Vikings win four straight with bench and defense

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After a disappointing beginning to their 2022-2023 campaign, the Cleveland State Vikings have rebounded to win four straight heading into their first two conference games of the season this week.

The Vikings earned Daniyal Robinson’s first career victory as a head coach in a rematch from last year against Canisius. While it took overtime to earn the 58-57 win, CSU showcased their defensive abilities all game long, holding Canisius to 36% shooting from the field. CSU junior Tae Williams was especially lethal on defense, as the junior college transfer recorded four steals on the night. Defense will continue to be the backbone of this Vikings team as we near conference play as they have the athletes to make offense sets uncomfortable for opposing teams.

The Vikings followed up their performance against Canisius with another stout defensive effort against Arkansas Pine Bluff. Pine Bluff was able to shoot just 32% from the field against the Vikings, as CSU was able to play from in front for a majority of the contest. It was also Cleveland State’s most balanced scoring night of the young season, as the Vikings bench poured in 28 points collectively on the night, led by Jayson Woodrich’s 12 points.

CSU continued their winning ways on Thanksgiving Eve in a 77-63 victory over Chicago State for their third victory in a row. While Wednesday was not their most efficient game defensively, the Vikings’ offense carried them as they shot over 50% from the field on the game. Tristan Enaruna led the way with 14 but it was the combined 22 points from Woodrich and Drew Lowder off the bench that proved to be the difference for Cleveland State. The three point shooting these two have provided on the winning streak have been paramount to CSU’s recent successes as they have the ability to space the floor for drives from Parker, Williams, Hill, and Enaruna. This win was significant because the Vikings earned the victory on a night where their defense was not as good as it has been in games prior. Winning in different ways will be crucial once conference play begins and teams have more of a familiarity with what CSU is trying to accomplish.

The Vikings’ final tune up before jumping into conference play came against Western Michigan of the Mid American Conference. CSU was able to carry their momentum into Kalamazoo as they throttled the Broncos 71-49. Lowder led the way for Cleveland State off the bench with 15 points. The Vikings connected on ten three pointers on Saturday afternoon, their highest mark of the season so far. The wire to wire victory not only showcased a prolific offensive attack, but CSU’s defense got back to their identity as they held the Broncos to just over 37% shooting from the field.

Bench production was severely lacking through the first three ballgames for Cleveland State. However, as guys become more familiar with their roles on a new team, bench scoring has begun to stabilize for CSU on this winning streak. Notable bench pieces include Woodrich, Lowder, JaMir Price, Ramar Pryor, and Cole Middleton.

When asked about the bench production following the Chicago State win, Robinson stated, “Those guys are coming along. It’s due to how they practice every day. Their confidence comes from the habits they build every day in practice, and as a result of that, those guys have been playing well…it’s great to see the bench developing.”

The bench will need to continue their scoring streak as CSU hosts both Oakland and Detroit Mercy this week on Thursday and Saturday for their first two Horizon League contests of the season. Tip off on Thursday against the Golden Grizzlies is scheduled for 7pm.

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