Vikings get back on track; sweep Wisconsin trip

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Photo courtesy of csuvikings.com

In their most recent stretch of games, the CSU Vikings faced a stern test, despite the respective records of the opposition. It had not been since Norris Cole’s senior year that the Vikings swept the Wisconsin trip, as the vaunted journey north has proven too difficult for even the most well polished Viking teams of recent memory. However, this year’s senior laden squad was up for the challenge, as CSU successfully swept two games on the road against Milwaukee and Green Bay. While both Wisconsin schools are down this year in terms of and overall records, winning conference games on the road has proven to be a difficult task for even the most balanced squads. 

Leading up to last Friday’s clash with Milwaukee, the Vikings stopped in Chicago on the way for some team building and sight seeing. Being able to provide those opportunities to the players is a major positive at this point in the season, as both minds and bodies can be vulnerable to wearing down. With a renewed sense of focus following the triple overtime loss to Purdue Fort Wayne, the Vikings put together a dominant first half against the Panthers and did not look back in a 78-61 victory. There were several notable performances from the Wisconsin trip, but the team MVP from the last two contests is unquestionably Tre Gomillion. The senior played a complete game on both ends in back to back ballgames, starting with a 20 point, five rebound, three assist outburst in Milwaukee. Perhaps most importantly however, the Vikings shot 24-30 as a team from the free throw line, something that has been an ongoing issue for the group as a whole.

Anderson Mirambeaux seems to be turning the corner offensively for the Vikings, as evident by his performance against the Panthers. The junior college transfer had his most productive game of the season, as he amassed six points, 10 big rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block in 15 minutes of action. While the big man’s minutes have been limited this year due to the sheer depth of the team, he has gotten more run in recent games for the exception of Sunday against Green Bay. Mirambeaux should remain around the 10-15 minute per game mark, as his passing and rebounding give the Vikings another dimension to their offensive attack. As seen in the Milwaukee game, the Vikings often utilized an active zone defense, which allowed Mirambeaux to play a role where he did not have to exert a ton of energy on the defensive end. Perhaps this could be a strategy going forward as he continues to become comfortable with the pace of the division one game.

Sunday afternoon’s tilt with a young Green Bay squad saw the Vikings fend off a very hungry Phoenix squad that offered up a tremendous effort. However, Gomillion was once again too much to handle, as the senior turned his perhaps his best offensive game of the season. He scored 27 points on a tremendous 11-13 shooting from the field. Last year’s conference defensive player of the year paced the Vikings to a sizzling 62.5% shooting as a team on the game. Yahel Hill also was crucial in CSU’s winning effort, as he dropped in 15 points off the bench. Despite only converting on three triples as a team, CSU was able to get whatever they wanted on the offensive end on Sunday.

It was refreshing to see the Vikings come out with tenacity and aggression and do whatever was needed to gain the victory following an exhilarating triple overtime loss to Purdue Fort Wayne. While the competition last weekend was not in the upper echelon of the league, getting back to the Vikings’ winning ways was pivotal in hopes of maintaining their lead in the Horizon League standings. With their two victories over the weekend, CSU did clinch the one seed in the conference tournament, and at least a share of the regular season league crown as their lead currently sits at two games with two left to play. Up next for the Vikes, the final two regular season games of the season with games at Detroit and Oakland. These two contests will provide the Vikings with an excellent opportunity to fine tune some things in preparation for the tournament without an immense amount of pressure on them. Tipoff for Thursday’s clash with Detroit is scheduled for 7pm, while the Oakland game is set for Saturday at 3pm.

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