March 1, 2008
Contact: Brian McCann
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - J'Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson each recorded double-doubles and the Vikings shot 51-percent from the field as Cleveland State outlasted Youngstown State, 65-58, on Saturday night in the Beeghly Center.
The win allowed the Vikings to improve to 20-11, reaching the 20-win mark for the sixth time in program history and first since the 1992-93 season.
More importantly, combined with Wright State's loss at Valparaiso earlier in the day, CSU finished tied with the Raiders for second place in the Horizon League with a 12-6 record and and won the tiebreakers to claim the No. 2 seed in next week's league tourney. The Vikings will receive a bye in both the first and second rounds and have the benefit of not beginning play until the semi-finals on Saturday (March 8).
Bullock continued his torrid play of late by leading the Vikings with 17 points and 12 rebounds for his 12th career double-double while Jackson added 10 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and four steals.
John Barber led four Penguins in double figures with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Byron Davis, Vance Cooksey and Jack Liles each added 10 points.
"This was an important win for us because it gives us an advantage in the league tournament," CSU head coach Gary Waters said. "I don't think that we played very well and we are fortunate to have won the game.
"This means a lot to these kids, especially the guys who were here last year because they really wanted to turn things around - Flip The Script - as we've called it. We were 10-21 last year and set our goal at being 21-10 this year and even though we are a game short, I feel like we have gotten there.
"I've said all along that this team will be even better next year so to achieve a second place finish in the league this year is really something special. This team is on a mission right now and they've put themselves into a great position to find success. I'm very happy for these guys."
The Vikings started the game out sluggishly as the Penguins opened a 7-2 lead at the 16:11 mark when Barber knocked down a three-pointer.
CSU found its shooting touch however, using a basket inside by Watson and a three-pointer from Bullock to even the game at 7-7 with 13:44 left
With the game tied at 9-9, CSU went on a 13-2 run over the next 4:12 to take the lead for good and open up its largest first half lead, 22-11 with 7:11 left. Davis keyed the burst with eight points, including a pair of three-pointers.
YSU would trim the lead back to seven (22-15, 5:33) on baskets from Barber and Liles, but back-to-back baskets from Bullock and Chris Moore extended the lead back into double figures with CSU eventually taking a 28-18 lead into the break.
The Vikings maintained control of the game throughout the second half.
YSU closed to with 37-33 wih 13:04 left, but baskets by Jackson and Bullock helped the Vikings rebuild the lead o 46-37 with 10:15 remaining.
Cleveland State took a 59-49 lead with 2:38 left when Watson buried a three-pointer from deep in the right corner with the shot clock winding down and Watson was at it again a minute later when he scored in the lane off a pass from Bullock.
Foul-shooting proved to be a thorn in the side of the Vikings, especially down the stretch, as Bullock and D'Aundray Brown, each of whom were shooting better than 80-percent from the line for the season, each missed a pair of free throws. CSU finished the night making just six of its 19 free throw attempts for a season-low .316.
YSU took advantage of the poor foul shooting, closing to within 61-58 with 33 seconds left when Holmes scored in the lane.
Bullock would ice the game on the ensuing possession, making both both free throws to push the lead to 63-58.
After a missed three-pointer by Cooksey with 23 seconds left, Bullock cleared the rebound and played keep away before being fouled with 12 seconds left, making one of two free throws to put the game away.
The game featured several milestones by the Vikings. Jackson's 11 assists gave him 159 this year, tying him for fourth all-time, just 18 assists shy of the school record. He added four steals to raise his season total to 83, the third-highest season total in school annals.
The game was the 66th straight start for Bullock, tying him for fifth all-time with Patrick Tatham (2003-07) and Eddie Bryant (1983-87).