Vikings To Meet UIC In Indianapolis In HL Tourney

Vikings To Meet UIC In Indianapolis In HL Tourney

March 4, 2009

Contact: Brian McCann

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Game 33
2009 Speedway Horizon League Championship (Second Round)
No. 7 UIC (16-14) vs. No. 3 Cleveland State (22-10)
Date: Friday, March 6, 2009
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
Site: Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,000), Indianapolis, Indiana
TV: None Live
(Highlights available on The Viking Basketball Report, which airs weekly on SportsTime Ohio.)
Radio: WHKW 1220 AM (Cleveland) & WHKZ, 1440 AM (Warren) (Al Pawlowski)
Series: UIC Leads, 32-31
Last Meeting: CSU 66, @UIC 63 (2/5/09)

SETTING THE SCENE: Cleveland State continues play in the 2009 Speedway Horizon League Championship when the Vikings travel to Indianapolis, Ind. to face No. 7 UIC on Friday, March 6 beginning at 8:00 p.m. in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler campus. CSU (22-10), the No. 3 seed in the tourney, defeated No. 10 Detroit, 56-43 on Tuesday night in the Wolstein Center to move past the opening round for only the second time in the last eight seasons. UIC (16-14) is the hottest team in the Horizon League, carrying a five-game win streak into Friday's game, including a 73-68 victory at Youngstown State on Tuesday night. The Vikings claimed both regular season meetings this year, winning 79-69 in Cleveland on Jan. 10 and 66-63 in Chicago on Feb. 5 to close to within a game in the all-time series. UIC has a slight 32-31 series edge.

PREVIEWING CLEVELAND STATE: After last year becoming one of at least 16 teams in NCAA history to go from losing 20 games in one season to winning 20 the next, the Vikings are playing their best basketball of the year to claim the school's seventh 20-win season. The lineup is centered around the group of seven returning players who keyed the success last year, including the duo of forward J'Nathan Bullock (15.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and point guard Cedric Jackson (10.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.5 apg), both of whom were named to the five-player Preseason All-Horizon League first team this year. Earning spots in the starting lineup are the sophomore duo of off-guard Norris Cole (12.5, 2.7, 2.5) and small forward D'Aundray Brown (7.4, 5.7, 2.5). Senior Chris Moore (5.6, 2.9) has started each game at center with seniors George Tandy (5.6, 5.0) and Renard Fields (1.2, 1.0) each factoring significantly into the playing rotation. The final three spots in the rotation come from the group consisting of freshmen guards Jeremy Montgomery (3.8, 0.9 assists), Trevon Harmon (5.1, 1.2), who became eligible at the semester, and Josh McCoy (1.0, 1.0).

HEAD COACH Gary Waters: The reigning Horizon League Co-Coach of the Year, Gary Waters has needed just three seasons to convert Cleveland State into one of the top programs in the Horizon League. A 34-year collegiate coaching veteran, he owns a 224-179 record in 13 seasons as a head coach and a 53-44 mark in his third season at CSU, taking seven of his first 12 squads to post-season play. 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 led the Vikings to a 21-13 mark last year, earned his 200th career win on Feb. 23, 2008 when the Vikings defeated Marist.

CSU IN THE NCAA STATS: Senior Cedric Jackson, the Horizon League leader in both assists (5.5) and steals (3.1), ranks fifth nationally in steals and 26th in assists in the latest NCAA statistics, which were released on Monday (March 2). As a team, CSU is in the top 20 nationally in three categories, ranking 11th in steals (9.0), 16th in scoring defense (58.7) and 19th in turnover margin (+3.7).

. . . JACKSON SHARES NATIONAL LEAD IN STEALS: With 98 steals this season, senior Cedric Jackson is tied for the national lead in total steals with VMI's Chavis Holmes. Chicago State's David Holston is third nationally with 91 thefts.

BULLOCK & JACKSON EARN LEAGUE HONORS: Seniors J'Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson were each named to the 2009 All-Horizon League team, which was released on Monday. Bullock earned first team honors for the second straight season while Jackson repeated as a member of the second team. Bullock earns the honor after ranking third in the league in scoring (15.6) and rebounding (7.0) and eighth in free throw percentage (.767). Jackson picks up the award after becoming the fifth player in league history to lead the conference in both assists (5.5) and steals (3.1) while also being the top rebounding guard in the loop (5.6).

