Saturday was Jeremy Montgomery's day to play the hero.
The senior guard from Chicago swished a three-pointer from the top of the key with 21.2 seconds left to give Cleveland State a 69-66 victory over Akron at the Wolstein Center.
"I heard the crowd screaming that the shot clock was going down. So I had to step up and knock down a shot for my team," said Montgomery, who was 1-for-11 from the field and 0-for-7 from three-point distance before the game-winner. "You have to stay positive and keep shooting. That's a shooter's attitude."
"Jeremy and Trey (Harmon) have the same mentality, it doesn't matter if they miss 15 in a roll, they think they will make number 16," said CSU head coach Gary Waters.
On CSU's final shot, Waters said he wanted to get the ball to either Montgomery or to Aaron Pogue inside.
"I don't think Jeremy was looking to throw it inside to Aaron," said Waters. "In his mind, he was thinking it was his turn (to be the hero). When a guy feels that confident I don't mind if he shoots it."
It was the fourth time this season that CSU has won on its final offensive possession.
On Nov. 18, Harmon's three-pointer with 2.8 seconds left lifted CSU over St. Bonaventure (67-64).
On Nov. 25, Montgomery sank two free throws with 3.4 seconds left to edge Boston University (63-62).
And last week, senior guard D'Aundray Brown's tip-in with 0.3 seconds left gave CSU a win at Wright State (45-43).
Still Akron had one last chance to tie the game and send it to overtime. But their final shot attempt ended up in the hands of 6'7", 225-pound sophomore forward Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell, who had never attempted a three-pointer in his career. His shot attempt from the corner ended up short.
"I was going for the three the whole time," said Akron head coach Keith Dambrot. "If they gave us an open drive, we were going to take it, but we were thinking three."
"We wanted to make sure the guards didn't get the shot off," said Waters on Akron's final shot attempt. "We had the right guy take the shot."
CSU (10-1) have won five straight and are 7-0 in games decided by five points or less.
The Vikings held a 13-point lead (50-37) with 13 minutes left in the second half, but they couldn't close out the game again.
The Zips (3-5) used a 28-14 run to take a 65-64 lead on junior forward Chauncey Gilliam's lay-up with 3:31 left. That would be Akron's last field goal in the game.
"If they score once (in the final three minutes) we don't win the game," said Waters.
Montgomery tied the game at 66-66 on a pair of free throws with 1:37 left.
Waters said that CSU has two issues that still need to be corrected.
"We turned the ball over too many times and we have to stop the constant fouling," he said. "They are working at it and it will come. When we finally get it, everybody has to watch out because we can defend anybody (in the country)."
Eight of CSU's 15 turnovers came in the final 10 minutes.
Harmon led the Vikings with 16 points. Brown and junior forward Tim Kamczyc each contributed 13 points for CSU.
Junior center Zeke Marshall led Akron with 16 points and eight rebounds. Treadwell, a Euclid High School grad, finished with 15.
Photo courtesy of Cleveland State athletics