CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland State rallied from a 15 point halftime deficit to claim a 73-69 win over Iona in the season opener on Saturday afternoon at the Wolstein Center.
David Laury had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead Iona.
"We knew we would have to score close to 75 points to win today and we got to 73," head coach Gary Waters said. "The key was that we turned up our defensive intensity in the second half. Our defense was unbelievable."
CSU held Iona to a 9-of-37 (.243) effort from the floor in the second half after the Gales scorched the nets in the first half, going 15-of-28 (.536).
"I liked the flow of this game and how these guys had to fight back because we go on the road for the next three and will have to fight," Waters said. "And I thought our bench was high today. Without them, it would have been a different game."
Trailing 44-29 at the half, the Vikings scored the first 11 points of the second half to pull within 44-40 on a three-pointer from Forbes. Grady and Forbes combined for nine of the 11 points to open the half.
The Vikings would get within two points (46-44) with 15:30 left, but Iona pulled back ahead by 10 points (58-48) with 9:40 to play. The Gael lead swelled to 12 points (64-52) with just under eight minutes to play, but three straight CSU buckets over a 60 second stretch pulled the Vikings back within six points (64-58) and Marlin Mason and Forbes hit consecutive three-pointers to cap a 12-0 run that tied the game at 64-64 with four minutes left.
The teams traded baskets until a Lewis three-pointer from the corner gave CSU its first lead since midway through the first half, 69-67 with 2:18 to play.
Laury answered with a bucket on the other end to tie the game for the sixth and final time with 1:51 to play and neither team could score again until Lewis sank a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left.
Iona had a chance to tie or take the lead, but missed a three-pointer and shot at the rim before Laury was fouled after grabbing the Gaels second offensive rebound.
He missed the first free throw and purposely missed the second toss and Grady was able to secure the rebound. He was fouled right away and sank both free throws with five seconds left to ice the game.
The quick paced first half began with CSU jumping out to a 9-5 lead less than four minutes in, but eight straight points from the Gales gave them a 13-9 advantage with 14:17 left in the half. The game stayed close over the next seven minutes with CSU pulling back within two points (26-24) on a three-pointer from Forbes seven minutes left in the half.
However, the Vikings went cold over the final seven minutes of the half as Iona raced to a 15 point (44-29) halftime lead, thanks in large part to 54-percent shooting (15-28) over the first 20 minutes.
CSU held a 48-43 advantage on the glass and received 24 points from its bench.
The Vikings will be back in action on Wednesday (Nov. 13) when CSU travels to San Francisco for an 11:00 p.m. EST contest.