Jan. 22, 2008
Contact: Brian McCann
SETTING THE SCENE: With seven consecutive league victories to open a season for the first time since 1992-93, the Vikings make their annual trek to the State of Wisconsin this week, facing Green Bay on Thursday, January 24 beginning at 7:05 p.m. CST in the Resch Center. CSU (14-5, 7-0), which has four more league and overall wins than it did last year when the Vikings were 10-21 overall and 3-13 in league play, is all alone in first place in the Horizon League standings, a game-and-a-half ahead of Butler (6-2) and two games ahead of Valparaiso (4-3). Green Bay (9-8, 3-4) opened league play with a 3-1 record before dropping consecutive games at Butler, at Valparaiso and at home to Milwaukee. The Phoenix is 6-1 at home this year.
PREVIEWING CLEVELAND STATE: The Vikings are a totally different team from the one that went 10-21 a season ago. With five returners and 10 newcomers on the squad, second year head coach Gary Waters has depth available at every position on the floor. Junior forward J'Nathan Bullock (14.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) leads the returners after becoming only the third player in CSU history to lead the team in scoring as both a freshman and sophomore. All five returners figure prominently in the rotation this season with senior Breyohn Watson (4.6, 2.1) and sophomore Joe Davis (9.3 ppg) sharing time at the off-guard and senior Kevin Francis (5.3, 5.0) and junior Renard Fields (2.6, 1.8) seeing time inside. The Vikings have benefited from the addition of transfers Cedric Jackson (St. John's), Chris Moore (UC Santa Barbara) and George Tandy (Eastern Illinois). Jackson (14.7, 3.9, 4.9 assists) starts at point guard with Moore (6.4, 3.6) starting at center and Tandy (5.1, 5.2) at forward. Freshmen D'Aundray Brown (5.2, 3.6) and Norris Cole (3.8 ppg) have impacted the rotation.
HEAD COACH Gary Waters: A 33-year collegiate coaching veteran, Gary Waters took over as the head coach of the Vikings in the spring of 2006, bringing with him to Cleveland a head coaching history that included six trips to the postseason in his first 10 years as a head coach. He posted a 92-60 record in five seasons at Kent State, making NCAA appearances in both 1998-99 and 2000-01 and becoming the third coach in Mid-American Conference history to be named league coach of the year in successive years. Waters moved to Rutgers in 2001-02, compiling a 79-75 mark in five seasons, including three trips to the NIT. Waters is 24-26 in his second season at CSU, giving him a 195-161 record in 12 seasons.
Gary Waters SHOW AIRS TUESDAY THIS WEEK ON WTAM: The second installment of the Gary Waters Radio Show will be broadcast on Tuesday night this week (Jan. 22). WTAM, 1100-AM, the 50,000 watt station that also serves as the home of the Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers and Indians, will host the show through the remainder of the year. In all 10 episodes of the show are planned, with each airing weekly on either Monday or Tuesday night from 7:00-8:00 p.m. through mid-March. The call-in show is hosted by WTAM's Andre Knott. Next week, the show airs on Monday night (Jan. 28).
VIKING BASKETBALL REPORT RETURNS: The second season of The Viking Basketball Report continues this week on SportsTime Ohio and will run weekly through the end of the basketball season in March. The 30-minute highlight show is hosted by Mike Cairns with commentary from head coach Gary Waters and features on the Viking players. The broadcast schedule for the next week is:
VIKINGS JUMP TO 12TH IN MID-MAJOR POLL: Wins over Butler and Valparaiso last week has propelled the Vikings up six spots - from 18th to 12th - in this week's (Jan. 21) Mid-Major Top 25, which is sponsored by TheCollegeInsider.com. CSU almost doubled its point total from a week ago, going from 238 to 405 points. Gonzaga takes over the No. 1 spot in the Mid-Major Top 25 with 763 points and 24 of the 31 first place votes while Butler is second with 727 points and four first place votes. The poll is released every Monday afternoon through the end of the regular season.
. . . AND RECEIVE AN AP VOTE: When the Associated Press poll was released on Monday (Jan. 21), the Vikings received one vote to tie for 43rd in the poll.
