The 15-seed Cleveland State University Vikings were blown out by the 2-seed Houston Cougars in the opening round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Friday night.
The final score of 87-56 doesn't tell the full story of CSU's hard-nosed defense and scrappy playmaking in the first half, but the team's offensive firepower, or lack thereof, was no match for the big bodies, dominant offensive rebounding and suffocating defense of Houston in the second.
Sustained scoring droughts prevented the Horizon League champion Vikings from beating the oddsmakers in Vegas. They failed to cover the 20.5-point spread. They were paced, in any case, by Junior guard D'Moi Hodge, who tallied 11 points.
CSU head coach Dennis Gates, coming off his Horizon League coach of the year honors for the second straight year, used a deep lineup and multiple defensive approaches to try to beat back the Houston attack. But the Vikes were simply outmatched by Houston, champions of American Athletic Conference.
Houston lost their starting point guard, DeJon Jarreau, in the first minute of play after he suffered an apparent hip injury, and they struggled thereafter with CSU's full-court pressure. The Vikings even mounted a heroic 8-0 run late in the first half, including two three-point daggers from Hodge. They appeared to be within striking distance at halftime. But Houston came out firing after the break, building an insurmountable lead and never looking back. Their top scorer was guard Quentin Grimes.
Beachwood native Ben Sternberg, CSU's diminutive, energetic bench leader, was subbed into the game with about one minute left. He got fouled on a drive to the basket and made two free throws to the raucous applause of his teammates.
Cleveland State was the second Ohio school to fall on the tournament's action-packed opening day. Ohio State, a 2-seed, suffered the day's biggest upset in a loss to 15-seed Oral Roberts. Brackets everywhere were busted.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.