With the beginning of a new season on the immediate horizon, the Cleveland State Vikings men’s basketball team played their lone exhibition contest of the season at The Wolstein Center Thursday night against Division III Baldwin Wallace, out of the Ohio Athletic Conference. As is the case with all exhibition contests, many different combinations were utilized by coach Daniyal Robinson as he sorts through rotations to begin the season. Despite this, the Vikings were able to rally past the Yellow Jackets with a dominant second half en route to a 96-48 victory.
The Vikings showcased their tremendous depth as they were led by four double digit scorers on the night. Tae Williams compiled 18 points on 8-10 from the field, which included a perfect 2-2 from behind the three-point arc. Defenders would oftentimes sag off of him a year ago from behind the arc due to his quick first step and driving abilities. However, Williams put an immense amount of work in the offseason on his perimeter shot and the results are already showing early in the campaign. Additionally, Jayson Woodrich poured in 17 off the bench, Drew Lowder pitched in 14, and CSU newcomer KJ Debrick had 11 with a pair of blocked shots off the bench.
One major takeaway from this preseason contest is the rotation of big men that Robinson is sorting through leading up to the season opener on Monday night. Dylan Arnett received first crack at the starting lineup alongside Williams and Tristan Enaruna on the frontline. Arnett was extremely active against the Yellow Jackets, grabbing six offensive rebounds in addition to a pair of assists. Arnett was utilized most frequently offensively as a passer and screener near the high post, similarly to how Deante Johnson was used last season in some instances.
Conversely, Debrick showed exactly why he was brought to Cleveland State in his seventeen minutes of action. He showcased each aspect of his game as he possesses both interior post moves and three point shooting capabilities on the offensive end. Defensively, he can protect the rim and also showed the ability to move his feet on the perimeter against smaller guards. Keeping Debrick off the floor will be difficult for Robinson and his staff, but the depth the Vikings have developed in the interior following the departure of Deante Johnson should be applauded.
Following the game, Robinson had this to say about his collection of big men, “Those guys have been in competition all fall camp. We look at it as a three headed monster with Dok…all three of those guys are different, they contribute in different ways so you’ll see a lot of those three guys in different combinations.” Dok Muordar, a transfer from UCF, did not suit up on Thursday night due to a nagging injury, but Robinson says he is day to day.
Looking ahead, the Vikings begin their regular season this upcoming Monday on the road at Duquesne. The Dukes were picked fourth in the preseason Atlantic 10 poll, and carry many Cleveland connections on their coaching staff and roster. Most notably, Associate Head Coach Dru Joyce III was a member of Dennis Gates’ staff at Cleveland State. This will be a terrific challenge for a veteran led Vikings team on the road before returning home for three straight contests.