VIKINGS RECEIVE AN RPI BUMP: CSU's six-game win streak has done wonders to its RPI - Rating's Percentage Index - the computer generated index used by the NCAA selection committee that examines each school's strength of schedule and performance on the road and at home during the year. Just two weeks ago, CSU saw its RPI drop to a season high 83 but consecutive wins over Wright State (No. 76), Butler (22) and Valparaiso (60) has raised it back up to No. 50 heading into the week. By comparison, the Vikings had an RPI of 266 in 2006-07.
VIKINGS REBOUND TO REBOUND: It has been six seasons since Cleveland State finished the year with a positive rebounding margin, but based on the rebounding performance of the Vikings, the streak may well come to an end this year. In 19 games, CSU has averaged 36.4 rebounds a game while limiting its opponents to 31.3 boards to lead the Horizon League with a +5.1 rebounding margin. The Vikings have out-rebounded their opponent in all but three games. The last time that CSU was able to hold the rebounding edge for an entire season came in 2000-01 when the Vikings had a +3.1 rebounding margin.
. . . FROM WORST TO FIRST, A LEAGUE FIRST: Not only are the Vikings the sitting atop the Horizon League after finishing in last place a year ago, but CSU is also attempting to become the first team in league history to go from last in rebounding margin in one year to first the next. The Vikings were out-rebounded by 33.1 to 36.6 last year for a -3.5 margin.
. . . BUT DO THEY HAVE TO BE SO OFFENSIVE ABOUT IT? Part of the reason for CSU's success on the boards this season has come at the offensive end of the floor where the Vikings lead the Horizon League with an average of 13.47 offensive rebounds a game. CSU has three of the top 15 individuals in offensive rebounds with J'Nathan Bullock (2.42) and Kevin Francis (2.26), ranking third and fourth, respectively, while George Tandy is 15th with 1.72 offensive rebounds a game.
FINALLY: The win over 12th-ranked Butler on Jan. 17 marked only the second time in school history that the Vikings defeated a ranked opponent and the first during the regular season and the first at home. The only other time that CSU knocked off a ranked team came on March 14, 1986 when it upset 14th-ranked Indiana, 83-79, in an NCAA first round game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. The Butler win improved CSU to 2-26 all-time against ranked opponents, snapping a 19-game losing streak.
BIG CROWDS: The 5,352 fans that attended Thursday night's game marked the largest crowd in the Wolstein Center since the curtain was added four years ago on the west side to trim the capacity of the building to approximately 8,500. The last time CSU had a larger crowd in the Wolstein Center came on Nov. 29, 2003 when 11, 534 saw the Vikings drop an 82-76 decision to North Carolina.
ROAD RALLIES: The road wins over Detroit and Wright State (Jan. 10 & 12) each featured the Vikings rallying from a 13-point first half deficit to win. At Detroit, CSU trailed 27-14 with 7:41 left in the first half before going on a 15-2 run to tie the game at 29-29 just before half. Trailing 40-36 early in the second half, the Vikings used a 10-1 run to take the lead for good. CSU fell behind, 16-3 (13:24), at Wright State but ran off 11 straight points to close to within two. Six ties and 11 lead changes followed before CSU went ahead for good on a Kevin Francis trey with 11.7 seconds left.
DEMON HUNTING: Slowly but surely, the Vikings are eliminating a number of lengthy losing streaks. So far this season, CSU snapped a . . .
WINNING STREAKS: The Vikings carry several significant winning streaks into Thursday's game at Green Bay. They include:
14-5: The Vikings carry a 14-5 record into the week, marking the first time that CSU won at least 14 of its first 19 contests since the 1992-93 squad opened the year with an 15-4 record. It is only the fifth time in school history that CSU opened the year with an 13-5 record or better.
. . . AND CSU HAS BLOWN PAST LAST YEAR'S RECORD: Cleveland State's win over Valparaiso on Saturday improved the Vikings to 14-5 overall and 7-0 in league play, giving them four more overall and league wins then CSU posted during all of last season. CSU was 10-21 overall and 3-13 in the Horizon League a year ago.
