Vikings Face Butler In Horizon League Title Game

Vikings Face Butler In Horizon League Title Game

March 10, 2008

Contact: Brian McCann

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2008 Horizon League Championship
Championship Game

No. 2 Cleveland State (21-11) at No. 1 Butler (28-3)
Date: Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST
Site: Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,114), Indianapolis, Ind.
TV: ESPN (Terry Gannon & Stephen Bardo)
(Highlights available on The Viking Basketball Report, which airs weekly on SportsTime Ohio.
Radio: WJMO, 1300 AM (Al Pawlowski)
(Streaming available at
Tickets: Available At Site

SETTING THE SCENE: Cleveland State (21-11) will play for the Horizon League Conference title for the first time ever and be in a position to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Championships for just the second time in school history (1985-86) when the Vikings square off with 12th-ranked Butler in the title game of the 2008 Horizon League Championship. The game will be played beginning at 9:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 11 in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN with Terry Gannon and Stephen Bardo calling the play-by-play. The Vikings enter the game having won four straight and seven of their last eight with the only loss during the stretch coming at Butler (51-46) on Feb. 16. CSU won the first meeting between the two teams, a 56-52 decision in Cleveland on Jan. 17 with Butler (28-3) going on to win 12 of its 13 games since then. CSU has not played in a league title game since 1986-87.

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 (14.8 ppg, 6.6 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 (5.4, 2.0) and sophomore Joe Davis (8.4 ppg) sharing time at the off-guard and senior Kevin Francis (4.4, 4.0) 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 (14.3, 5.0, 5.1 apg) starts at point guard with Moore (5.1, 2.8) and Tandy (4.3, 4.3) sharing the center duties. Freshmen D'Aundray Brown (4.8, 3.7), who has started the last eight games, and Norris Cole (4.5 ppg) have each impacted the rotation.

TV TIMEOUT: Tuesday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN, making it the 11th Viking contest to be broadcast either nationally or regionally this year, with CSU owning a 8-2 mark in those games. ESPNU televised the win over Marist on BracketBusters Saturday and the semi-final victory over Valparaiso while SportsTime Ohio, the second-year all-sports channel, televised an eight-game regional package during which the Vikings went 6-2.

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, who is 31-32 in his second season at CSU, earned his 200th career win on Feb. 23 when the Vikings defeated Marist. He is 202-167 record in 12 seasons.

CSU IN HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNEY PLAY: This is the 13th year that the Vikings have taken part in the Horizon League Championship, owning a 4-12 record in those games. The win over Valparaiso on Saturday snapped a seven-game losing streak in the tourney, with the previous win coming on March 3, 2001 when the Vikings outlasted UIC, 62-61, in a game played at Wright State. This is CSU's first trip to the title game after the Vikings won in the semi-finals for the first time in four appearances.

. . . AND CSU VS. BUTLER: The Horizon League Championship matchup with Butler will not only be CSU's first title appearance since joining the league in 1994-95, but it will also be the first time that the Vikings will meet Butler in post-season play.

CSU IN ALL CONFERENCE TOURNEYS: The Vikings will carry a 14-18 record in 19 years of conference tournament postseason play into Tuesday's Horizon League title game. This will be the fourth time that CSU played in a conference tournament title game with the Vikings claiming one tournament title (1985-86) and finishing second twice (1983-84 & 1986-87).

"FLIP THE SCRIPT": One of the Viking battle cries this season, which had remained amongst the team until last week, is "Flip The Script" which references CSU's desire to put last year's 10-21 record behind them by flipping it around, to 21-10 this year. Although CSU fell just short of achieving that goal directly by going 20-11 in the regular season, the Vikings did achieve the 21-win goal by defeating Valparaiso on Saturday in the Horizon League semi-final.

A 20-20 VISION: The win at Youngstown State on March 1 allowed the Vikings to achieve the rare distinction of going from 20 losses in one season to 20 wins in the next. Although the NCAA Basketball record book doesn't track exactly how many times this has been accomplished, it does list 15 teams (each of whom improved by 13 or more wins from one season to the next) with a small window existing for several other teams to accomplish it as well. Xavier is the only Horizon League team to earn the honor, going from 8-20 in 1981-82 to 22-8 the following year.

