Destiny Leo bucketed 31 points, matching her season high, while every one of Leo’s available teammates joined her on the scoresheet, as Cleveland State wrecked Detroit Mercy 107-65 in Detroit’s Calihan Hall on Thursday night.
CSU started the game on a 23-4 run and, other than a couple brief moments of Titans pushback, never needed to check the rearview mirror en route to the team’s 18th victory of the season, against three losses. The Vikings’ Horizon League record is now 9-2, good for a three-way tie for first place, after 15-0 and 13-0 second-half runs jacked the margin over UDM up from 18 early in the third quarter to 45 by the waning stages of the match.
Collectively, Cleveland State shot a blazing 61.3 percent from the floor, with nine different Vikings topping 50 percent individually. Amele Ngwafang scored 16 points and added a CSU-best nine rebounds, Gabriella Smith and Brittni Moore each fired home 11, while Jordana Reisma added ten.
The Vikings forced 25 Detroit Mercy turnovers, 14 of them through steals (paced by Sara Guerreiro’s four), leading to 37 points. CSU outscored the Titans in the paint by a 54-16 count and 21-2 on fast breaks, numbers that also reflect the squad’s ability to turn opponents over and get down the floor quickly.
“We did a lot of really good things on both ends of the floor. We’re still making a lot of defensive mistakes, they shot the ball too well from the three-point line, we’ve gotta get that fixed,” Cleveland State head coach Chris Kielsmeier said, referencing Detroit Mercy’s nine triples in the contest, part of a respectable offensive output by the Titans.
“There’s certainly a lot of things that we can get better with, but I’m very, very proud of our players’ efforts tonight. We played hard and with a lot of passion, and showed who we really are.”
The blowout came just four days after what could fairly be considered the nadir of Cleveland State’s season so far, a low-energy 73-69 loss at Northern Kentucky on Sunday, though the Vikings showed no ill effects from that disappointment.
“We rested on Monday, because these trips are hard,” Kielsmeier said. “When you go on Friday-Sunday, it just drags them out even longer. So I think a quick turnaround was really what this team needed. We watched a ton of film on Tuesday, we were only on the court for an hour and 15 minutes, and we were on the court [Wednesday] for about an hour and 15 minutes, so it’s not like we did a lot internally in between the lines to fix anything.”
Though the Vikings didn’t do anything “internally in between the lines,” Kielsmeier admitted that he might have made a different kind of internal adjustment.
“I don’t know that I did the best job I could’ve done last week, and no matter how long you’ve been doing this, you’re constantly challenged in this business,” he said. “I was disappointed with my own personal performance last week, so I wanted to do better this week.”
The victory was the 500th of Kielsmeier’s career, as his 84th win at Cleveland State followed 179 at Division III’s Howard Payne and 237 at Wayne State (NE) during a professional run that started in the 2000-01 season. Coaches are often dismissive of milestones in the immediate moment, but CSU’s fifth-year bench boss said that this one hit him a little bit differently.
“I’ve had some significant wins from a milestone perspective,” he said. “I don’t know that any of them have meant a lot leading up to it, I think they mean something after you’ve done it and you reflect on it, but this one kind of meant a lot leading up to it once I found out that it was getting close.”
“It meant a lot because I reflected so much on the past 23 years, all the players that you’ve coached and hopefully impacted, all of the staff members and administration that you’ve worked with, my brother [Kelly], who’s been with me for a lot of these, my family, you just have a flood of emotions.”
Kielsmeier will shoot for win number 501 when the Vikings travel up I-75 to take on Oakland on Saturday afternoon. The opening tip from OU’s Athletics Center O’rena is scheduled for 2:00 P.M.
“We’ve gotta show that we can stack these days and stack these games,” Kielsmeier said.