Sustaining success throughout a college basketball season is no easy feat even for the most veteran laden of squads. Challenges oftentimes present themselves on a nightly basis, and it is up to both the coaching staff and players to overcome that adversity. For the Cleveland State Vikings, through a brief four game sample, they have shown the ability to adjust to in game situations that call for both depth and perseverance, two factors at play that elevated CSU in two recent victories over Ohio University and Canisius.
Saturday’s clash with Ohio University can be surmised as one of Robinson’s signature victories so far in his tenure as head coach. In what turned out to be a physical test for both sides, the Viking were able to come away with their first victory over the Bobcats since 1998 and only their third in program history. The Vikings truly embraced the physicality it took to win the 82-78 clash. Following the victory, Tristan Enaruna spoke on what it took for the Vikings as well as how impactful this win can be when he said, “There was a lot at stake for us…it’s been 25 years since we beat them. We know coming in we had a lot to lose, and we had a lot to gain…it was very physical, but the refs let us play through…it was the matter of who could be the most physical team and who could stay connected through those rough patches of the game.”
While Enaruna was fantastic on Saturday night with 22 points, six rebounds, and six assists, other Vikings stepped up in a major way to help contribute to the victory. CSU senior sharpshooter Jayson Woodrich has been a shooting machine so far this year, and Saturday was no different. The Beachwood, Ohio native poured in a critical 14 points off the bench, including a stellar 4-5 from behind the three point arc. Despite only playing 15 minutes against the Bobcats, Woodrich certainly made his mark.
Woodrich has been a catalyst for Cleveland State’s improved three point shooting so far this year, as alongside Drew Lowder the team has multiple snipers from long range. Both Lowder and Woodrich are integral pieces for a Viking team who’s identity is centered around the downhill attack. Having consistent shooters ready at a moments notice to catch the defense off guard will only make Cleveland State harder to guard for opposing defenses.
To follow up Saturday’s emotional victory, the Vikings hosted Canisius on Wednesday night en route to a 71-61 Cleveland State win. Adversity was placed in front of the Vikings early on Wednesday, as Tae Williams picked up two quick fouls which sent him to the bench just two minutes into the game. The Vikings were able to keep their collective heads above water without the services of their talented swingman, as they carried a 35-34 lead into the halftime locker room.
Ultimately, it was the Vikings defense which carried them to a win as the team not only had eleven steals, but they held a dangerous three point shooting Canisius team to a mere 4-23 from behind the arc. Following the game, Coach Robinson was very pleased with his team’s defensive effort when he stated, “It was a huge part of our scouting report (shooting). The first thing was transition defense…the second thing was take away the three point line because they were shooting at such a high clip…our guys did a nice job of taking the threes away, and then the rebounding…we shored that up in the second half. When we were able to put those things together we were able to get a little separation.”
Overall, this is a stretch of games that the Vikings should be very proud of moving forward in the season. Not only were they able to exercise demons against an in state foe, but they also showed grit, toughness, and maturity by overcoming early foul trouble to one of their premier players on a night that followed an emotional win. For the Vikings to reach the goals they have set out for themselves, they must build off of a stellar first year of the Daniyal Robinson era. While the season so far is young, Cleveland State is showing signs of not only improvement from the year prior, but also that the success they are having can be sustained for years to come.
Up next for the Vikings, a road clash with Mid American Conference foe Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon, in what will be a return for Drew Lowder to a school that he used to call home. Tip-off on Saturday is scheduled for 1pm.