Preseason expectations do not always reflect reality in college and professional sports. This year’s Cleveland State Vikings men’s basketball team is once again proving that theory to be true. Picked to finish seventh in the Horizon League standings before the start of the season, the Vikings currently sit in a four-way tie for first place atop a very competitive conference. Following a pair of critical road victories including one against the preseason favorite to represent the league in the NCAA Tournament, the Vikings are riding a wave of confidence and momentum that will look to propel them on the remainder of this lengthy road trip.
CSU’s dismantling of IUPUI, followed by a decisive win at Purdue Fort Wayne, feels like it could be a turning point of the season for a Cleveland State team that is beginning to find itself on the offensive end. While Tristan Enaruna has taken his game to another level the last few weeks, his breakout performance came most recently against Purdue Fort Wayne. Enaruna put up a massive stat line of 24 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks against the Mastodons. Unlocking Enaruna’s best self on the offensive end will be crucial going forward as CSU has the depth behind him to put up gaudy offensive numbers as a team.
When asked what has been the biggest key to Enaruna’s recent surge, Daniyal Robinson credited his work ethic and overall dedication to not only the game, but the program in general. The Vikings will hopefully have another year with the impressive forward as he is only a Junior. He will certainly become a household name to fans around the Horizon League as his impact on winning has been stellar.
Enaruna is not the only Junior making an impact on the Vikings’ recent successes, but Tae Williams and Drew Lowder have both been integral pieces to CSU’s success as of late. Williams’ speed with the ball in his hands is elite for the Horizon League as his quick first step oftentimes leaves defenders in the dust. Additionally, his defensive abilities have been put on full display as of late as he held PFW’s leading scorer Jarred Godfrey to just 12 points and zero in the second half. Not only is Williams thriving in Cleveland State’s defensive system, but his offensive game is making strides as well as he is being put in the position to make quick and decisive plays with the ball in his hands.
Drew Lowder has been a sixth man extraordinaire for the Vikings this season, as he leads the team in three point percentage at nearly 36%. Not only does Lowder need only one shot to go in to get himself going, but he takes and converts on shots of extreme difficulty on a near per game basis. Early in the season, the Vikings were desperate for an outside shooting punch and Lowder has provided that and then some in large moments for CSU.
Up next for the Vikings, two more games on their four game road trip that carry massive implications in the Horizon League standings. First up, a battle with fellow 6-2 squad Northern Kentucky on Thursday, followed by a trip to the Nutter Center to battle Wright State on Saturday. Tip off for both games is scheduled for 7pm.