With a 87-83 loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Thursday night at the Wolstein Center, Cleveland State let another golden opportunity for the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout next week's Horizon League Tournament slip away.
The loss drops CSU to 23-7, 12-5 in the Horizon League and in a three-way tie for first-place with Milwaukee (17-12, 12-5 Horizon League) and Butler (20-9, 12-5) with one game to go.
However, with the loss, CSU no longer control its own destiny for the No. 1 or No. 2 seeds and a bye into the semifinals.
If CSU wins at home against Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday they will lock up at least the No. 3 seed. That's because both Milwaukee and Butler hold the tie breakers over CSU and would need help from them in order to get one of the byes.
"Now we got to go the long route and this team isn't built to go the long route," said CSU coach Gary Waters. "Two years ago that team was built to do that because we had a bench. This team with five guys to go the long route will take a lot out of them."
Without the bye, CSU would host a game next Tuesday and would have to win four games in eight days to win the championship.
"They outplayed us at every phase of the game," said Waters. "You got to take care of business at home and we didn't take care of business tonight. All I can say is this team is not ready to win a championship."
The Vikings fell behind by 17 in the first half and they fought hard to close to within, 41-32, at the half.
"They were ready to play," said Norris Cole. "They came out got a good start and that hump was too much to overcome."
In the second half, CSU came out more aggressive taking the ball to the rim, instead of relying on jump shots. They would cut the lead down to, 41-36.
Then Aaron Pogue picked up his fourth foul and took a seat on CSU's bench. Without Pogue on the floor, Milwaukee took advantage of the undersized Vikings frontcourt and went on a 20-6 run over the next four minutes.
The 19-point deficit (61-42) in the second half proved to be too deep of a hole for CSU to climb out of.