Even by Cleveland State men’s basketball coach Gary Waters’ own assessment, the selection of the Vikings to finish seventh in the Horizon League seemed exceedingly high. At the heart of the matter, as it has been throughout the non-conference slate, has been the offense.
The overriding theme Waters has conveyed, is the ongoing development of his young squad. With a schedule that would have provided a more veteran team with opportunities for quality wins and bolster post-season aspiration, the youth movement has been prone to a trial by fire.
As a consequence, there have been plenty of opportunities to get burned.
Such was the case in Cleveland State’s season opener at Quicken Loans Arena against Kent State. There were certainly flashes of what the future will hold for the Vikings during most of the first half. Leading the charge was Rob Edwards, who has ascended to a starting spot faster than any freshman in the Waters era.
And then there was Andre Yates. The junior guard had one of his best games in the young season against the Golden Flashes, joining Edwards to lead the team with 14 points. This included four three-pointers, which has been a sore spot early on for Cleveland State.
But as there were high points for the Vikings, the low points came at the part of the game you never want to have happen: the end. And the mistakes on offense that tend to happen with an inexperienced group, coupled with absolutely no answer for Kent State big man Kaliq Spicer, proved to be Cleveland State’s undoing, losing the game, 66-62.
At 2-6, Vikings fans can only really look forward to the ongoing development of the freshman. In addition to Edwards, who is making a real case for Horizon League Freshman of the Year, there’s Jibri Blout, who scored nine points against the Flashes and at times seemed to be about to get in the paint with ease.
Two other freshmen, Jeron Rogers and walk-on Daniel Levitt, will likely be relied on much more in the part of the court that’s hurt Cleveland State the most: the three-point line. The Vikings remain at the bottom of the NCAA in that category, and, Vinny Zollo, who was looked upon to provide some firepower beyond the arc, was 0-5 against Kent State and has been much more effective in the paint than the perimeter.
Assists have also been a real issue early on, as Yates, Edwards and Kenny Carpenter have struggled at the point. However, there appears to be some relief coming in the form of Myles Hamilton. The Kennesaw State transfer, who sat out the first seven contests due to a suspension and injuries, played 18 minutes against the Flashes and notched three assists. In fact, the loss to Kent State saw the Vikings post the most assists all season at 17, with four apiece coming, surprisingly enough, from Zollo and fellow forward Demonte Flannigan.
So, while the miscues and missed opportunities make the non-conference schedule seem like one big, painful learning experience, the early lesson may translate into some real surprises when the Vikings start Horizon League play.
The Present (And Future) of Cleveland State Women’s Basketball Is Bright
With all of the players that Cleveland State women’s basketball coach Kate Peterson Abiad had sitting out from last season due to injuries, it was only a matter of time before they would take their experience and translate that into wins.
It hasn’t come easily, though. Two of the Vikings’ first four losses were squeakers, including a last-second defeat in the home opener against Bucknell and an overtime loss on the road at Niagara.
As last Saturday’s 69-48 romp over Bowling Green at Quicken Loans Arena may indicate, the rebuilding for Cleveland State may, in fact, nearly be complete.
Leading the team against the Falcons was sophomore Kayla Livingston, who tied her season high with 21 points. Her 14 points per game and 45.7 percent three-point shooting since returning from an injury that wiped out here 2014-15 campaign has providing the Vikings with an offensive spark and allowed her to return to the form that put her on the Horizon League All-Newcomer team in 2013-14.
Making her own bid to be this season’s top freshman and returning from her own injury last season, forward Ashanti Abshaw has started this year leading the team with 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Her 16 points and eight boards against Bowling Green, coupled with her double-double in CSU’s 60-49 win against Kent State, was good enough for her to be named the Horizon League Freshman of the Week.
Coming off the bench, junior guard Adesuwa Aideyman has made her minutes count. She has scored 17 points in three straight contests, putting those numbers up in 20 minutes against the Falcons.
While Wright State and Wisconsin-Green Bay remain the overwhelming favorites at the top of the Horizon League standings, CSU may be on better footing than their sixth-place conference finish prediction would suggest.
Cleveland State Is Back on Television (If You Have Time Warner Cable)
After Cleveland State finished last season with games televised on Sportstime Ohio and the Horizon League TV schedule limited the Vikings to ESPN3, it had some wondering if the only way fans could see them play was to come to the arena or have an Internet connection.
The good news is that CSU will, in fact be back on the airwaves. Starting with Saturday’s contest against Ohio at the Q, the Viking men will play on television seven times this season, and the women will appear three times.
The bad news, though, is that if you don’t have Time Warner Cable, you still need your Internet connection. All of these contests, which will feature the announce team of Al Pawlowski and former Cleveland State standout Pat Vuyancih, will only be aired on TWC Sports Net.
Of course, when you’re staring at the prospect of having no TV games at all, you can sort of view this as progress.