Strange as it may seem following the 107-61 loss to Florida International, Cleveland State has bounced back to win three consecutive games. Road victories over UNC-Wilmington and Eastern Kentucky, combined with an energetic 70-59 win on Saturday night against Robert Morris, have the Vikings sitting at the .500 mark with a 4-4 record.
It’s possible that this may be the high-water mark for CSU. After all, the Vikings were the consensus choice to finish in the Horizon League basement. And with a trio of MAC opponents—Toledo, Kent, and Bowling Green—coming up next, the win streak may be a distant memory by next week. But let’s enjoy it while we can.
Coach Dennis Gates employed an interesting lineup vs. the Colonials. I’m calling it “Big Al & the Amigos.” Junior post Algevon Eichelberger was at most times the only Viking on the floor taller than 6-4. Definitely a bit odd, but CSU made it work with a great amount of hustle (and willingness to hit the boards) by everyone in the game.
The four “amigos” on Saturday were senior Kasheem Thomas, juniors Craig Beaudion and Franklyn Penn, and sophomore Tre Gomillion. This group combined for 43 points and 17 rebounds. Just as important was their hustle on defense. RMU was held to 40% shooting and held only a slight rebounding edge (30-29) despite having the height advantage the entire game.
But let us sing the praises of Big Al. Injuries forced him to miss a couple of early season games, but he seemed to be moving well on Saturday. His stat line: 21 points (including 11 for 12 at the free throw line!), 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. And despite logging a team-high 35 minutes, he was only whistled for two fouls.
Midway through the second half, Coach Gates observed Eichelberger was just about out of air, gas, and oil and got him a few critical minutes of rest. But he returned for the stretch run as CSU won going away.
“Big Al & the Amigos” was a smash hit against the Colonials. But the Vikings will definitely need future contributions from injured frontcourt players Jaalam Hill and Torrey Patton if they expect to keep hearing positive reviews. The show must go on…right?