FACTS & STATS: Site: Gentile Arena (4,486) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Cleveland State 9-5, Loyola 7-6. Away Record: Cleveland State 3-11, Loyola 6-8. Neutral Record: Cleveland State 2-0, Loyola 1-1. Conference Record: Cleveland State 5-10, Loyola 4-11. Series Record: Loyola leads, 23-19.
GAMES NOTES: The Cleveland State Vikings and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers will battle for the seventh seed in the upcoming Horizon League Tournament when they meet up at Gentile Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Cleveland State captured an impressive win against Western Illinois, 60-54, in a BracketBusters matchup last time out. The Vikings have now won two of their last three games after a three-game losing streak. The Vikings will close the season below .500 overall as they are currently 14-16, while 5-10 in league action. That has them a game up on Loyola entering this finale.
The Ramblers have been struggling down the stretch. They have lost seven of their last eight games to fall below .500 overall (14-15) and to 4-11 in league action. Most recently the Ramblers lost in a tight 76-75 contest against conference-leading Detroit. Loyola is a middling 7-6 at home this season as it prepares for its final game this season at Gentile Arena.
By virtue of its 67-55 win over Cleveland State earlier this season, Loyola will lift itself to the seventh seed if it can win on Saturday. The Vikings had won nine straight games against the Ramblers previously. However the Ramblers still lead the all-time series, 23-19.
An 8-0 spurt from Cleveland State in the second half broke a 33-33 tie and gave the Vikings the separation it needed to top Western Illinois. Charlie Lee and Bryn Forbes each scored 16 points to lead the Vikings who shot 48.9 percent from the floor in the victory.
Forbes (12.5 ppg) and Lee (11.3 ppg, 4.8 apg) have been a solid backcourt tandem for the Vikings as the two leading scorers on the roster. Forbes has scored in double figures in five of the last six games and knocked down 10- of-17 shots from beyond the arc in the last four. Lee is the leader in the conference in assists but is shooting less than 40 percent from the floor in the last four games. There are no other double-digit scorers for the Vikings, who are scoring under 65 points from the floor, while shooting just 42.9 percent from the floor. The Vikings are letting up 68.6 points per game, while foes shoot better than 45 percent from the field.
A buzzer-beating layup from Jason Calliste ended Loyola's upset attempt against Detroit. The Ramblers were clinging to a 75-74 lead with less than ten seconds left after Jeff White hit a clutch layup for the Ramblers. Loyola shot 53.1 percent from the field in the game but had 15 turnovers, while forcing just six from the Titans.
Perhaps what was most surprising about Loyola's effort against Detroit was that it did so without leading scorer Ben Averkamp (15.3 ppg). Averkamp suffered a concussion in early February and is listed out yet again after missing the last six games. Cully Payne (7.9 ppg, 4.2 apg) is another player that has been on the sideline recently as he tries to recover from a sprained left thumb. Christian Thomas (11.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is the leading scorer with Averkamp out. Thomas finishes on 56.1 percent of his shots from the floor and leads the team in rebounds as well.
Loyola already eased by Cleveland State once this season but with Averkamp and Payne out replicating that result will prove to be difficult. Cleveland State should maintain its hold on the seventh seed with a win to close out the season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cleveland State 67, Loyola-Chicago 62
03/02 10:33:45 ET
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