Tag Archives: Keifer Sykes

Cleveland State Sweeps Green Bay in Huge Overtime Win

Welcome to Championship Mode.

Friday was one of those games in the past that made Cleveland State fans fill with a heaping helping of dread the last few years. That was mostly because of the fact that the Vikings have faltered multiple times in a big game with a nationally-televised audience, this time on ESPN2.

Add to that the fact that Wisconsin-Green Bay has been invincible at home this season at 12-0 and hadn’t lost in the Resch Center since February 8, 2014. Moreover, the Phoenix, who were drop-kicked by the Vikings in Cleveland, were out for revenge. Finally, CSU hadn’t won in Green Bay since 2010, and there were plenty of good Viking squads that have tried to get a victory there and come up short.

Cleveland State knew all of this going in. And still won in overtime, 66-61.

It took everything the Vikings could dish out: Anton Grady putting up another double-double, Trey Lewis turning it on in overtime…

…and a completely bonkers 31-foot shot by Charlie Lee as the shot clock wound down that made SportCenter’s Top 10 Plays.

You know. This one.

It’s the type of game that gets everyone paying attention, even as the Cavs were on the air at the same time pasting the Wizards. Actually, it seems like a pretty nice good-luck charm to have CSU and the Cavaliers playing on the same day. Both teams have won on the six days when that has happened this season.

And the game came after one of the rare occasions when a game had to be canceled. Earlier this week, the Vikings were supposed to head to Western Carolina to play the Catamounts. But the horrendous weather resulted in CSU’s travel plans getting cut off, as no plane or bus could get through the wintry mess.

So, instead of head coach Gary Waters trying to figure out how to rotate his players for an oddball non-conference game so that they wouldn’t be worn out for the critical match-up in Green Bay, he caught a break. More importantly, so did his team.

And it was a good thing, too. Out of the 45 minutes played on Friday night, Lee played all 45, Lewis played 44 and Grady played 43. Add to that Marlin Mason putting in 36 minutes and Kaza Keane, who had the distinction of guarding Phoenix dynamo Keifer Sykes, notched 35 minutes.

The win over Green Bay also provided everyone with yet another example of how Grady has become one of the best players in the Horizon League, finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds, marking the seventh time he has done that in league play. Yes, in 14 conference games, Grady has a double-double in half of them.

Nothing about the victory was easy for Cleveland State. The Vikings had to contend with the Phoenix defense which, impressively enough, has been better than CSU’s this season, only allowing 60.6 points per game, compare to Cleveland State’s 61.6. Because of that, Green Bay was able to do something no other team has been able to do to the Vikings all season: Cause turnovers.

The first half turned out to be one of Cleveland State’s worst of the year when it came to handling the ball, coughing it up 10 times. Needless to say, Waters, who has been on record multiple times with his loathing of turnovers, had to have been beside himself.

It also looked like the Phoenix finally had turned the Vikings away late in the second half, when Sykes and Greg Mays nailed back-to-back three-pointers to give Green Bay its largest lead of the game at 50-44 with five minutes left in the game. Cleveland State, who was in the midst of a five-minute scoring drought, looked as if it was over.

Then came a healthy dose of Grady and Lewis, who scored eight points in tandem, and that insane Lee three-pointer with 1:18 left to give Cleveland State the lead. In the extra frame, the Vikings turned on the defense, holding the Phoenix to a pair of field goal, a Mays dunk and a Sykes lay-up when the win was already sealed.

Cleveland State’s huge victory over Green Bay capped off a good week, which started on Sunday with another conference win at the Wolstein Center. This time, it was against an Illinois-Chicago team that had previously knocked off Detroit, who beat the Vikings last Friday, and injury-riddled Wright State.

With a little momentum, the Flames, featuring a completely different lineup than the one that lost to Cleveland State in January, didn’t make it easy on the Vikings. In fact, with a 34-30 lead at halftime, UIC wanted to prove it was no longer one of the doormats of the Horizon League.

Cleveland State was having none of that, though, clamping down on defense while Lewis and Mason went to work. While Grady missed another double-double by a point, he still grabbed 13 boards. Lewis once again led all players with 18 points, while Mason chipped in 11, including a monstrous alley-oop dunk off a pass from Lee.

With the wins, the Vikings remain in control of their own destiny in the Horizon League with a chance to finish at the top of the conference and, as a result, host the Horizon League Tournament. But they will have to stay in Championship Mode for two more games.

First, there is the tail-end of the notorious Wisconsin Trip on Sunday, when Cleveland State travels to Milwaukee to play the Panthers, who has been very good at home as of late and game Valparaiso all it could handle before eventually falling.

Should the Vikings win, that would set up a potential winner-take-all contest in Cleveland against the Crusaders next Friday in a 10:00pm tilt on ESPNU. Prior to that, Viketoberfest, a craft beer event that is probably one of the more inventive promotions at the Wolstein Center this season.