WATERS NAMED HORIZON LEAGUE CO-COACH OF THE YEAR: Second year Viking head coach Gary Waters was rewarded for his work in turning the CSU basketball program around as he was named the Horizon League Co-Coach of the Year in balloting of the leagues head coaches, SID's and select media members. With the Vikings picked to finish ninth in the 10-team league this year, Waters guided CSU to wins in each of its first seven league games en route to a 12-6 record and second place finish. It is the third time in 12 years as a head coach that Waters has received coach of the year honors. He previously was honored as the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year in both 1999 and 2000.

BULLOCK & JACKSON NAMED TO ALL-HORIZON LEAGUE SQUAD: The junior tandem of J'Nathan Bulock and Cedric Jackson each earned a spot on the All-Horizon League teams, Bullock being named to the first team and Jackson to the second team. It is the first time that CSU has had multiple players honored in the same season since joining the Horizon League. Bullock received the honor after leading CSU in both scoring (14.8) and rebounding (6.6) while Jackson was tabbed after finishing second on the team in scoring (14.3) and rebounding (5.0) while leading the league in steals (2.36) and ranking second in assists (5.16).

. . . AND JACKSON EARNS SPOT ON LEAGUE SPECIALTY TEAMS: Cedric Jackson also made a place for himself in CSU history by becoming the first player to earn a spot on three of the all-league teams in the same season. Jackson, a second team honoree on the overall team, was also named to the all-newcomer and all-defensive teams.

VIKINGS REACH 20 WIN MARK FOR SIXTH TIME: The March 1st win at Youngstown State allowed the Vikings to record their 20th win of the season for just the sixth time in school history. CSU reached the win total in four consecutive seasons under Kevin Mackey, going 21-8 in 1984-85, 29-4 in 1985-86, 25-8 in 1986-87 and 22-8 in 1987-88. Four seasons passed before the Mike Boyd-coached Vikings went 22-6 in 1992-93 to reach the 20-win plateau for the most recent time.

. . . AND A RECORD 33 GAMES: The Horizon League championship game against Butler will be the 33rd game played by the Vikings this season, tying the school record for games played in a season. Cleveland State previously played 33 games in both 1985-86 (29-4) and 1986-87 (25-8).

THE RESERVES ARE ON THE WAY: One thing missing from Hinkle Fieldhouse during the semi-final game against Valparaiso was a Cleveland State presence. A last-gasp winter snow storm that hit Cleveland -- and most of Ohio -- beginning on Friday morning (March 7) dumped as much as two feet of snow on the Buckeye state. This prevented the bus carrying the CSU band and cheerleaders from getting out of Cleveland and most of the fans who planned on driving in on the day of the game were also unable to make it to Indy.

. . . BUT (PART OF) THE BAND PLAYED ON: The bad weather didn't stop Viking trumpet player Brad Huhnke from making it to the game. Huhnke, who traveled to Indianapolis separate from the rest of the band, arrived at the game on time and played his trumpet for the Vikings during several timeouts.

SATURDAY IS CSU'S DAY: The Horizon League semi-final win over Valparaiso couldn't have come on a better day for the Vikings as CSU improved to 11-4 this season in games played on Saturday, including a 3-0 mark against Valparaiso.

. . . OF COURSE CSU HAS A WIN ON EVERY DAY: The Vikings enter the Horizon League title game having recorded at least one win on every day of the week during the season. In fact, CSU is at least .500 on every day of the week except one. . . Tuesday (1-2). The Vikings will have the opportunity to get back to .500 on that day as the Horizon League Championship game is slated for Tuesday.

VIKINGS PROVE THE EXPERTS WRONG: By winning five of their last six regular season games to finish second in the Horizon League this year, the Vikings have officially proven the preseason prognosticators wrong this season. After all, CSU was picked to finish ninth in the Horizon League in the annual preseason poll of the coaches, SIDs and media. CSU received 118 points in the poll to be solidly behind eighth-place UIC (171 points) and slightly ahead of 10th place Youngstown State (81 points). Of the 46 ballots cast, CSU was picked to finish higher than sixth on one ballot, that being a fourth-place finish.

