Continuing to win games when you are going through a rut on one side of the floor is the sign of a veteran squad who knows how to finish when crunch time hits. While the Cleveland State Vikings have not played their best offensively over the last few weeks, they continue to find ways to win league games with their defense and timely scoring. The Vikings currently hold a 0.5 game lead over Oakland in the conference standings following wins over Youngstown State and Robert Morris, two games where CSU’s offensive output was suboptimal at times.
While the Vikings outshot YSU in their rematch at The Wolstein Center, it was 21 Cleveland State turnovers that kept the Penguins in the game. The Vikings showed their depth in this one as both Yahel Hill and Chris Greene came off the bench and poured in 15 and 12 points respectively. Most impressively however, the two combined to shoot 7-11 from beyond the three point arc.
Having the luxury of being able to bring two veteran players like Hill and Greene off the bench is a major credit to Dennis Gates’ recruiting and team building as most teams do not have as many seniors as the Vikings do on their bench bridge. For the Vikings to be still able to come out victorious in a game where Torrey Patton and D’Moi Hodge were held in check by the opposition speaks to the overall will to win that this group has.
Cleveland State’s second rematch of the week came against a undermanned Robert Morris squad that was missing starting guard Cam Ferris. The Vikings very much played down to their competition in the first half, as the Colonials took a five point lead into the halftime break.
Unlike the YSU game where it was the bench that lifted the Vikings, the senior stars took their games to a different level on Sunday afternoon. Patton, Hodge, and Tre Gomillion combined for 62 of Cleveland state’s 75 points which helped propel them to the victory. While the only other scorer of note was Broc Finstuen who finished the game with 9, it was terrific to see the team’s leaders take the game into their own hands. If Cleveland State is going to repeat as conference champions, they will need Patton, Hodge, and Gomillion at their best and we began to see the team break out of their collective offensive funk in the second half against RMU.
In response to the recent offensive struggle, Dennis Gates began to turn to some new faces while searching for scoring. Nate Jack was used over Finstuen and Jayson Woodrich, but Finstuen’s productivity agains Robert Morris should elevate him back into a regular rotational spot. Jack and Woodrich should stay ready, as you never know when Gates will call their number if shots are not falling for the starters. However, Gates would be wise to continue to explore the Finstuen, Patton, Hodge, Gomillion, Johnson lineup that had so much success in the second half against the Colonials on Sunday.
Up next for the Vikings, a pair of tricky road games against Wright State and Northern Kentucky. Wright State is currently in third place in the Horizon League as the Raiders are playing much better basketball than they were when they made the trip to Cleveland earlier this year.