Coming off of a historic loss at the hands of Ohio University, Cleveland State was searching for answers. In a week with limited preparation due to final exams, the Vikings were left with an extremely tall task on Sunday afternoon; a tilt with in state giant Ohio State and Chris Holtmann’s Buckeyes, the 22nd ranked team in the country.
Both teams were missing arguably their best players, as the Vikings were once again without the services of Algevon Eichelberger for the third straight game with a foot sprain, and the Buckeyes were missing E.J. Liddell, who is out indefinitely with a non COVID-19 related illness.
Despite a slow shooting start from the Vikings, Cleveland State was able to keep the game close throughout. Junior college transfers D’Moi Hodge and Chris Greene led Cleveland State with fourteen and twelve points respectively. Torrey Patton also contributed with eight points and fourteen rebounds. While the Vikings were able to give the Buckeyes all they could handle in the second half, the veteran led Buckeyes proved to be too much, in a 67-61 ballgame.
With the loss, the Vikings conclude the non conference portion of their schedule with an 0-3 record. Despite this, there are multiple positives to take away from the opening slate of games. Firstly, the Vikings out rebounded their opponent in two of the three games to start the season.
This is especially impressive, considering they are without the presence of last season’s rebounding leader Eichelberger. Junior Deante Johnson has stepped up in Eichelberger’s absence, averaging seven rebounds per contest through three games. Another positive was the improved game Sunday from D’Moi Hodge, who made his debut in the team’s second game against Ohio University. Hodge has great scoring potential, and for the Vikings to make a jump once league play begins, he will have to continue to show flashes like he did against the Buckeyes.
One area in which the Vikings will need to greatly improve on the defensive end will be defending without fouling. The Vikings have gotten in foul trouble in their two close games this season, an area that can greatly hinder who is on the floor when the game matters most.
When asked about defending without fouling, Coach Gates stated, “It’s a sign of a young team versus an experienced team (Ohio State). We just gotta continue to watch film. It’s part of the process. We’re in the infant stages of our growth and our team’s gotta learn how to play without fouling…This is a category that is common, especially at all levels that carries over and shows how young you really are.” This is an area that if the Vikings improve, they showed on Sunday against Ohio State they can be more than capable on the defensive end.
Up next for Cleveland State, a pair of road games against Horizon League newcomer Robert Morris on December 19th and 20th. The Colonials have played just one game this season due to COVID-19 related issues, yet CSU head coach Dennis Gates is preparing as if the games will be played according to schedule.