COLE PROVIDES OFFENSIVE BURST OFF THE BENCH: Freshman guard Norris Cole enters the postseason playing the best basketball of his short Viking career. A reserve at point guard in all 32 games, he enters the week averaging 11.3 points over his last four games, shooting .571 from the field (16-28), .500 from three-point (4-8) and 1.000 from the line (9-9). Cole, who is averaging 4.7 points a game, scored in double figures just twice in the first 28 games but enters the Horizon League Championship game with four straight double-digit efforts. He started the run with a career-high 14 points against Milwaukee and then added 10 points vs. both Marist and at Youngstown State before scoring 11 points vs. Valparaiso.

CSU SETS MARK WITH 12TH HORIZON LEAGUE WIN: The win at Youngstown State on March 1 was CSU's 12th against a Horizon League opponent this year, the most league wins since the Vikings joined the Horizon League in 1994-95. The previous high was nine wins in both 1999-2000 and 2000-01.

WATSON ENDING CAREER ON POSITIVE NOTE: Senior guard Breyohn Watson, who has made a name for himself because of his defensive ability this year, has picked up his offensive play over the last couple weeks of the season. In the last seven games, during which CSU is 6-1, Watson is averaging 8.7 points and 2.3 rebounds, shooting .533 from the field (24-45) and .375 from three-point (6-16). He scored a career-high 13 points in the March 1 win at Youngstown State, going six-for-seven from the field. He also recorded double-figure scoring games against Green Bay and Milwaukee. For the year, he is averaging 5.4 points a game.

JACKSON PASSES 1,000-MINUTE MARK: Junior guard Cedric Jackson used a 32-minute performance against Valparaiso on Saturday to become the 10th player in school history to play 1,000 minutes in a single season. With 1,003 minutes played to date, Jackson ranks 10th on the CSU single season list. The last Viking to accomplish the feat was Jermaine Robinson, who played 1,059 minutes in 2003-04. Jackson can take a significant jump up the list, needing 25 minutes against Butler to move into fifth place and 37 to catch Franklin Edwards (1,040) for fourth. Theo Dixon holds the school record with 1,071 minutes in 2000-01.

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Gary Waters said when he was hired that one of the first steps towards building a championship program was to make the home court a tough place to play. After a 6-8 mark in the Wolstein Center last season, the Vikings have improved to 12-2 this year to break the arena record for most wins in a season. Cleveland State previously won 11 games in both 1992-93 (11-1) and 2000-01 (11-2).

J'NATHAN'S BIG NIGHT: After struggling offensively for most of the Horizon League season, junior J'Nathan Bullock broke out of it in a big way on Feb. 11, scoring 39 points in the win over Green Bay. He was 13-for-14 from the field and 11-for-14 from the foul line. Here are a couple of notes on Bullock's performance:
• The fifth-highest single game scoring total in CSU history and the most by a Horizon League player this year.
• The 11th highest point total by a Division I player in the nation this year.
• The highest scoring total by a Viking in the Wolstein Center.
• The .928 field goal percentage was the fourth-highest effort in CSU history and the highest by a Horizon League player this season.
• The .928 field goal percentage was the fourth highest percentage among Division I players this year.
• He entered the game ranked second on the team in scoring, 18 points behind Cedric Jackson. He surpassed Jackson early in the second half and finished the night with a 12-point lead.

. . . AND J'NATHAN HAS STAYED HOT: No player in the Horizon League is playing better right now than J'Nathan Bullock, who is averaging 19.9 points and 7.8 rebounds over his last eight games, shooting .540 from the field (54-100). Bullock scored 21 vs. Detroit, 39 against Green Bay, 19 at Valparaiso, 19 vs. Marist and 17 at YSU to raise his season scoring average by over a point a game.

. . . AND BULLOCK APPROACHES RARE SCORING ACHIEVEMENT: When J'Nathan Bullock exploded for 39 points against Green Bay, he took over the team scoring lead from Cedric Jackson and put himself into a position to lead the team in scoring for the third straight year, an accomplishment achieved by only three other players in school history. Weldon Kytle (1962-65) and Franklin Edwards (1978-81) each led the team in scoring during all four years in the program while Ken McFadden (1987-89) achieved it as a sophomore, junior and senior. Bullock enters the Horizon League title game with 473 points this year, 15 more than Jackson (458).

1,000 POINTS & 500 BOARDS FOR BULLOCK: A six-rebound performance at Butler on Feb. 16 allowed junior J'Nathan Bullock to become just the 10th player in CSU history to record 1,000 points and 500 rebounds during a career. Bullock enters the week with 1,209 points and 539 rebounds.