. . . AND JACKSON EARNS DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR KUDOS: Senior Cedric Jackson earned an additional league honor, being singled out as the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year in balloting of the league's 10 head coaches. Jackson, who was an all-defensive team choice last year, ranks fifth in the nation in steals this season with a league-record 98, the second-highest single season total in CSU history. He has a steal in all but one game this year, making multiple thefts in 28 of CSU's 32 games. His 98 steals this year and 83 last year are the top two single season steal totals in Horizon League history.

1,000 MINUTE MEN: Cedric Jackson, Norris Cole and J'Nathan Bullock head to Indianapolis for the Horizon League Championship having accomplished something that no Viking trio had ever done. . . each play 1,000 minutes in a season. Jackson leads the way with 1,044 minutes, 27 shy of the CSU single season record of 1,071 minutes set by Theo Dixon in 2000-01 while both Cole (1,033) and Bullock (1,026) each achieved the milestone against Detroit on Tuesday, ranking seventh and ninth, respectively on the single season minutes played chart. The accomplishment is nothing new to Jackson, who played 1,058 minutes last season, the third-highest single season total in school history, with Bullock also playing 1,026 minutes.

. . . AND NOBODY HAS PLAYED MORE THAN BULLOCK: Senior J'Nathan Bullock has definitely made his mark in Viking basketball annals. By playing 34 minutes against Wichita State on Feb. 21, he broke the school record for career minutes played, which was formerly held by James Madison (3,576 from 1996-00). Bullock enters the UIC game with 3,702 career minutes played.

JACKSON REACHES 1,000 POINT MARK: An 11-point effort against Butler on Feb. 28 allowed senior Cedric Jackson to surpass the 1,000 point mark for his collegiate career. He will enter the UIC game with 1,026 career points. A fifth-year senior, Jackson totaled 231 points in his two seasons at St. John's and then scored 473 points in his Viking debut last season. He has 322 points this year, raising his CSU total to 795 points.

VIKINGS SET WOLSTEIN CENTER WIN RECORD: The win over Detroit on Tuesday allowed the Vikings to set the Wolstein Center record with their 13th win in the building this year. With a 13-2 record, CSU surpasses the old mark of 12 wins (12-2 record) set last year. The victory over Detroit was also CSU's 11th straight in the building, an ongoing school record (old record was seven, done three times).

. . . AND BUILDING A HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: When Gary Waters took over as head coach in the spring of 2006, he made note of the team's 5-10 home record the year before and indicated that for the program to succeed, the Wolstein Center would have to become a much more difficult place to play. The Vikings accomplished that goal in 2007-08 when CSU set a school record for wins in a season by going 12-2 in games played in the Wolstein Center. CSU was also 8-1 in league games, falling just short of the perfect 9-0 home league record in 1992-93. With a 13-2 home mark this year (8-1 in league play), CSU is now 25-4 on campus over the last two seasons, a considerable improvement over the 25-42 over the previous five seasons.

20-20: The win over Youngstown State on Feb. 18 allowed the Vikings to claim the seventh 20-win season in school history. More important, combined with the 21 wins last year, CSU has posted back-to-back 20-win campaigns for the first time since the Vikings had four straight 20-win years from 1984-85 to 1987-88.

. . . AND GET NO. 22 VS. DETROIT: The win over Detroit on Tuesday gave the Vikings their 22nd victory of the season, tying for the third-most wins in a season in school history. The school record is 29 wins set in 1985-86 while the 25 victories in 1986-87 is second best. CSU won 22 games in both 1987-88 and 1992-93.

. . . AND VIKINGS GUARANTEE WINNING MARK: With only post-season tournament play left, the Vikings have assured themselves of finishing the season with a winning record. Combined with a 21-13 record last year, it marks the first back-to-back winning seasons since going 16-14 in 1999-00 and 19-13 in 2000-01.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO SHOOTING: The statistic that jumps off the page when talking about the Vikings this year is that CSU is a perfect 20-0 when it shoots a higher field goal percentage than its opponents this year and is just 2-10 when their opponent shoots higher from the field. The lone games that CSU was out-shot in but still managed to win came at Syracuse when the Orange shot .540 (27-50) while the Vikings were just 30-for-68 (.441), and at home against Youngstown State on Feb. 18.

