For the few diehard Cleveland State fans, this marks one of those weeks that make absolutely no sense to anyone but them. Of course the Vikings lose to a really, really bad Savannah State team. Of course Cleveland State hangs with Louisville. And of course the Vikings go to Marshall and survive a late run to get their first road win of the season.
And, of course, it’s the ups and downs that make CSU fans absolutely insane.
We should really be used to this by now, with Cleveland State playing up to some of the best teams in college basketball, then play down to some of the worst. But rarely anybody see that play out in the span of five days. Consider that an emotional roller coaster the size of Millennium Force.
The Incredible Disappearing and Reappearing Frontcourt
Easily the biggest source of aggravation this week has been the play for the frontcourt, or at least the play when they’ve been on the floor. For Savannah State and Louisville, that meant not much of the first half at all, thanks to the oldest of old enemies, foul trouble.
And even when fouling wasn’t the problem, starters Anton Grady and Marlin Mason ran into a big problem against the Cardinals, literally. The Louisville frontcourt players spent most of the contest owning the Vikings in the paint, swatting away shots with impunity. This forced Grady to attempt the mid-range jumper. Unfortunately, this was one of these games where the shots just didn’t fall. As for Mason, he was basically non-existent on offense.
Mason turned that around against Marshall, though, by torching the Thundering Herd for 18 points, including four three-pointers. And while Grady found himself on the bench with foul trouble once again, he chipped in 15 of 17 points in the second half in the win over Marshall.
So in spite of not being a factor earlier in the week, for all intents and purposes, the game against Lousville was an anomaly. Moving forward against more equally-sized competition, Mason and Grady should be more of a factor.
Any Other Scorers? Anyone?
It’s no secret that the leader on offense for the Vikings was going to be Trey Lewis. After all, he was named a pre-season Horizon League first-teamer. But for the bulk of this week, he’s basically represented most, if not all, of Cleveland State’s firepower.
Against Louisville, that was more of the case that anyone should ever be comfortable with. In the loss, the Vikings only score 33 points, and Lewis scored 24 of them on 9-of-20 shooting, including four three-pointers. The rest of the team? They shot an absolutely horrendous 4 for 32.
While going up against the No. 6 team in the country is a unique situation, someone in the Cleveland State rotation not named Lewis needs to kick it into gear or the rest of the season is going to be a long haul, especially during games when Lewis doesn’t have his best stuff.
And that’s exactly what happened for a good part of the game against the Thundering Herd. Lewis ran into some early foul trouble and had to sit a good part of the first half. This game, though, Mason was able to take over as the primary scorer. Lewis would eventually come back and finish with 14 points, including a pair of critical three-pointers down the stretch.
With Charlie Lee coming back from his six-game suspension, he may come in and help with the scoring. However, given his history as a streaky shooter, Lee may very well end up getting in line with everyone else.
At Least There’s Defense
When Louisville pasted Savannah state by 63 points on Monday, there was very little hope that the Vikings weren’t going to be able to keep it close. The Cardinals had also been hot shooters, including beyond the three-point arc.
But in spite of the loss, Cleveland State played defense of the season, holding Louisville to 31.9 percent from the field and stole the ball from the Cardinals 10 times. The defensive effort seemed to neutralize Louisville’s massive inside presence, at least until the end.
The Vikings carried that forward into Huntington, holding Marshall to 29 percent in the first half. CSU then used defense, particularly nine steals, to keep the Thundering Herd from making the kind of comeback that Cleveland State couldn’t stop against Savannah State.
Toledo: Your Marquee Match-Up
CSU’s non-conference schedule does not look all that exciting, to say the least. But the one game that every fan should consider to be a must-watch is Wednesday, when the Vikings play host to Toledo.
The game against the Rockets provides an opportunity for Cleveland State to get a little bit of revenge from last season’s loss at Toledo last season. And with the Rockets considered to be one of the favorites in the Mid-American Conference, it’s certainly one of those games in which a team picked to finished highly in the Horizon League to get some bragging rights.
Of course, it would have helped if Toledo wasn’t coming in with losses against Virginia Commonwealth and against fellow Horizon League school Detroit. The 82-79 loss against the Titans came on Tuesday as part of the Progressive Legends rub-regional hosted on the Rockets’ home court.
So, while the records don’t exactly make the contest against Toledo look like Clash of the Titans, it will still be very important in terms of preparing for the Vikings’ future, which will include two conference games against Detroit, as well as the December 29th road trip to Richmond to play VCU.