough to contain him.

Bryn Forbes led the game with 25 points.
Bryn Forbes led the game with 25 points.
Gregory Shamus

Neither of these teams are exceptional on the offensive end of the floor, but Cleveland State is significantly better than Eastern Illinois. That's why, after two and a half minutes of play, a scoreless deadlock broken by the Vikings' Anton Grady was pretty much the most appropriate way to start the game.

It would take another minute before the Panthers would score, by which point the Vikings owned a 5-2 lead.

That first bucket for the home team, a Sherman Blanford jumper, sparked an 11-2 run by the Panthers. Eastern Illinois would hold the lead for about seven minutes, until the 9:18 mark. That's when Trey Lewis hit his first bucket of the game, a three, to tie it up at 15. He would finish with 17 points.

From there the Vikings went on to double their score in just three minutes. It took nearly eleven minutes to get to 15 points but less than 14 to hit 30. The Cleveland State lead was 30-19. But, of course, the home team wasn't going to give up.

Dylan Chatman and Luke Piotrowski pushed the Panthers on another 11-2 run to make it 32-30 Vikings with just under four minutes left in the half. Cleveland State had the stronger finish to the half, however, and reclaimed the momentum.

The best moment of the half for the Panthers came at the very end. Reggie Smith swished a three pointer at the buzzer, from the half court line, to make it a 41-37 Cleveland State lead.

With 18:07 to play, Anton Grady went up for an offensive rebound but the refs blew the whistle mid-play. It looked as if they were going to make an appropriate over the back call on Grady, who jumped into the back of Keenen Anderson. Instead they called a foul on Anderson as he allegedly pushed off while attempting to grab the ball.

Despite the fact that all players involved were trying to pull down a rebound, the officials determined that Grady was in the act of shooting.

Eastern Illinois coach Jay Spoonhour, rightfully unhappy about the blown call, was assessed a technical for yelling at the officials.

The next major development also had to do with a foul. With 14:32 left to play and his team up eight, Cleveland State starting point guard Charlie Lee picked up his fourth personal.

At the 13:07 mark Dylan Chatman lost the ball while tripping over a Cleveland State player. The result was an easy Trey Lewis lay-up to give the Vikings a 59-45 lead. However, the major concern for the Panthers was not the turnover or the deficit, but Chatman, who lay on the floor in pain.

He would walk to the bench limping, but without assistance. It looked like cramps but because he spent a long time on the floor, there was room for concern. Whatever it was wasn't serious, because he would return to the game less than three minutes later.

Eastern Illinois made its only serious run of the half around the five minute mark. With 4:53 left to play the Panthers pulled within eight after a Chris Olivier and-one. Olivier's late game play kept the Panthers from falling too far behind, but he wasn't enough.

The Vikings managed to pull down a couple timely offensive rebounds over the final minutes. With the rebounds came a reset shot clock and the ability to run big chunks of time off the clock.

Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters picked up his 150th win with the Vikings, a new program record.