While the Cleveland State Vikings were forced to adapt and adjust to life without the services of skilled big man KJ DeBrick, they have seemingly come out on the other side, as not only have the Vikings rattled off four straight victories in a row, but their depth has remained in tact, as they have benefitted from different contributions throughout the streak.
Despite many different Vikings playing a role in the impressive run, the efforts of Jayson Woodrich have reached career high levels over the course of the last three contests. The Beachwood, Ohio native has knocked down 43% of his three pointers in wins over Western Michigan, Oakland, and IUPUI. Not only does this benefit Cleveland State on the scoreboard, but the spacing Woodrich provides alongside fellow sharpshooter Drew Lowder in the starting lineup has allowed for Tristan Enaruna to flourish in the high post.
“When everybody works as hard as they can, you trust everybody…it doesn’t matter who gets in the game, I think they’re gonna get in there and do their job” proclaimed point guard Drew Lowder following the team’s 16th straight home victory before the New Year. “We got a deep team… everyone on our team can play. Our coaching staff has faith in every player top to bottom.”
Additionally, despite being down size in the front court, the Vikings have been doing a stellar enough job of team rebounding during this recent stretch; another key to their slew of success. Tevin Smith came to Cleveland State with aspirations of landing the starting point guard job. While he earned the role coming out of training camp, Daniyal Robinson opted to bring Smith off the bench following the team’s loss to Youngstown State, and Smith has thrived as a reserve in multiple facets, most notably on the defensive end.
Following Cleveland State’s victory over a battle tested Oakland squad, Robinson had this to say about his team’s impressive job containing Trey Townsend, “Tevin Smith did the best job on him. I thought he caused Townsend the most problems where he didn’t know where Tevin was. Tevin used his quickness, he has a low center of gravity, great hands…the entire group did a really good job but Tevin Smith specifically did a really good job against him in that first half especially.”
Smith’s versatility has been on full display as a reserve, as he oftentimes does the dirty work that goes unnoticed in the box score. What perhaps is most impressive however is his overall willingness to adapt and thrive in a bench role, when his aspirations were to be a starter. However, that speaks to Smith’s maturity as a basketball player and human being, as he is able to do whatever the team needs to be successful; something that has been a theme all year for not only Smith, but the entirety of the Vikings program.
While Cleveland State goes into 2024 riding a wave of momentum, their January schedule features a number of upper echelon teams in the Horizon League, including both regular battles with Wright State in a span of three weeks. The Vikings will battle the Raiders on January 4th at the Nutter Center, and again on January 25th at The Wolstein Center.