After a disappointing end to the regular season where Cleveland State dropped their final two road games against Detroit Mercy and Oakland, the Vikings rebounded with a quarterfinal home victory in a highly unusual contest against Robert Morris. To get to Cleveland, the Colonials upset Youngstown State in the first round on the road, as RMU was riding a wave of momentum they had not experienced yet this season. Despite this, the Vikings were able to prevail in front of one of their largest crowds of the season 83-67. The Vikings were led by their three senior leaders, as Torrey Patton poured in 25 points in addition to six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. D’Moi Hodge pitched in with 15 points, four assists, and three steals. Finally, Tre Gomillion added 13 points of his own. While it was a very efficient offensive performance from the Vikings, this unfortunately was not the major talking point from Thursday night.
The clock and scoreboard issues which caused six different first half delays significantly impacted the flow of the game in front of an extremely large crowd for a Cleveland State game. After multiple lengthy delays, the decision was made to use a small scoreboard at the scorers table as opposed to continuing to tinker with the main scoreboard. This was extremely difficult for many fans in the arena to see, resulting in the PA announcer reading score and time throughout the contest. To say this was distracting from an analytical perspective is an understatement, as time had to be dedicated towards figuring out what the score was. While this was the first issue of its kind at the Wolstein Center this year, clock issues have plagued other Horizon League schools this season, specifically Oakland. To have these types of problems pop up consistently reflects poorly on the Horizon League as a whole, so steps will need to be taken to upgrade technology if need be.
Looking ahead for the Vikings, they will face off for the third time this season with the Wright State Raiders on Monday night, with a trip to the conference title game on the line. The Vikings defeated the Raiders at CSU in early December 85-75, and again at the Nutter Center in late January 71-67. While it is very difficult to beat a good team like the Raiders three times in one season, the Vikings have the championship experience and DNA, unlike Wright State who has floundered in recent postseason tournaments. The Raiders will look to right the wrongs of previous recent years where they missed out on Indianapolis altogether, while Cleveland State is looking to make back to back appearances in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.
With fans back in the stands for this year’s Horizon League semi finals and finals, a major key to Monday’s contest between CSU and Wright State is who will handle the environment in a healthier manor. In their two regular season meetings, the Vikings forced close to 20 turnovers per game on average as the Vikings’ pressure defense caused the Raiders to make poor decisions with the basketball. If the Raider players are at all overwhelmed by the moment, especially early in the game, look for Cleveland State to try and take advantage by creating turnovers and transition offense. Additionally, if the Vikings can get contributions off the bench from either Woodrich, Finstuen, or Yahel Hill it would significantly increase their chances of victory, as one has to predict that the “big three” of Patton, Hodge, and Gomillion will all each show up with their collective “A game” on the big stage. Tip off for Monday’s semi-final between the Vikings and Raiders is scheduled for 7pm. The game will be televised on ESPNU.