Vikings Host Marist in ESPNU BracketBusters Contest

Vikings Host Marist in ESPNU BracketBusters Contest

Feb. 21, 2008

Contact: Brian McCann

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O'Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters
Marist (15-12) at Cleveland State (18-11)
Date: Saturday, February 23, 2008
Time: 6:30 p.m. EST
Site: Goodman Arena (8,500), Wolstein Center, Cleveland, Ohio
Promo: Fan Appreciation Night & $1 Hot Dogs & Awesome KidsZone
TV: ESPNU (Dave Ryan & Drew Barry)
(Highlights available on The Viking Basketball Report, which airs weekly on SportsTime Ohio.)
Radio: WJMO, 1300 AM (Al Pawlowski)
(Streaming available at
Series: CSU Leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: CSU 52, Marist 49 (1/20/87)
Tickets: $8, $10 & $15

SETTING THE SCENE: Cleveland State (18-11) closes the 2007-08 regular season home schedule this week when the Vikings host Marist on Saturday, Feb. 23 beginning at 6:30 p.m. The game is part of the annual O'Reilly Auto Parts ESPNU BracketBuster and will be televised live on ESPNU with Dave Ryan and Drew Barry providing the commentary. This will be the fifth year that the Vikings take part in the BracketBusters with CSU hosting a game for the third time. Cleveland State is coming off a 74-64 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday night, a win that assured the Vikings of no worse than a No. 3 seed (and corresponding first round home game) in the upcoming Horizon League Championship.

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 (14.4 ppg, 6.1 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 (5.0, 2.0) and sophomore Joe Davis (8.8 ppg) sharing time at the off-guard and senior Kevin Francis (4.6, 4.2) and junior Renard Fields (2.2, 1.6) 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, 4.9, 5.0 apg) starts at point guard with Moore (5.4, 3.0) and Tandy (4.4, 4.5) sharing the center duties. Freshmen D'Aundray Brown (4.9, 3.5), who has started the last six games, and Norris Cole (4.1 ppg) have each 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 28-32 in his second season at CSU, giving him a 198-167 record in 12 seasons.

VIKINGS CLAIM THIRD, EYE SECOND: With just one game to go in the Horizon League season, the Vikings have clinched no worse than a third place finish in the league this year. With an 11-6 mark, CSU could still finish tied with Milwaukee for third, but the Vikings have the tiebreaker by virtue of their win over Butler this season. At the other end of the spectrum, CSU is a game-and-a-half behind Wright State for second place with the Raiders having two tough road games remaining (at Butler & Valpo).

WATERS ONE WIN FROM 200: The 18 wins this year by the Vikings has allowed second-year head coach Gary Waters to raise his career record to 199-166, leaving him one win away from reaching the 200-win plateau for his career.

SENIOR NIGHT SET FOR SATURDAY: Saturday's game against Marist will serve as the final regular season appearance in the Wolstein Center for seniors Breyohn Watson and Kevin Francise and the duo will be honored in a pre-game ceremony. A native of Flint, Mich., Watson joined the team last season as a walk-on after playing at Mott Community College and slowly worked his way into the lineup. He has started every game this year, earning the distinction of being CSU's perimeter stopper on defense. A native of Toronto, Ontario, Francis has started seven of the 47 games that he has played in over the last two seasons, averaging 4.6 points a game. He has also stood out defensively, leading CSU with 41 blocked shots over the last two seasons.

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 Thursday. 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.

VIKINGS PROVE THE EXPERTS WRONG: With no worse than a third-place finish assured in the Horizon League this year, the Vikings have officially proven the preseason prognoticators wrong this season. After all, CSU was picked to finish ninth in the Horizon League this year 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.

CSU SETS MARK WITH 11TH HORIZON LEAGUE WIN: The win over Milwaukee on Wednesday was CSU's 11th 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.

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'S BIG WEEK: No player in the Horizon League is playing better right now than J'Nathan Bullock, who is averaging 20.3 points over his last five games. Bulock scored 21 vs. Detroit, 39 against Green Bay, 19 at Valparaiso, 11 at Butler and 13 vs. Milwaukee 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 lead 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 Marist game with 418 points this year, two more than Jackson (416).

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 11-2 this year, tying the record for most wins in the 17-year history of the building. With at least one home game to go, CSU has a chance to break the arena record of 11 wins, set in both 1992-93 (11-1) and 2000-01 (11-2).

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 1,154 points and 506 rebounds.

JACKSON IS A STEAL: A two-steal effort vs. Milwaukee on Wednesday allowed junior Cedric Jackson to move into fifth place on the CSU single season steal list with 76 steals this year. He is the first player in 18 seasons to break into the top 10. Jackson needs three steals to equal Kenny Robertson (79 in 1989-90) for fourth and seven to catch third-place Ken McFadden (83 in 1986-87).

. . . JACKSON MAKES HIS MARK NATIONALLY: Not only does Cedric Jackson lead the Horizon League in steals, but the latest NCAA statistics has him ranked 11th nationally.

