The Cleveland State Vikings are no strangers to conference foe Purdue Fort Wayne, as the two squads played a total of five games during the ever bizarre season of 2020-21. As the Horizon League and the rest of the nation is continuing to deal with the ramifications of the pandemic, schools must be flexible when scheduling games as seasons are being put on pause due to positive test results around the league.
As a result of positive cases within the UIC and IUPUI programs, Cleveland State was in need of a game following the conclusion of their own COVID-19 pause. Luckily for the Vikings, Purdue Fort Wayne was able to make an additional trip to Cleveland for a December 30th clash before the two team’s scheduled contest on January 5th.
The two games between the Vikings and Mastodons this season could not have been more different from a stylistic standpoint. While the matchup on the 30th was an up and down offensive clinic from both sides, the rematch was a game that Dennis Gates revealed postgame felt a lot like a game that the Vikings will play late in the season, as defense reigned supreme. With that being said, here are some takeaways from Cleveland State’s pair of victories over Purdue Fort Wayne.
- Torrey Patton has fully bought into a fast paced offensive scheme that utilizes the pass as well as any team in the Horizon League, as evident by his performances as of late. Most notably, Patton was sensational in Cleveland State’s first game against Fort Wayne as he led all scorers with 21 points, in addition to ten rebounds, eight assists, and two steals.
While it might be odd to say a first team all conference performer has improved his game immensely in the later stages of his career, it is indeed true in Patton’s case as his anticipation and vision as a ball handler and passer have taken a leap and he is now amongst a plethora of playmakers who can all handle the ball in big spots for the Vikings. Assistant coach and “offensive coordinator” Rob Summers deserves immense credit for his work on Cleveland State’s consistent ball and player movement.
- Tre Gomillion has developed an outside shot, something that is bad news for the rest of the Horizon League as he too is showing more comfortability with the ball in his hands as both a scorer and facilitator. The senior averaged 20 points in the two games against Fort Wayne, shooting 3/4 from behind the three point arc. The three ball is not something that has been a major weapon for Gomillion in his first few seasons with the Vikings, but he has gotten more comfortable letting it fly from deep in recent weeks.
Following the second victory over Fort Wayne, Gomillion stated, “I struggled nonconference wise with it, (three point shooting) but I kept going, Coach Gates kept that confidence in me…just kept shooting with confidence.” In terms of his versatility on both ends of the floor Gomillion exclaimed, “I might be 6-3, but I feel like I play 6-9. It doesn’t seem like anybody has taken advantage of that so I think we’re gonna keep with it.”
The reigning defensive player of the year in the Horizon League certainly presents problems for opponents with his tenacity and ability to guard multiple positions. The evolution of his offensive game makes the Vikings even more dangerous as conference play continues to heat up.
- As previously mentioned, the two victories over Purdue Fort Wayne were stylistically very different basketball games. With the Vikings winning both of these contests, it further exemplifies that Cleveland State can win games in that are both shootouts and defensive slugfests.
This is a sign worthy of excitement for a team that has championship aspirations in the Horizon League. It should not come as a surprise however, as a team with NCAA Tournament experience should be able to be flexible in terms of style, however Dennis Gates especially highlighted the second game versus Fort Wayne as the type of game the Vikings will encounter again down the line, perhaps in the Horizon League tournament.
- One again, it is worth nothing how impactful the Cleveland State bench brigade has been, as a pair of scorers had impactful performances against the Mastodons. While the ever steady Broc Finstuen was his efficient self in game one, he was unable to find his rhythm in the rematch.
When Finstuen struggles, Gates normally turns to Jayson Woodrich for offensive production, and delivered with twelve points in game two, good enough for second on the team. Woodrich’s minutes have been up and down this season due to the seniority of some of his teammates. Despite this, Woodrich has already had multiple memorable games as he has truly bought into his role and stays ready whenever his number is called.