Vikings make history versus Norse

Cleveland State celebrates their historic start to conference play.

The Cleveland State Vikings came into this past weekend’s set against Northern Kentucky with history on their minds. CSU needed a victory in game one to tie their best start to Horizon League play in program history at 7-0. The original record was set by the 2007-2008 Vikings.

However, fast-forward thirteen years, and CSU is winning with depth and defense, two points of emphasis that were on full display in game one versus the Norse.

In what was their most dominate defensive outing of the season, the Vikings held the Northern Kentucky to just under 28% from the field as a team in Friday’s 58-44 victory. While CSU’s full court press only resulted in twelve turnovers in game one, it certainly made the Norse uncomfortable after CSU made baskets.

Despite NKU junior Trevon Faulkner leading all scorers with 17 points on the night, CSU’s bench overpowered the Norse’s bench by the score of 20-6. Cleveland State continues to showcase their depth, as only two players clocked in at over 30 minutes of game action in the first contest versus the Norse.

Additionally, senior Torrey Patton continues to be a steadying force for the Vikings, as he led the way with 14 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Patton has been Cleveland State’s most consistent offensive producer so far this season, recording double digit scoring efforts in every single Horizon League game for CSU.

One area of concern for the Vikings in game one was finishing defensive possessions with a rebound. The Norse accumulated 18 offensive rebounds on Friday night, a season high for any Viking opponent this year. While CSU did a better job of rebounding in the second half of game one against NKU, Coach Gates made defensive rebounding a point of emphasis going into game two.

Game two of the weekend series was perhaps the most anxiety producing CSU contest of the season thus far. For the first time this year, 40 minutes was not enough time to decide a Cleveland State basketball game. Despite a much better shooting night from Northern Kentucky, the Vikings were able to force 19 turnovers, including seven from leading scorer Trevon Faulkner, en route to a 74-71 overtime victory.

CSU benefited greatly from key contributions by freshman Alec Oglesby, who poured in a season high 17 points, including five three pointers. Once again, the Viking bench provided significant relief for the starters, as they outscored the Norse bench 29-14 in game two.

In addition to Oglesby, senior point guard Craig Beaudion deserves special recognition for his performance on Saturday. The Chicago native scored 14 points, dished out six assists, and was a nuisance defensively with five steals.

There are multiple reasons to be extremely optimistic about the direction this program this going down. First and foremost, the Vikings have the type of team where nearly anyone can lead them in scoring on a given night. They have plenty of capable players on their bench, including a few freshman that see minutes in Jayson Woodrich, Alec Oglesby, and Demetrius “Meechie” Terry.

Additionally, Gates truly has his team buying into the one game at a time mantra, something that has been crucial for the development of the program. When asked about the challenges presented when conveying that message to a young team like this one, Gates stated, “I think it’s very easy for us. We’re connected, and that’s part of our strength. We’re very unselfish, we sacrifice and have been sacrificing for a long time.

“We started building onto this season as soon as we got word of a pandemic and a shutdown,” Gates added. “We had meetings every day on Zoom, we had office hours on Zoom, we had team functions on Zoom…we all wanted to make sure that we locked arms together and whatever the future was gonna throw at us we were gonna be prepared for it…it speaks to the friendships that our guys have.”

Not only is Gates’ squad connected on the floor, but they seemingly are off the floor as well, something that is vital for a championship contending team.

Cleveland State is off to its best start to Horizon League play in program history with an 8-0 mark, matched only by the 14-0 start it got during the 1992-93 campaign, when CSU was a part of the Mid-Continent Conference. The Vikings will look to make it 9-0 this Friday, as they travel to Dayton to take on Horizon League power Wright State. Tip-off for game one of the weekend double header is scheduled for 7:00pm and will be broadcast live on ESPNU.

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