CLEVELAND – Cleveland State used a strong defensive effort and made just nine turnovers in claiming a 63-58 win over Northern Kentucky on Thursday night in the Wolstein Center.
The Vikings moved to 9-21 and 4-13 in the Horizon League, while NKU fell to 8-20 overall and 5-12 in the League.
Rob Edwards led the Vikings with 19 points and five rebounds, while Kenny Carpenter scored 15 points with five boards. Andre Yates added nine points and five assists and Vinny Zollo scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds.
Drew McDonald led the Norse with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
“It was a total team effort tonight,” head coach Gary Waters said. “I told them we had three keys to this game; we had to take care of the basketball, we had to limit our fouls and we had to hold them under 60 points. And we did all three.
The Vikings were without second leading scorer Demonte Flannigan who missed the game with a concussion.
“We took 12 points out of our lineup so we had to make sure we kept them down defensively,” Waters said. “They did a good job of going inside on us. We had to win the battle of the guards and we did that tonight.”
The Vikings took a 31-24 lead at halftime as CSU held the Norse to just 7-of-26 (.269) shooting from the field. However, the Norse opened the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 33-35 lead less than four minutes in.
A Zollo three-pointer put the Vikings back on top, 39-37, at the 14:33 mark. The lead would reach four points on two occasions in the second half, the final time coming on a Jibri Blount layup with 4:41 to play that gave CSU a 56-52 lead.
However, five straight from the Norse allowed them to take a 57-56 lead with 2:35 left before Edwards sank two free throws on the next possession to give the Vikings a one point lead.
Neither team would score again until Yates converted a driving layup with 41 seconds to play, putting CSU ahead, 60-57. Yates’ layup came after a CSU miss, but Aaron Scales was able to track down the rebound in the corner, giving the Vikings a second chance.
“I thought Aaron’s rebound was the play of the game,” Waters said.
McDonald split a pair of free throws on the other end to pull NKU within two (60-58), but Zollo knocked down two free throws with 16 seconds to play, giving the Vikings a 62-58 lead. Tyler White missed a three-pointer on the other end and Carpenter split a pair of free throws with 1.8 seconds left for the final points.
CSU concludes the regular season with a 1:00 pm contest against Wright State on Saturday (Feb. 27) at Quicken Loans Arena.