Cleveland State Hammers Western Michigan to Move on in the CIT

With a third-tier tournament such as the Tournament, it’s hard to get an idea on what kind of intensity teams will come out with. For some, the wear of the long season and the lack of motivation to play can turn a usually-stalwart team into a tub of goo.

So when Cleveland State traveled to Kalamazoo to play Western Michigan in its first-round CIT match-up, nobody was really sure how the Vikings would come out against the Broncos. Would they come out with fire that fueled them during their wins against Green Bay? Or would they come out flat, as they did in their losses down the stretch.

We got our answer: Cleveland State 86, Western Michigan 57.

And the Vikings made it look really easy.

In fact, the only trouble anybody faced during the game were the fans, who spent the opening part of the game scrambling to find their radios when the CIT video feed went on the blink. And when it came back, they were greeted by a broadcast team that apparently doesn’t read their notes.

Both Anton Grady and Andre Yates, who wear Nos. 15 and 1, respectively, switched jersey numbers for the CIT opener to 5 for Grady and 2 for Yates. Despite the fact that CSU Sports Information director Greg Murphy passed along the changes, that didn’t stop the announcers from confusing Yates with transfer Myles Hamilton, who is sitting out this season, and Grady for red-shirted Jono Janssen.

Other than that, it was probably one of the most dominant offensive games the Vikings have had all season against a team not named Mt. Vernon Nazarene.

As it turned out, the three-pointer, which has been a problem for Cleveland State when it shot far too many, wasn’t really a problem against the Broncos. The Vikings were scorching from beyond the arc, shooting 52 percent, hitting on 13, which was one short of an all-time record.

Speaking of records, Charlie Lee, who was looking to extend his final season a little longer, was really eyeing the single-game mark of nine triples set by Percell Coles in 2003 and Trey Lewis earlier this season. He came up one short, but led all scorers with 28 points and dished out six assists.

Even Grady got into the three-point act himself. He ended up shooting as many treys in this game (three) as he had the entire season, hitting on two of them.

For everything Grady has done this season in the paint and from the perimeter, if the three-pointer becomes a part of his arsenal next season, he’s going to be far more dangerous to Horizon League opponents.

Given the online broadcasting difficulties, most fans not listening to the play-by-play broadcast from Al Pawlowski probably missed the opening minute and a half, which saw Western Michigan with what would be its only lead of the game at 5-3. That’s when the Vikings ripped off a 13-2 run led by Lee, Grady and Marlin Mason.

Ironically, Pawlowski mentioned that this was a good CSU game to watch during this run, as many were still trying in vain to get the streaming video to work.

Of course, it didn’t looking like it would turn into the romp it did later on in the first half, as the Vikings, who led 26-11 at the 12-minute media timeout, went cold for five minutes, allowing WMU to cut the lead to six. Then Lee went unconscious, swishing home a trio of triples that would have made the ball catch fire in his hands like the old NBA Jam video game.

By halftime, Cleveland State was comfortably ahead of the Broncos, 49-31. And then, to start off the second half, the Vikings decided to have a little fun.

CSU opened the half with three dunks; a breakaway from Trey Lewis and two alley-oops, with Mason on the receiving end of the flush.

For those scoring at home, it should be noted that Mason’s Twitter handle is, in fact, @flight_Mason21. He had three slams in the game, as part of his 13 points. It’s safe to say he lived up to his handle in the win.

The Viking lead was well over 30 for most of the closing minutes during the game, and since the victory was assured, it gave head coach Gary Waters the opportunity to give his top players some much-needed rest down the stretch.

Lee and Mason were joined as scoring leaders by Grady, who finished with 21 points to go along with 14 rebounds as part of yet another double-double. Lewis, who was quiet in the first half, scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.

Oddly enough, Cleveland State is now the only Horizon League team left playing in the post-season. Valparaiso fell in its opening round game of the NCAA Tournament to Maryland. Green Bay, the conference’s only representative in the NIT, lost, 69-56, to CSU guard Kaza Keane’s former team, Illinois State. And Oakland dropped a rare decision in the O’Rena in its CIT opener against Eastern Illinois, 97-91.

The Viking men also outpaced the women, who played in the first round of the WNIT at the same time as their male counterparts, losing to Michigan, 72-50. The CSU women’s basketball team finished its season at 19-13 and saw its three seniors, Cori Coleman, Imani Gordon and Kiersten Green, score more than 1,000 points each for their careers, a Cleveland State first.

For the men, the CIT continues on Monday, when they travel to Newark to play the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who hold the distinction of being the only Division I school without a conference and going into Crisler Arena and beating the Wolverines earlier in the season.