COLE NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sophomore guard Norris Cole was named the Horizon League Men's Basketball Player of the Week on Feb. 16. A native of Dayton, Ohio, he earned the honor after averaging 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in wins over Milwaukee and Green Bay, shooting .522 from the field (12-23), .833 from three-point (5-6) and was a perfect six-for-six from the line. Included in those totals were a career-high matching 21 points against Green Bay, 15 coming in the second half. This is the third time a Viking has been honored this year. J'Nathan Bullock also received the honor twice.

BULLOCK REACHES 1,500 POINTS & 750 BOARDS: A seven-rebound effort against Youngstown State on Feb. 18 allowed senior J'Nathan Bullock to become the first player in school history to score 1,500 points and grab 750 rebounds in a career. Bullock, who started the year as one of 10 players in CSU history to record 1,000 points and 500 rebounds during a career, went over the 1,500-point mark vs. UIC on Jan. 10 and hit the 750-rebound mark against the Penguins. He enters the UIC game ranking fourth in school history with 1,737 points and sixth with 780 rebounds. He will most likely end his career with those same rankings as he needs 209 points and 127 rebounds to move up a spot.

JACKSON ZONES IN ON A TRIPLE-DOUBLE: The Viking basketball program has played 745 games in 78 seasons of basketball and not once during that time has a player recorded a triple-double or double digit totals in three of the five major stat categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots or steals). Cedric Jackson has flirted with the accomplishment several times during his career, but he has never come closer than he did three weeks ago. In the win over Milwaukee (Feb. 12), he needed just one more rebound and one more assist, totaling 11 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Two days later vs. Green Bay, he fell two assists shy, scoring 11 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists.

JACKSON EQUALS ASSIST MARK, EYES STEAL TOTAL: With only post-season play to go in his collegiate career, senior Cedric Jackson is approaching the CSU school records for steals and assists in a season. His eight assists against Detroit allowed him to tie Ken McFadden's school record with 177 assists this year (Jackson also owns the third-highest total of 168, set last year). With 98 steals (5th nationally), Jackson is in second place on the CSU single season, 10 steals ahead of the 88 thefts he had last year and 13 steals behind Kenny Robertson's school record of 111 set in 1988-89.

. . . AND JACKSON OWNS LEAGUE STEAL MARK: With nine steals over the last two games, Cedric Jackson has broken his own Horizon League record with 98 steals this season. He surpassed the 88 steals that he had last year, giving him the top two seasons in conference history.

. . . AND JACKSON HAS DONE IT WITH CONSISTENCY: Jackson's ability to create steals has allowed the senior to enter the Valparaiso game with multiple steals in 54 of the 66 games that he has played in at Cleveland State. Even more impressive is that he has made a steal in all but three of those games. He had his streak of 47 consecutive games with at least one steal snapped in the loss at Wichita State On Feb. 21.

FIELDS PLAYS IN HIS 103RD GAME & SET MARKS: With J'Nathan Bullock on a pace to set the school record for career games played, Renard Fields is also quietly making his mark in the record book. Against Detroit on Tuesday, the senior played in his 103rd game as a Viking, all coming in a reserve role. It is the most games played by a player without a start in school history, more than doubling up the previous high of 50 games set by Walter Evans from 1991-93. Among players who have played in at least 100 games at CSU, Greg Allen previously held the mark for fewest starts with five in 112 career games.

ACCEPTING CHARITY: After ranking second in school history with a .713 team free throw percentage last year, it seemed likely that their performance at the foul line would be a strength again this season. Unfortunately, CSU could manage just .634 shooting from the line in the 13 games before the holiday break, making 137 of its 216 free throws. Since the short break for the holidays however, the Vikings have come back to shoot .733 from the line, making 299 of their 408 free throws. CSU enters the week ranked fifth in the league, shooting .699 (436-624).

. . . AND BULLOCK LEADS THE CHARGE: One of the keys to the improved performance at the foul line as of late for CSU has been the shooting of J'Nathan Bullock. A career .715 shooter going into the year (352-492), Bullock has made 76 of his 93 free throw attempts over the last 15 games (.817) to improve to .767 (125-163) for the season, good for eighth in the Horizon League.

JACKSON DOES THE LITTLE THINGS: When Cedric Jackson's scoring dropped at the start of the season, mostly due to the increased scoring ability of the players around him, head coach Gary Waters could only shake his head when he was asked, "What is wrong with Cedric?" Besides a drop in field goal percentage, there was nothing wrong. Jackson leads the league in assists (5.5) and steals (3.1), is fifth in defensive rebounding (4.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (177 assists, 117 turnovers) and 10th in rebounding (5.6). He is the top rebounding guard in the Horizon League.