DAVIS HAS CAREER NIGHT: The loss at UIC on Jan. 31 spoiled a career night from sophomore Joe Davis, who came off the bench to set career highs for points (27) and assists (5). Davis, whose previous career best was a 20-point effort against Geneva, was 10-for-16 from the field and four-for-seven from three-point.

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. With at least four games to go, the Vikings are 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 nine blocked shots in the last eight games to raise his career total to 107. The 6-8 junior ranks second in the Horizon League this year with 36 blocks (1.29 bpg), having nine 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 36 blocked shots this season, George Tandy has tied Shawn Fergus for 10th place on the CSU single season list for blocks. Tandy needs four more blocks to catch Sam Mitchell, who is currently in ninth place with 40 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 29 games, CSU has averaged 35.2 rebounds a game while limiting its opponents to 31.7 boards to lead the Horizon League with a +3.5 rebounding margin. The Vikings have out-rebounded their opponent in all but seven 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 near the top of 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.

. . . 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 12.34 offensive rebounds a game. CSU has two of the top six individuals in offensive rebounds with J'Nathan Bullock (2.14) and Kevin Francis (1.93), ranking third and eighth, respectively.

BIG CROWDS: The 5,352 fans that attended the Jan. 17 Butler 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.

. . . AND THE SEASON AVERAGE IS UP: With the possibility of two games remaining in the Wolstein Center this year, the Vikings are approaching some attendance high marks for the decade. With 45,090 attending the first 14 homes games, CSU is averaging 3,220 per game, the most since 1998-99 when the Vikings played in front of an average of 3,668 fans. CSU stands a good chance of reaching the 50,000 mark for season attendance for the first time since 1998-99.

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.

JACKSON & BULLOCK REACH FREE THROW MILESTONE: The junior tandem of Cedric Jackson (120 free throws made) and J'Nathan Bullock (124) 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 28 games, Jackson has made 129 field goals, 120 free throws and handed out 145 assists.

. . . JACKSON IS THE ONLY 4x100 PLAYER: If you add rebounding 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 nine-assist effort against Milwaukee on Wednesday raised Cedric Jackson's season assist total to 145, vaulting him into eighth place on the CSU single season chart. He needs two assists to pass Ken McFadden (1988-89) and Eddie Bryant (1985-86) for sixth (146 assists) and four to catch fifth place Kenny Robertson (149 in 1989-90).

CSU CLAIMS MOST IMPROVED AWARD: With a 18-11 overall and 11-6 league record, Cleveland State has equalled the school records for the most improvement in wins from one season to the next. The Vikings enter the weekend with eight more overall and 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. That improvement was matched in 1985-86 when CSU went from 21 wins to 29. In conference play, the improvement of eight wins was matched in 1992-93 when the Vikings won 15 league games (they won seven in 1991-92).

BULLOCK MAKES 64TH 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, currently ranks seventh on the list with 64 straight starts. He needs two more starts to catch Eddie Bryant (1983-87) and Patrick Tatham (2003-07), who each made 67 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 Marist game having made just 124 three-pointers in their first 28 games. The 4.27 three-pointers per game is the sixth-lowest season average in the 22 years since the three-pointer was created. The marksmanship isn't much better as CSU's current .296 effort from three-point is the worst in program history, surpassing the previous low of .301 in 1993-94.

. . . BUT THE FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE IS UP: CSU enters the weekend shooting .438 from the field this season, the highest shooting performance by the Vikings in five seasons. CSU shot .446 as a team in 2002-03.

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).

VIKINGS POST THIRD CONSECUTIVE WINNING MONTH: Despite losing their last three games in January, the Vikings finished the month of January with a 6-3 record. It allowed CSU to post its third consecutive winning month for the first time 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 4-3 IN FEBRUARY: The streak of consecutive winning months will go down to the wire as CSU enters the weekend with a 4-3 record this month with only the Marist game left to play. The streak seemed to be in jeopardy when the Vikings dropped their first two games in February, but wins over Detroit, Green Bay, Valparaiso and Milwaukee allowed CSU to get back into it.

GOING FOR A RARE DOUBLE: Junior Cedric Jackson, who leads the Horizon League in both steals (2.62) and assists (5.00), is attempting to become just the fifth player in league history to lead the league in both categories. Jackson's 2.62 steals per game is significantly ahead of Green Bay's Terry Evans (1.88) while his assist total is slightly ahead of Butler's Mike Green (4.93). 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 Marist game ranked second on the team and 15th in the Horizon League averaging 4.9 boards a game. He has turned up his performance over the last 10 games, averaging 6.7 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 weekend ranking 13th with 1,154 career points, needing 14 points to pass Dave Kyle (1,168 points from 1974-77) and move into 12th 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 free throws made (329) and seventh in free throws attempted (453). He needs 25 more free throws made to reach fifth place and 18 more attempts to move up into sixth place.

BULLOCK'S FREE THROW IMPROVEMENT CONTINUES: J'Nathan Bullock continues to show improvement at the foul line, going 124-for-151 this season to improve his career free throw percentage to .726 (329-453). 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 fifth in the Horizon League in free throw percentage (.821) 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).

NEXT UP: The Vikings close the regular season by playing just one game next week, traveling to Youngstown State to face the Penguins on Saturday, March 1 beginning at 7:05 p.m.