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Cleveland State advances to the Horizon League Tournament championship

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The Vikings were able to grind out a second straight upset

NCAA Basketball: Cleveland State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive year, a team from the Friday play-in round advanced to the Horizon League championship game.

Cleveland State, the tournament’s eight seed, downed fourth seeded Oakland on Monday evening by a final of 44-43. The win came on the heels of an upset of top-seeded Northern Kentucky on Saturday. The game wasn’t pretty to watch, but the Vikings wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Vikings got behind early, but were able to stage a comeback when Oakland’s Jalen Hayes went to the bench with three fouls. They turned a 23-11 score into just a one point halftime deficit. That stretch proved key for Cleveland State.

It remained a one possession game in the final minutes. Tyree Appleby scored the winning basket with just over 30 seconds to play on a drive into the lane and some hesitation moves. Oakland went to Kendrick Nunn on the final possession, but he couldn’t get the last shot to fall. The celebration was on for Cleveland State.

Oakland’s cold shooting allowed the Vikings to hang around. The Golden Grizzlies converted on just 14 field goals in the entire game. Hayes and Nunn combined for 39 points, but no one else was able to step up and contribute on offense. The rest of the team was only able to muster four points in support.

The Vikings were led with 16 points from senior Kenny Carpenter. They also got a double-double from Anthony Wright, another senior, of 12 points and 11 rebounds. Cleveland State will need those two seniors to continue to perform at a high level to have a shot at the Horizon League tournament championship.

Cleveland State awaits the winner of Monday night’s last semifinal match between sixth seeded Milwaukee and second seeded Wright State. Should the seeds hold, the Vikings would be facing a Wright State team they defeated on February 1st. But as we’ve learned, things often don’t go as planned at Motor City Madness.