Cleveland State Uses Defense to Upset Green Bay

There’s always a game Cleveland State has marked on the calendar as the top match-up of the season. And for the second year in a row, that the home game at the Wolstein Center against Wisconsin-Green Bay. Last year, missing their top scorer Bryn Forbes due to an illness, the Vikings struggled against a Phoenix squad that featured Alec Brown and Keifer Sykes.

For the second year in a row, the illness bug has stricken Cleveland State again. This time, it was Marlin Mason, who missed his third straight game with a virus. The Vikings also had starting guard Andre Yates only at 50 percent.

In order to beat a Green Bay team that was picked to finish first in the Horizon League, Cleveland State needed to start out quickly and certainly keep Sykes at bay.

Mission accomplished.

The Vikings held the lead on the Phoenix for the vast majority of the game, and weathered a Green Bay run at the start of the second half to get a huge win at home, 76-62. The win pulls CSU back even at the top of the Horizon League standings with Valparaiso, who survived a scare against Illinois-Chicago.

“I thought our energy level was high from the very beginning,” said head coach Gary Waters. “And we talked about that in the locker room. We said this is our house. We have a chance to be in first place in this league, and what we have to do is control our house. And I think that’s what we did today.”

As has been the case for most of their victories this season, Cleveland State was paced by its top three players, Trey Lewis, Charlie Lee and Anton Grady. This time, however, the memory of being overpowered last year was fresh in their minds, and they were looking for some payback.

“This was a huge game for us,” Lewis said. “I was telling Anton (Grady) right before the game started, ‘You remember what happened last year,’ and that was our mindset coming into this game. They dominated us last year, and we came out with the mindset that we would dominate this year.”

For the first 20 minutes, the Vikings swarmed on defense. The Phoenix coughed up the ball nine times, leading to 14 Cleveland State points. Moreover, Sykes was limited to only two first-half points, being spotted quite effectively by Yates’ replacement in the lineup, Kaza Keane. Also not helping was that Sykes committed his second foul with six minutes left in the half, leaving him to sit on the bench until the closing seconds.

Defense, as it has been all season, played a huge part of the early Viking advantage. Cleveland State rendered Green Bay scoreless for five minutes, which allowed the Vikings to pull out to a 27-11 lead. Even at the end of the first half when Cleveland State only hit two out of 10 field goals, the Phoenix were only able to cut the lead down to 11 at halftime.

In the second half, though Green Bay showed why it was picked to finish at the top of the Horizon League standings, going on a 6-0 run. Lewis then turned around with a three-pointer. Then Waters brought Yates in to take over for Keane, who committed his third foul, and clamped down on defense.

Lewis finished the game with a double-double, notching 25 points and 12 rebounds. Grady fell short of a double-double, but still made his presence known in the paint with 24 points and six boards. Lee played every part of the role of distributor, with seven assists to go along with 12 points.

The win was also in front of one of the largest crowds of the season, with 3,525 people coming to watch the Viking performance. While it doesn’t put them over the Boyd Line (The 1,770 per game average set in 1995-96), the win does give Cleveland State fans some incentive to put the team over that average.

“This was a big crowd game,” Water said of the attendance versus the Phoenix. “And when people come out to see you, you need to give them a good performance. And that gives them the idea that they should come back and watch some more, and I thought we did a great job of that today.”

Mason’s Outlook Looking Better

The virus that has been causing Mason to sit out three games may finally be subsiding. Waters said that Mason underwent a second spinal tap late in the week, and it appears that he is feeling much better. Waters is confident that Mason will return for next week’s games at home against Youngstown State and Wright State.

O’No! A Bump in the Road!

The Cleveland State-Green Bay match-up would have meant much more to the Vikings, had it not been for a trip earlier in the week to Oakland for a return contest with the Golden Grizzlies. The O’rena, as it turns out, has become the toughest place to play in the Horizon League by far. Just ask the Phoenix and Valparaiso.

And despite coming back from being down double digits, Cleveland State couldn’t overcome it, and a Lewis three-pointer that fell just short sealed the game for Oakland, 59-56. As was the case in the 65-61 win at the Wolstein Center, Lewis was constantly harassed by Golden Grizzlies defensive specialist Dante Williams, and was limited to just five points.

Foul trouble also reared its ugly head in the loss, as the Vikings spent much of the first half without Grady and Zollo, who committed two fouls in the opening 75 seconds of the game. In total, Oakland ended up taking advantage by getting to the foul line an astonishing 28 times, compared to just seven for Cleveland State.

While the Golden Grizzlies have enjoyed a free throw advantage for most of their home wins (Green Bay being the exception), it was the Viking scoring droughts that proved to be their ultimate undoing. And in spite of shooting 44 percent from the floor, Cleveland State misfired badly from beyond the arc, shooting just 4-of-14 for a dismal 28 percent.

With the Vikings defeat, Oakland has now defeated the top three teams in the conference, as well as Wright State and Milwaukee. Unless Horizon League bottom-feeders Youngstown State or Illinois-Chicago somehow fluke their way into a win, which is highly unlikely, the February 15th game against Detroit will determine whether the Golden Grizzlies will sport perfect record in the O’rena.