JACKSON IS A STEAL: A two-steal effort against Valparaiso on Saturday allowed junior Cedric Jackson to move into third place on the CSU single season steal list with 85 steals this year. He is the first player in 18 seasons to break into the top 10. Jackson needs five steals to equal Kenny Robertson (90 in 1987-88) for second place. On a national basis, Jackson ranks eighth among Division I players in steals this year.

A FOUL CALL: When D'Aundray Brown was forced out of the game with his fifth personal foul against Green Bay on Feb. 11, it marked just the second time this season that CSU had a player disqualified from a game because of fouls. The Vikings enter the league title game on a pace to set the school record for fewest DQ's in a season, which was five set in 1985-86. The only other player to foul out this year is Cedric Jackson, who did not make it through the game at Kent State on Dec. 29.

TANDY SWATS HIS 100TH: Junior George Tandy has 13 blocked shots in the last 11 games to raise his career total to 111. The 6-8 junior ranks second in the Horizon League this year with 40 blocks (1.29 bpg), having 10 multiple block games. Tandy had 42 blocks as a freshman (2004-05) at Eastern Illinois and added 29 the following year before transferring to CSU.

. . . AND BREAKS INTO CSU TOP 10: With 40 blocked shots this season, George Tandy has tied Sam Mitchell for ninth place on the CSU single season list for blocks. Tandy needs seven more blocks to catch Pape Badiane, who is currently in eighth place with 47 blocks.

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 32 games, CSU has averaged 35.1 rebounds a game while limiting its opponents to 31.6 boards to lead the Horizon League with a +3.5 rebounding margin. The Vikings have out-rebounded their opponent in all but eight 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 did the Vikings finish second in 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 33.1 to 36.6 last year for a -3.5 margin.

JACKSON & BULLOCK REACH FREE THROW MILESTONE: The junior tandem of Cedric Jackson (125 free throws made) and J'Nathan Bullock (138) hold the distinction of being just the fourth pair of teammates in school history to each make 100 free throws in the same season. The milestone was previously achieved in 2003-04 (Jermaine Robinson, 141, & Omari Westley, 124), 1989-90 (Brian Parker, 119, & Steve Givens, 104) and 1986-87 (Ken McFadden, 177, & Clinton Ransey, 100).

. . . AND AN EVEN BIGGER ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR JACKSON: The 100th free throw made of the season also made Cedric Jackson just the fourth player (and sixth time) in school history to make 100 field goals, 100 free throws and hand out 100 assists in the same season. He joins Damon Stringer (195 FGM, 113 FTM & 108 assists in 1999-00), Ken McFadden (159, 144 & 146 in 1988-89 & 205, 177 & 177 in 1987-88) and Franklin Edwards (265, 134 & 142 in 1980-81 & 253, 131 & 117 in 1979-80). In 32 games, Jackson has made 144 field goals, 125 free throws and handed out 162 assists.

. . . JACKSON IS THE ONLY 4x100 PLAYER: If you add Jackson's 161 rebounds to the list, then Cedric Jackson is the only player in CSU history to record 100 assists, 100 rebounds, 100 field goals made and 100 free throws made.

JACKSON ZEROES IN ON SEASON ASSIST CHART: A three-assist effort against Valparaiso on Saturday raised Cedric Jackson's season assist total to 162, vaulting him into third place on the CSU single season chart. He needs five assists to reach Gravelle Craig's second place mark of 167 in 1992-93 and 16 to break the single season record of 177 set by Ken McFadden in 1987-88.

CSU CLAIMS MOST IMPROVED AWARD: With a 21-11 overall and 12-6 league record, Cleveland State has broken the school records for the most improvement in wins from one season to the next. The Vikings enter the week with 11 more overall and nine more league wins then CSU posted during all of last season when the Vikings were 10-21 overall and 3-13 in the Horizon League a year ago. The 11-win improvement overall surpassed the previous best of eight wins set in 1985-86 when CSU went from 21 wins to 29. In conference play, the improvement of nine wins surpasses the old mark of eight set in 1992-93 when the Vikings won 15 league games (they won seven in 1991-92).

BULLOCK MAKES 67TH CONSECUTIVE START: J'Nathan Bullock enters the title game 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, currently ranks fifth on the list with 67 straight starts. He needs eight more starts to catch Weldon Kytle (1961-65), who is fourth with 75 straight starts. If Bullock stays healthy, he could catch record-holder Ken McFadden (1985-89), who started 86 straight games, early next year.

