Feb. 14, 2008
Contact: Brian McCann
VALPARAISO, Ind. - J'Nathan Bullock scored 19 points and Cedric Jackson added 17 points and seven assists as Cleveland State ran away in the final 10 minutes from host Valparaiso to claim a 71-58 victory.
The win, CSU's school-record 10th in Horizon League, guaranteed the Vikings no worse than a first round home game in the upcoming Horizon League Championships and put them in a position to challenge for second place and the first and second round byes that go with it.
CSU improved to 17-10 overall and 10-5 in league play leaving the Vikings in third place in the standings, a half-game behind Wright State (10-4) and a game-and-a-half ahead of fourth place UIC (8-6).
"This was a good win for us," head coach Gary Waters said. "I've said a number of times that in order to win on the road you have to do three things. You have to take care of the ball, you have to make your free throws and you have to rebound. We did all three well tonight."
The Vikings did excel in those three categories, committing a season-low eight turnovers in the contest while shooting .800 from the foul line (8-10) and owning a 29-26 edge on the glass.
Urule Igbavboa led Vaparaiso with 14 points and six rebounds while Shawn Huff added 13 points and seven rebounds and Brandon McPherson chipped in with 11 points.
After leading for the majority of the first 31 minutes, the game was decided over the final 8:30 as the Vikings allowed the Crusaders just one field goal - that coming with 14 second left - to turn a three-point game into a rout.
After Brandon McPherson scored to cut the CSU lead to 56-53 with 8:34 left, the Vikings forced Valpo to commit turnovers on their next five possessions. Cleveland State took advantage at the other end of the court, scoring eight straight points to open up a double-figure lead.
When Bullock buried an off-balance three-pointer with the shot-clock winding down, the Vikings led 69-56 with 3:13 left and the only thing left to decide was the final margin.
"That is the sign of how far we have come in a short time," Waters said. "It was just two or three weeks ago that we struggled to finish games in Wisconsin and Chicago. Tonight was different because we took the ball right to them and limited their scoring opportunities.
Coming off a 39-point effort against Green Bay on Monday, Bullock continued his strong offensive play. After Breyohn Watson scored to give CSU a 36-35 lead with 18:56 left, Bullock ran off the next nine points as the Vikings opened up a 45-39 lead with 15:16 left. CSU would never trail again.
"J'Nathan is playing with a lot of confidence right now," Waters said. "We moved him back to power forward a couple of games ago because he wasn't getting the opportunities that he is used to and everything has clicked for him."
Jackson set the tone for the Vikings early, connecting on a pair of three-pointers in the opening two minutes to put CSU ahead, 6-0. He went on to make five of his six field goal attempts en route to scoring 15 points, handing out seven assists with just one turnover while grabbing five rebounds and making a pair of steals.
"Cedric took control of the game tonight," Waters said. "He made great decisions all night long and really took advantage of his ability to penetrate off the dribble. He would break the perimeter defense and then find the open man for good shots.
The pace of the game started out in Valparaiso's favor as eight of the first nine Crusader field goals were three-pointers. The Vikings built a 30-19 lead with 5:43 left only to have Valpo shoot themselves back into the game from the perimeter.
McPherson would tie the game at 34-34 with a field goal with 38 seconds left and Igbavboa would send the Crusaders to the locker room with a 35-34 halftime lead by making one of two free throws with one second left.
"We did not do a very good job of defending the perimeter," Waters said of Valparaiso's eight-for-15 first half shooting from three-point. "We made some adjustments at halftime to try to take away their open looks."
The adjustments worked as the Crusaders made just one of their eight three-point attempts in the second half.
Cleveland State enjoyed one of its best three-point shooting games of the season. The Vikings entered the contest ranking ninth in the Horizon League in three-point percentage (.285) and last in three-pointers made but matched their season high by making nine treys vs. the Crusaders. CSU's .529 percentage from behind the arc (9-17) was its second-best performance of the year.
In fact, the Vikings shot 50-percent from the field for the game (27-54), its second straight .500 shooting effort.
The Vikings have little time to celebrate the win, traveling to ninth-ranked Butler for a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Saturday. The game will be televised live by SportsTime Ohio.