If Cleveland State wants to take the next step as a program and constantly compete against the upper echelon teams in the Horizon League, they will have the get through the juggernaut that is Wright State.
The Raiders have won 20 games in each of the last five seasons, led by three time Horizon League coach of the year Scott Nagy. Despite their past success, Wright State has been vulnerable so far this year, dropping league games to both Youngstown State and Oakland in contests that were deemed major upsets.
Cleveland State’s defensive pressure was the major storyline from game one of the weekend doubleheader. The Vikings forced the veteran led Raiders to 17 turnovers in Friday night’s game, which included 13 Cleveland State steals. In a low scoring slugfest that went down to the final seconds, the Vikings were aided by a game winning ally-oop from D’Moi Hodge to Deante Johnson on a fast break. Led by senior Torrey Patton who scored 17 points, the Vikings stunned Wright State 66-64.
Patton is not only Cleveland State’s leading scorer this year at just under 12 points per game, but he is the Vikings’ leading rebounder as well at just under eight per contest.
Following Friday’s last second victory, Coach Gates praised Patton’s efforts when he stated, “Torrey Patton was doing this last season if you recall. His last 4/5 games he averaged 19 points and eight rebounds, and he had this entire offseason to reflect on what his goal was in terms of how he felt. He did not receive any postseason recognition and he really felt a way about it…at this point Torrey is playing like a man on a mission, he’s carrying our program even in the up and downs.”
As was in the case in Wright State’s other conference losses this year, they followed it up with a near flawless performance. The Raiders came out in game two of the weekend series the far more desperate team, as they felt pressure to keep up with the Vikings in the standings.
Nearly everything that could go wrong for the Vikings did indeed go wrong in Saturday’s 85-49 loss; CSU’s first conference loss of the season. Cleveland State’s defensive pressure that controlled the game on Friday resulted 35 Viking fouls and 48 Wright State free throw attempts. The Raiders also limited the duo of Patton and Hodge to just two combined points in Saturday’s game. Junior college transfer Yahel Hill was the lone Viking to finish in double figures with 11 points on the night.
When asked following the conclusion of game two on how confident he was regarding his team’s ability to “respond like champions” in Cleveland State’s next weekend series versus Milwaukee, Gates stated, “We’re only as good as our last game. I’m gonna look at that film, evaluate it, and make sure our teams grows. That’s the most important thing we gotta grow from and learn as we faced a team today that was really well prepared.”
Vikings fans should feel confident in Gates’ ability to refocus his team, as he was able to successfully do so following a bad loss earlier in the year against Ohio University.
Even with Saturday’s loss, CSU still maintains a two game lead on Wright State in the Horizon League standings. The Vikings will look to get the bad tastes out of their mouths on Friday and Saturday versus Milwaukee. Tipoff for game one is scheduled for Friday night at 9:00pm Eastern.