A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES: Over the course of the last eight seasons, Cleveland State has recorded its top five season totals of three-point field goals made, including a school-record 198 last year. The record is safe for at least another year as the Vikings enter the title game having made just 145 three-pointers in their first 32 games. The 4.53 three-pointers per game is the eighth-lowest season average in the 22 years since the three-pointer was created. The marksmanship isn't much better as CSU's current .310 effort from three-point is the fourth -lowest in program history.

. . . BUT THE FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE IS UP: CSU enters the title game shooting .443 from the field this season, the highest shooting performance by the Vikings in five seasons. CSU shot .446 as a team in 2002-03.

VIKINGS POST FOURTH CONSECUTIVE WINNING MONTH: The win over Marist on Feb. 23 allowed the Vikings to improve to 4-3 in the month of February and extend its streak of consecutive winning months to four. It is the longest winning streak since the Vikings put together six consecutive wining months between February, 1992 and March, 1993. CSU went 4-3 in November, 4-2 in December and 6-3 in January this year.

. . . AND ARE 2-0 IN MARCH: The win over Valparaiso on Saturday allowed the Vikings to improve to 2-0 in March. The win at Youngstown State on March 1 was the fourth time (in five months) this year that CSU won the first game of the month.

GOING FOR A RARE DOUBLE: Junior Cedric Jackson, who leads the Horizon League in steals (2.66) and is second in assists (5.06), is attempting to become just the fifth player in league history to lead the league in both categories. Jackson's 2.66 steals per game is significantly ahead of Green Bay's Terry Evans (1.97) while his assist total is slightly behind of Butler's Mike Green (5.19). 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).

. . . BUT DON'T FORGET HIS REBOUNDING: Although he leads the team in assists and steals, the part of Cedric Jackson's performance that has been overlooked this year has been his rebounding. Jackson enters the week ranked second on the team and 15th in the Horizon League averaging 5.0 boards a game. He has turned up his performance over the last 13 games, averaging 6.3 rebounds a game, including a career-high 11 against Milwaukee and 10 vs. UIC.

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. Bullock enters the title game ranking 12th with 1,209 career points, needing 95 points to pass Jamaal Harris (1,304 points from 1998-02) and move into 11th place.

. . . AND BREAKS INTO FREE THROW TOP 10: J'Nathan Bullock is also making his mark on the free throw charts, entering the week ranked sixth in school history in both free throws made (343) and in free throws attempted (477). He needs 11 more free throws made to reach fifth place and four more attempts to move up into fifth place.

BULLOCK'S FREE THROW IMPROVEMENT CONTINUES: J'Nathan Bullock continues to show improvement at the foul line, going 138-for-175 this season to improve his career free throw percentage to .719 (342-477). 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 seventh in the Horizon League in free throw percentage (.789) this season.

A'POSTROPHE: Heading into the 2007-08 season, varsity letters in men's basketball have been awarded to 367 different student-athletes. When J'Nathan Bullock earned a letter in 2005-06, he became the first student-athlete with an apostrophe in his first name to earn a letter. Two years later, he is joined by freshman D'Aundray Brown on the squad, giving CSU two players with punctuation marks in their first names. The duo aren't the first with apostrophes in their names though. Those honors go to Bob O'Connell (1954-55), Dan O'Shaughnessy (1962-64) and Mike O'Brien (1964).

MOORE ENJOYS PLAYING WITH BLOCKS: Junior Chris Moore has added a weapon to his defensive arsenal this year, entering the week ranking fifth in the Horizon League with 28 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).

JACKSON FLIRTS WITH TRIPLE-DOUBLE HISTORY: Junior Cedric Jackson came within one assist and one rebound of becoming the first player in school history to record a triple-double in a game when he scored 18 points with nine rebounds and nine assists in the win over Milwaukee on Feb. 20. Jackson, who had eight points, five rebounds and four assists at half, appeared to have the milestone within his reach before picking up his fourth personal foul with 4:55 left, sending him to the bench for the next three minutes.

NEXT UP: A victory over Butler sends the Vikings to the NCAA Championships for the second time in school history. A loss makes CSU play the waiting game until bids to the NCAA and NIT are announced on Sunday, March 16.