The Cleveland State basketball team fought hard to the bitter end on Wednesday night in the quarterfinal round of the TCCAA/NJCAA Region VII Conference Tournament held at Roane State Community College. Despite being undersized and out-manned, the fifth seeded Cougars stood toe to toe with the fourth seeded Motlow State Bucks, but fell in the end by a final score of 78-68.
The Cougars got off to the quick start that they wanted as they opened the contest with a 14-7 run. The Bucks caught fire over the next several minutes and erased the lead to gain their first advantage of the game at 19-18.
The Bucks just kept right on rolling as they hit the Cougars with a 14-1 run to open up their largest lead of the night at the four minute mark 39-23. Tre'von James hit a pair of shots in the paint while Dequon Miller and Reggie Williams canned a long three-pointer each during the run to help the Bucks to a 39-25 halftime lead.
The Cougars slowly whittled away at the Bucks lead over the first nine minutes of the second half. Robert Brandon let fly from three-point land while Keevin Tyus went to work in the paint with 11 big points including a three-point play and a steal and coast to coast layup to help the Cougars slice the lead to only three points, 49-46 at the 10 minute mark.
A nice driving baseline layup from Travis Wildgoose got the Cougars to within a point, and a short jumper from Tyus did the same on the next trip. In fact, the Cougars had three trips down the floor to either tie the game or take the lead, but each time the Bucks were equal to the task and held on to the lead.
The Bucks then regained control of the game down the stretch as they hit 13 of 16 free tosses to secure the win and advance into the semifinal round of the tournament on Friday against the winner of the Southwest and Roane State game.
"I was really proud of the way that we fought back and gave ourselves a chance to win," stated Cougar coach Lee Cigliano. "After being down at halftime, the guys didn't quit and came back and I think we had a couple of chances to take the lead, but it just didn't go our way. We battled with a very good team despite being a little short-handed and against their depth."
"This game kind of resembled our season, we fought back from adversity all year long and we did tonight as well," the coach continued. "At the end of the day, it was a loss, but we can hold our heads up and considering everything that happened along the way, it was a successful season."
Keevin Tyus led the way for the Cougars (13-12) with 26 points, 12 rebounds and three steals, Brandon finished with 12 points and Wildgoose had 11. Miller paced the Bucks with 25 points while James added 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Tyus was named to the 1st team All-Conference team for the Cougars along with Chattanooga State's Nick Scott and DaiJon Williams who were named to the 2nd team All-Conference team. Former Cougar and current Walters State player, Trey Suttles was also named to the 1st team All-Conference team.
In the first game of the day, Chattanooga State lost to top seeded Columbia State, 89-76.