Daytona Beach — As the eyes of the college basketball world were on the NCAA Tournament, two Horizon League coaches had a day they would never forget in the CBI. Both Cleveland State head coach Daniyal Robinson and Milwaukee head coach Bart Lundy made their DI head coaching postseason debuts and had to scrap hard for their results.
In the opener, Daniyal Robinson led Cleveland State to its third postseason appearance in as many seasons.
It wasn’t the best of starts for the Vikings, as everything was going Eastern Kentucky’s way, including pace.
They picked up their intensity and owned the pace of play for the rest of the first half, leading by two at the break. Cleveland State would continue that control, holding leads of as many as ten until the final media timeout of the second half. It was at that last timeout that Eastern Kentucky head coach A.W. Hamilton made some adjustments, and shifted the game.
“It was just down to the last media. We were in control until the last media. Every team that’s playing in the postseason right now is very good. So, they kept coming, they trapped, they made some adjustments,” Robinson said postgame. “The momentum swung their way and that carried into overtime.”
Eastern Kentucky would tie it up at 74 and force that overtime. In the extra frame, the Vikings could get much going. The Colonels won it by a score of 17-1, ending Robinson’s successful first season with a 21-14 record.
Impressive for a program that lost pretty much their whole team via the transfer portal to Missouri and was picked seventh in the preseason poll.
“It speaks to the character of the kids that we have in our program. We have a ton of guys that have a chip on their shoulder, hadn’t been proven. They all came together and bought in to what our coaches asked them to do,” said Robinson.
In the nightcap, another Horizon League head coach made his D-I postseason debut in Milwaukee’s Bart Lundy.
The Panthers had a tough task ahead of them, facing a Stetson program that played this game only 22 miles away from campus and shot for the first time on that court on 20 minutes before tip.
It showed in the first half as it was one of the sloppiest that UWM had played all season. Trailing by two at the break, there were 12 combined turnovers, 20 personal fouls, and both teams shot under 40% from the field.
“We struggled a little bit in the first half, we couldn’t score,” Lundy proclaimed postgame. “They got an NBA line, think we were taking a lot of NBA threes.”
Someone who had no problem with hitting those shots was BJ Freeman. If it wasn’t for Freeman, Milwaukee wouldn’t have won their first postseason game since the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
He set both a CBI record and a career-high in points with 43, making the most free throws in a single game in school history at 20.
“We needed every bit of it,” said Lundy. “BJ is a special player. He really has given his heart and soul to us.”
At the beginning of the second half, it seemed as if every time the Panthers would hit a shot to cut into the lead, Stetson would respond. To respond once again, it was BJ Freeman.
He ultimately hit the shot that forced overtime and made many late free throws to give Lundy’s program a huge win over the Hatters in overtime, 87-83.
The Panthers will play UNC Charlotte on Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET on FLO Sports. Lundy coached just last season in Charlotte at Queens University and knows 49ers head coach Ron Sanchez well.
“I have great respect for their program and coach. I know what I saw the other day, the packed line,” said Lundy. “It’s a tough one on a less-than-a-day scout. We’ll see what we can do, but we’re happy to go and compete.”
It is slated to be the first time the programs face each other.