Originally, I planned to take this week off to hang out with family out of town. But it just seems like the Cleveland State men’s basketball team doesn’t want anyone to feel at ease these days.
You would have thought the Vikings had turned a much-needed corner on Sunday. While once again the rest of Northeast Ohio watched the Browns quarterback carousel move once again, CSU was actually able to get a pretty good win at the Wolstein Center against San Francisco.
But, of course, when anyone had an air of confidence about Cleveland State, the team turns around and does something that defies explanation.
The latest act of inexplicable frustration took place during the Tuesday matinee against Eastern Illinois. It seemed as if the Vikings had this game well in hand over the Panthers. But once again, Cleveland State proved that no lead or grasp on sanity is safe, and fell, 67-65.
So, instead of finally getting two wins in a row against Division I opponents and actually being above .500, the Vikings are 6-7. And they have Virginia Commonwealth to look forward to.
Head coach Gary Waters can’t seem to get a grasp on what the problem is, especially the now-trademark scoring droughts.
“That has been us all year,” Waters said about the scoring funks. “When I look at [the stat sheet], I see missed jumpers, turnovers and we didn’t execute down the stretch.”
The inconsistency has really taken its toll on everyone, especially any casual fan that might have the slightest bit of curiosity about what’s going on at the Wolstein Center. In a town that only seems to pay attention to winners, the Browns and LeBron James, wading through mediocrity against teams nobody has any idea who are isn’t cutting it.
Even the hardest of the diehards have found it hard to stick with the Vikings, especially given the other sporting distractions around town.
A Tale of Two Gradys
The overtime win against USF was supposed to mark a turning-point game for Anton Grady. Being plagued with foul trouble and spotty play in the paint, Grady finally seemed to emerge as the inside scoring option Cleveland State desperately needs. He finished with 17 points, with 13 coming in the second half and OT. He also grabbed seven rebounds and stole the ball three times in a season-high 42 minutes, all without a hint of foul trouble.
Against Eastern Illinois, Grady seemed to have his way for most of the first half, and scored 14 points, as well as grabbing seven boards and three steals.
But as it has been for much of the non-conference schedule, Grady’s old nemesis, foul trouble, reared its ugly head. And with four fouls at the end of the game, Grady was forced to sit out during key defensive stretches.
Speaking Of Which…
Head coach Gary Waters went with Aaron Scales to face off against EIU’s Chris Oliver while Grady was on the bench. The idea, as many believed, was that Scales, who had fouls to give, would force Oliver to get his points at the free throw line, where he has struggled.
Apparently the only person who didn’t think this was a good idea was Scales, who defended Oliver straight-up. The result was four points by Oliver and an incensed Waters on the bench.
Remember when fans hoped that the year Scales spend as a red-shirt would help him develop into a more prominent role in the Cleveland State frontcourt? Neither do I.
A Three-Point Shot at the End of the Game? What Could Go Wrong There?
In the closing seconds of the CSU-Eastern Illinois game, the Vikings were able to get the ball back being only down two. On the previous play on the offensive side, Trey Lewis, in a rare lapse, coughed up the ball that thankfully led to a Panther miss on the front end of a one-and-one free throw try.
But as Charlie Lee drove to the baseline, he kicked the ball out to Andre Yates in the corner for a three-point try, and it went about as you’d expect for a team that Waters himself said wasn’t as good from beyond the arc as last season. Yates’ triple try hit long, sealing the game for the Panthers.
Understandably, with an opportunity to try and win the game without having to go into overtime, which Cleveland State had to do against San Francisco, you take it. But while Yates is clearly the defensive leader of this team, he’s not the most effective from the three-point line at 31.8 percent.
Obviously, the best plan would have been for either Lee or Lewis to be the shooter in that situation. Of course, an even better plan would have been to not be faced with that type of situation in the first place.
Keane’s New Role as Sixth Man
At the start of the season, with Lee suspended, Waters turned to new transfer Kaza Keane to fill the starting role, which meant more adjusting that Waters may have wanted to have his new player do in the early going. And aside from a SportsCenter-worthy heave-ho at the end of the first half of the Jacksonville State game, Keane had his struggles.
But now that he has acclimated himself to a role as a bench player upon Lee’s return, the junior from Ajax, Ontario has provided a boost to the rotation. In fact, he is usually the first or second player off the bench and still averages 23.6 minutes a game. With so many guards competing for playing time, it appears that Keane has the upper hand.