THE BENCH SHINES: Cleveland State continues to get a big boost from its second unit as the Viking bench is averaging 24.9 points per game. CSU has held the edge in bench points in 11 of the last 15 games, posting 20 points or more in 11 of the 12 games. Joe Davis leads the bench bunch with a 9.3 scoring average while D'Aundray Brown (5.2 ppg), Kevin Francis (5.3) and Norris Cole (3.8) round out the scoring.
BULLOCK MAKES 54TH CONSECUTIVE START: J'Nathan Bullock enters the week as one of 12 Viking players who have started 50 consecutive games in their career. Bullock, who earned the honor when he started against UIC on Jan. 5, is tied with Franklin Edwards (1977-81) for 10th place on the list with 54 straight starts. He needs two more starts to catch Steve Givens (1996-2001), who made 56 straight starts. If Bullock stays healthy, he could catch record-holder Ken McFadden (1985-89), who started 86 straight games, early next year.
WINNING LATE: The Vikings had their streak of 13 consecutive games decided by four or more points snapped at Wright State on Jan. 12 when CSU won by just two points. The Vikings then followed that win up with a four-point win over Butler on Jan. 17. That is a big change from the start of the year when three of the first four games were decided by three points or less with CSU claiming wins over USF (73-70) and Florida State (69-66 in OT) and falling to Georgia Southern (72-70). CSU is 7-2 this year in games decided by nine points or less and 7-3 in contests with a 10-point margin or larger.
BULLOCK EARNS CSU ATHLETE-OF-THE-MONTH HONORS: Junior J'Nathan Bullock has been named the Cleveland State Male Athlete of the Month for December, marking the second time in his career that he received the honor. A native of Flint, Mich., Bullock led CSU to its second consecutive winning month (4-2) by averaging 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He shot .469 (23-49) from the floor, including .462 (6-13) from three-point, while also making 27-of-32 (.844) free throws. Bullock started the month with a 13-point, seven rebound effort against Geneva before scoring 14 points with four rebounds in a win at Chicago State. He also tallied a team-high 16 points in a loss to Ohio State and a game-high 19 points, including 16 in the second half, in a win over Central Michigan.
VIKINGS POST THIRD CONSECUTIVE WINNING MONTH: With a 6-0 record this month with three games left to play, the Vikings have clinched their third consecutive winning month for the first time since the Vikings put together six consecutive wining months between December, 1992 and March, 1993. CSU went 4-3 in November, 4-2 in December and is 6-0 to date in January.
VIKINGS TAKE OVER FIELD GOAL DEFENSE LEAD: Gary Waters said during the preseason that in order to achieve success this year, the Vikings were going to have to apply more defensive pressure. The Vikings obviously have paid attention to those words as Cleveland State leads the Horizon League in field goal defense. CSU opponents have shot .418 from the field this year (419-1,002), which is slightly ahead of second place Valparaiso .420 on the Horizon League list. CSU has held nine opponents under 40-percent from the field this year with the .286 effort by UIC on Jan. 5 being the lowest by an opponent this year.
THREE-POINT DEFENSE DETERMINES WINS & LOSSES: It has been either feast or famine for Viking opponents from beyond the arc over the last 13 games with those shooting well ultimately claiming victory. In the 10 Viking wins over that span, CSU has held opponents to .276 shooting (47-170) from three-point with just two teams (Wright State, 7-11, .636 & Valparaiso, 9-24, .375) shooting better than 30-percent and making more than six treys. In the three losses (Cal State Northridge, OSU & Kent State), CSU opponents have made 33 of their 61 three-point attempts (.541) with all three teams making at least 10 treys and with the .500 effort by Kent State being the worst percentage of the three.
GOING FOR A RARE DOUBLE: Junior Cedric Jackson, who is the Horizon League leader in both assists (4.9) and steals (2.6), is attempting to become just the fifth player in league history to accomplish the feat. Jackson's 2.63 steals per game is significantly ahead of Green Bay's Terry Evans (1.88) while his 4.89 assists per contest, is slightly ahead of Butlers Mike Green (4.84). Jackson is attempting to join Loyola's Darius Clemens (1980-81) and Earl Brown (1997-98), Detroit's Roy Simms (1982-83) and LaSalle's Paul Burke (1993-94).
