Vikings begin season with three-game skid

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Inconsistency has been the largest issue for the Cleveland State Vikings through their first week of action which has resulted in an 0-3 record through the first three contests in Daniyal Robinson’s tenure.

The year got off to a sour start in the season opener where the Vikings fell to Cleveland division II school Notre Dame College. The Vikings’ inability to slow down the pair of starting guards for the Falcons, who combined for 40 of the team’s 72 points, was their downfall on opening night in addition to a lack of consistent floor spacing on the offensive end. Cleveland State’s starting lineup in the front court includes a pair of non three point shooters in Spider Johnson and Tae Williams, and one willing shooter in Tristan Enaruna who has yet to find his rhythm from deep. This allows for opposing defenses to collapse their defense into the paint which makes things difficult for CSU’s guards offensively as there is limited room to operate.

To the credit of the Viking guards, Deshon Parker has been the Vikings’ most consistent playmaker so far on the young season as he currently sits tenth in the nation with over seven assists per contest. This is even more impressive considering CSU’s lack of outside scoring thus far, as a majority of his assists have come off of drives and dump offs to the big men. It is imperative for Cleveland State to manufacture some three point attempts and conversions as once conference play begins, oppositions will be able to key in on the Vikings’ weaknesses and put them in uncomfortable situations.

It was not all bad for Cleveland State during their first week of play, as they traveled to University of Cincinnati and gave the Bearcats all they could handle for a majority of the ballgame on Thursday night. One too many offensive lulls did the Vikings in during the 69-58 loss, but they showcased their defensive potential against the Bearcats holding them to under 40% shooting from the field for the game. As the Vikings continue to develop offensive continuity, their defense will need to carry them in most games and it did so until the final few minutes against Cincinnati. Tristan Enaruna and Spider Johnson led the way for CSU in the stern road test with fifteen and twelve points respectively.

Unfortunately for Cleveland State, a quick turnaround against Ohio University on Saturday afternoon proved to be too much as their defensive intensity took a step back in an 81-70 loss at the hands of the Bobcats for the third year in a row. The Vikings allowed OU to shoot 52% from the field and a staggering 54.5% from behind the arc. Cleveland State as currently constructed is going to have a hard time keeping up offensively with teams that are shooting three pointers at a high volume and percentage.

The 0-3 start for the Vikings is certainly less than ideal, however the senior leaders on this team are tasked with relaying to the younger players that the college basketball season is very much a marathon, not a sprint. When asked about this very topic following the loss to Notre Dame College, senior captain and point guard Deshon Parker stated, “It’s a long, long season. That was kinda my message after the game. It hurts, let it hurt, let it sting a little bit. But it’s a long season and we’ll go back and cut up the film and look at what we did, but that’s the game of basketball…but we can’t dwell on it.”

Certainly the Vikings came out with a healthy mindset following the Notre Dame College loss. It will be again up to the seniors and coaching staff to help right the ship as the season continues into its second week. Up next for the Cleveland State, a road contest versus Canisius on Wednesday, the final of the three-game trip before CSU returns home to face off with Arkansas Pine Bluff on Friday.

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