Despite recent setbacks, Vikings’ goals still in reach

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Following a three-game win streak that included victories over Wright State, Purdue Fort Wayne and IUPUI, Cleveland State took to the road for their annual Michigan trip to battle Detroit Mercy and Oakland. Unfortunately for the Vikings, this particular road trip has presented its challenges in the past, and they once again reared their ugly heads in both ballgames which resulted in two very different kinds of losses. While both defeats sting equally, a response from Cleveland State is sorely needed in their final home stand of the season.

Detroit Mercy has always been a house of horrors for Cleveland State, having only come out victorious a handful of times in the years of battles at Calihan Hall. After complaining about a lack of free throws publicly on social media, Detroit star guard Antoine Davis toasted the Vikings with 35 points including 12/13 from the free throw line. Unlike their matchup in Cleveland, the Vikings has zero answers for Davis defensively as their ultra aggressive style of play was under the microscope from the officiating crew. The Vikings also left twelve points of their own at the free throw line, only converting 50% of their own foul shots, something that has hurt the Vikings in losses all season.

Thursday’s 85-67 defeat at Detroit was a letdown from a CSU that has been playing in very competitive games as of late. Saturday’s loss to Oakland however was of a completely different nature and has the Vikings extremely eager for their next contest on Friday against Robert Morris.

The Vikings had a 16-point lead nearly half way into the second half on Saturday, before the Grizzlies made a furious comeback behind the efforts of Jalen Moore, Trey Townsend, and Blake Lampman, each of whom scored over 20 points on the game. What made Oakland’s comeback even more impressive is they did so without starting guard Rocket Watts, who played just eighteen minutes due to a nagging injury. CSU clung to a lead late, but once Deshon Parker fouled out for the Vikings, Oakland was able to seize momentum heading into overtime, and did not look back in a 92-89 Grizzlies victory. Tristan Enrauna poured in 25 points in addition to his eight rebounds and five assists, while Jayson Woodrich had one of his best games of the season with 17 points off the bench.

Following a loss of this magnitude, it is always fascinating to see how a group responds in their following game. With Parker being forced to sit in the final minutes of regulation and overtime due to fouling out, Saturday most certainly leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of both him and the coaching staff. However, with key conference battles remaining against Northern Kentucky, Milwaukee, and Youngstown State, everything Cleveland State has played for all season is still in front of them. Home floor in the second round of the conference tournament is still very much in the cards as the Vikings currently hold that last spot in fourth place as of February 6th. As the regular season winds down and games become increasingly important, it will be critical that coaches and veterans do not allow a hangover after these last two losses, as the Vikings’ preseason goals are still very much attainable.

Up next for the Vikings, two weekend home battles against both Robert Morris and Youngstown State on Friday and Sunday. Tip-off for both games are scheduled for 7pm and 1pm respectively at The Wolstein Center.

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