BULLOCK PASSES 1,000 POINT MARK: An 11-point effort in the win over Valparaiso on Jan. 19 allowed junior J'Nathan Bullock to become the 17th player in school history to score 1,000 points in a career. Bullock went over the mark when he scored on a three-point play with 9:39 left. He is the first Viking to accomplish the feat since Jermaine Robinson ended his career in 2003-04 with 1,408 points.
. . . AND BREAKS INTO FREE THROW TOP 10: J'Nathan Bullock is also making his mark on the free throw charts, entering the week ranked seventh in school history for both free throws made (294) and attempted (405). He needs 29 more free throws made and 65 more attempts to move up into sixth place.
DOUBLE THE PLEASURE, DOUBLE THE FUN: The success of the Vikings at home this year has not just been limited to the men's team as the women's squad is also enjoying a strong year on its home court. In fact, when the men beat Valparaiso and women upended Wright State on Jan. 19, it marked the school record fourth consecutive doubleheader sweep by the Vikings. There are two more doubleheaders scheduled for this year, Feb. 7 (men vs. Wright State, women vs. Milwaukee) and Feb. 9 (men vs. Detroit, women vs. Butler).
VIKINGS FIND THE RANGE: Early season reviews showed the Vikings being a team that played great defense, but needed to because they also struggled to shoot the ball. That scouting report has changed over the last 12 games as CSU has significantly improved its marksmanship. In the first seven games, the Vikings shot just .424 from the field (171-403). In the last 12 contests, the Vikings have bounced back to shoot .467 (307-657), including three games over .500, to raise the season average to .451, good for fourth in the Horizon League. By comparison, CSU posted just one game of .500 shooting or better over the last two seasons as the Vikings shot .393 as a team in 2006-07 and .401 in 2005-06.
. . . AND THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT THE WOLSTEIN CENTER: The Vikings have shot the lights out in the Wolstein Center of late, surpassing the .500 mark in three of their last seven games. CSU is 185-of-365 from the field during the span (.507). The stretch started with a .560 effort vs. Geneva (42-75) and was followed by a .646 mark vs. Youngstown State on Dec. 8. In the Dec. 22 game vs. Central Michigan, the Vikings were 25-for-47 (.532). The Youngstown State game was the 10th best single game effort in school history and the best shooting performance by a CSU team since a .650 effort (26-40) against Green Bay on Jan. 18, 1993.
THE TURNOVERS ARE THE DIFFERENCE: The one telltale statistic in Viking games this season is that when CSU takes care of the ball, it wins. When the turnover total is high, the Vikings lose. In the 14 CSU wins, the Vikings are averaging just 13.7 turnovers a game, committing nine against Florida Atlantic and 10 each vs. Florida State and USF. In the five losses, the turnover average jumps to 17.2. CSU made 19 turnovers vs. George Mason, 22 vs. Georgia Southern, 14 against Cal State Northridge and 15 vs. Ohio State.
BULLOCK'S FREE THROW IMPROVEMENT CONTINUES: J'Nathan Bullock continues to show improvement at the foul line, going 89-for-103 this season to improve his career free throw percentage to .726 (294-405). He struggled from the line as a freshman, making only 83-of-139 (.597), including just .511 (47-92) in the first 22 games. Bullock improved to .748 last year (122-163) and is third in the Horizon League in free throw percentage (.864) this season.
MOORE ENJOYS PLAYING WITH BLOCKS: Junior Chris Moore has added a weapon to his defensive arsenal this year, entering the week ranking sixth in the Horizon League with 18 blocked shots this season. That is quite a total, especially when you consider that in two seasons at UC Santa Barbara, Moore blocked just seven shots (in 30 games).
NEXT UP: The Vikings remain in the State of Wisconsin, playing at Milwaukee 7:00 p.m. CST on Saturday (Jan. 26).
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