Cleveland State’s Thanksgiving week was filled with both family and basketball, as the Vikings not only had the opportunity to play three non conference games, but Head Coach Daniyal Robinson hosted his players and their families for a celebration for a holiday that is all about embracing those around you. Despite Cleveland State’s 2-1 week, there are multiple areas of the game that the Vikings need to clean up as the season progresses.
A disappointing showing against Mid American Conference foe Eastern Michigan resulted in Cleveland State’s second loss of the season, which also drops the Vikings to 0-2 in road contests. The 69-62 ballgame was an uphill battle all afternoon for CSU in Ypsilanti as the Vikings were unable to contain Eagles leading scorer Tyson Acuff. The guard poured in 31 points on only 17 shots from the floor, in addition to grabbing six rebounds. A 34% shooting performance from the Vikings put too much stress on a defense that was unable to come up with big stops down the stretch. Tristan Enaruna did his best to keep CSU in it with 17 points and 9 rebounds on the day.
To compound the loss, the Vikings lost big man KJ DeBrick due to injury against the Eagles after playing just 14 minutes. He did not dress for either home game this week. His status puts a major stress on CSU’s front court, which has already dealt with rebounding issues early in the year. While Cleveland State has a plethora of backcourt depth, a lack of healthy bodies down low has already presented issues for the Vikings, especially defensively.
Following the loss, the Vikings returned to Cleveland to host their holiday Multiple Team Event, (MTE) which featured Cleveland State, East Tennessee State, and Alabama A&M. To make things extra special for Viking fans, the invitational took place in Woodling Gym, the former home of Cleveland State basketball. To begin the invitational the night before Thanksgiving, CSU was able to escape with a hard fought victory over East Tennessee State 72-70. Tristan Enaruna was in takeover mode for most of the evening, as the CSU big man had 28 points on an efficient 11/17 from the floor. Not only do the Vikings not win this game without Enaruna’s contributions offensively, but he also nabbed three steals and blocked a shot in the victory.
It was not just Enaruna who had a special night before Turkey Day, as the Vikings were able to stay afloat in the first half with the contributions on the defensive end from both Ramar Pryor and first year Viking Jalin Rice. Both guards had a pair of steals on the night, and their ball pressure played an integral role in the comeback. Rice, who missed the Eastern Michigan game due to injury, has been finding his footing as of late as one of the go to reserves for Daniyal Robinson. Following the conclusion of the MTE, Coach Robinson had this to say about his junior college transfer guard, “Jalin is an all out effort guy, tremendous defensive presence. He changed the game the other night against East Tennessee State…we missed him on the road against Eastern Michigan…he’s an intangible guy, he plays really really hard. He’s a ball mover, he’s a selfless player, and a huge part of what we do moving forward.”
To finish out the MTE, the Vikings hammered Alabama A&M on Saturday night 86-59 in the final tune up before a pair of conference games. The Vikings were led by Drew Lowder and Tae Williams who had 18 a piece. One might not expect that CSU faced any adversity in this one as the score hints, but Tristan Enaruna spent a majority of the first half on the bench with foul trouble and the Vikings were able to get some experience without their best player on the floor. This can only serve the Vikings well as the season goes on,
While the last week for Cleveland State was filled with both drastic highs and lows, the Vikings will aim to quickly turn the page to a pair of upcoming Horizon League conference affairs before concluding their non conference slate. One of the major oddities in the league schedule the last few seasons has been conference battles after only a few non conference games. The Vikings will do battle with defending regular season champion Youngstown State on the road before coming home for a battle with Detroit. Tip-off with the Penguins is scheduled for November 29th at 7pm in Youngstown.