BULLOCK RECORDS 101ST CONSECUTIVE START: When J'Nathan Bullock took the court for the Butler game last week, it was his 100th consecutive start, an ongoing school record. The old mark was 86 set by Ken McFadden from 1985-89. The UIC game will be Bullock's 102nd straight start.

. . . AND GAME 126 IS NEXT FOR BULLOCK: When J'Nathan Bullock takes the court for the UIC game, he will set the CSU school record for games played in a career and consecutive games played with 126. He will surpass the mark currently held by both Eddie Bryant and Clinton Ransey with 125 games played from 1983-87.

MONTGOMERY IS READY FOR UIC: Forgive freshman Jeremy Montgomery if he is looking forward to Friday's game against UIC. After all, Montgomery, a native of Chicago who played his prep basketball at Lincoln Park High, has played well in his first two games against the Flames. In the meeting in Cleveland on Jan. 10, he scored nine points, his second-highest scoring total at that point, with a career high five rebounds in CSU's 79-69 win. In his first game at UIC on Feb. 5, he exploded for a career-high 21 point, more than doubling his previous best (10 vs. Toledo). He went seven-for-nine from the field and five-for-seven from three-point, setting new career bests in each category. In two games, he is averaging 15.0 points, shooting .625 from the field (10-16), .667 from three-point (6-9) and .800 from the line (4-5).

HARMON MAKES A BIG DEBUT: In the 21 games since becoming eligible at the semester break, freshman guard Trevon Harmon has averaged 5.1 points, supplying CSU with a much-needed scorer off the bench. On Jan. 8 vs. Loyola, he celebrated his first career start by scoring a career-high 17 points, 14 coming in the first half to help break open the game. On Jan. 3 at Detroit, he scored eight of his 10 points during a decisive 9-1 Viking run in the final five minutes that held off a late Detroit rally. Harmon, a 6-0 guard from Pasadena, Calif., was named the All-CIF Division II Player of the Year as a senior after averaging 28.0 points and 8.0 assists per game.

EVERYTHING STARTS WITH THE D: Keeping to his word, Gary Waters has built the 2008-09 Vikings around defense and the results of late have really been spectacular. CSU has held 17 of its 32 opponents to under 40-percent shooting from the field. In 32 games, only seven teams have shot better than 44-percent from the field.

KEEPING IT TO 50: A better example of how strong the Viking defense has been this year is that CSU has held a school-record 11 opponents to 50 points or less in a game this season, the most since the then Fenn Foxes equaled the accomplishment in both the 1933-34 and 1935-36 seasons. The 40 points scored by Notre Dame College on Dec. 27 was the fewest allowed by CSU since Milwaukee scored just 34 points on Jan. 27, 2001. You'd have to go back to Jan. 11, 1967 (42 seasons) to see another game in which the Vikings allowed fewer points (24-22 win over Walsh). CSU's 58.7 scoring defense is 16th in the nation in the latest NCAA stats.

. . . AND KEEPING IT UNDER 20: Further proof of the success of the CSU defense is that the Vikings have held eight opponents to 20 points or less in the first half of games this season. Toledo was the first team kept under the mark when it scored just 16 points. Valparaiso scored a season-low 14 points on Dec. 2 with Butler tallying just 20 two days later. It has also happened against La Roche (19), Notre Dame College (17), Kent State (17) and Detroit (20). On Jan. 31, Wright State was held to just 17 points in the opening half, including just two over the final nine minutes. CSU is 16-3 in games in which it has either led or been tied at half and is outscoring its opponents by 5.5 points in the first half (32.0-26.5).

GOING FOR A RARE DOUBLE: Senior Cedric Jackson, who is the Horizon League leader in both assists (5.5) and steals (3.1), is attempting to become just the fifth player in league history to accomplish the feat. Jackson's 3.1 steals per game ranks fifth in the nation and is well ahead of Detroit's Woody Payne (2.2) in the league race while his 5.5 assists per contest, good for 27th in the nation, is well ahead of UIC's Spencer Stewart (4.8). 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).

NEXT UP: A victory on Friday night will advance the Vikings to the semi-finals of the Speedway Horizon League Championship, facing second-seeded Green Bay on Saturday (March 7) at 9:00 p.m. in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU.