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Feb. 2, 2015

CSU thrives on the heels of its big 3

By Jordan Smith

The 12-10 Cleveland State Vikings have fared well in early conference play. Their 6-2 record against Horizon League opponents lands them in second place in the Horizon League.

Cleveland State opened conference play with an 84-57 victory against Milwaukee on Jan. 2.

Three Vikings scored in double-digits while shooting 82 percent from the field in the second half. Junior guard Trey Lewis scored 27 points and dished four assists while senior guard Charlie Lee posted 16 points and three assists. Junior Anton Grady was just shy of a double-double as he posted 18 points and 8 rebounds.

The Vikes were able to keep their winning ways alive against the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames with a 74-69 victory at the UIC Pavillion in Chicago.

Cleveland State shot 59 percent from the field with four players in double figures. Grady posted yet another double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Lee scored 18 points with five assists. Lewis contribued to t he victory with his 11 points and four assists. The senior forward from Detroit, Mich., Marlin Mason, posted 12 points and four blocks.

Cleveland State came home a few days later to face off against the 5-10 Golden Grizzlies from the University of Oakland. The 65-61 victory was led by sophomore guard Andre Yates who scored 14. Also scoring in double-digits were Lee, with 13, and forward Mason with 11.

Cleveland State’s winning ways came to a halt when it hit the road to Indiana to face Horizon League powerhouse Valparaiso University.

The Vikes dropped a tightly contested contest to the Crusaders by a final score of 58-56. Cleveland State only shot 36 percent from the field while Valpo hit nearly 50 percent of its field goals.

“This was a hard fought college basketball game,” head coach Gary Waters said after the game.

Waters continued to give credit where it was due, saying that either team could have come away with the victory.

“Both teams played hard and either team could have won,” he said.

Cleveland State was led in scoring by forward Grady, who put up 19 points. Lee contributed on both sides of the ball, hauling in six defensive boards on the way to his 19 points and six assists.

On Jan. 14, Cleveland State visited Wright State, where it defeated the Raiders 55-50. What Waters described as “a great win” for the Vikings was led by Grady’s 16 points and two clutch plays from Yates and Lewis. With a minute to play, Yates hit a go-ahead three-pointer and with 24 seconds remaining, Lewis converted a three-point play securing the victory.

“Both teams played hard and either team could have won,” Lewis said.

Cleveland State was led in scoring by Grady who put up 19. Lee contributed on both sides of the ball, hauling in six defensive boards on the way to his 19 points and six assists.

The Vikings have played seven of their last nine contests on the road. Coach Waters noted that a solid stretch of games in opposing arenas is exactly what the team needs heading down the stretch.

“Starting 5-1 in the league with four games on the road is a good start because we know these teams have to come back to our place,” Waters said, following a 74-61 win over Youngstown State.

Horizon League Player of the Week for the week of January 12, Lewis is averaging 16.5 points per game and posted 29 points against Youngstown State while going 7-13 from three-point range. Grady posted 11 points and and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double.

The Vikings were out of action until their Jan. 23 showdown against the Titans of Detroit Mercy.
Cleveland State overcame injuries to Mason and Yates to defeat Detroit 70-66. Kaza Keane and Vinny Zolo started in place of the two injured players.

Keane put up two points and Zollo did not score in his first start for the Vikings. Lewis was just two points shy of tying his career high as he went on to post 30 points, eight rebounds and one assist.

Grady set a new career high in rebounds with 14 enroute to his third straight double-double with 15 points. Lee posted another 15 points along with five rebounds and two assists.

The gritty Horizon League matchup would not have come down to the wire if the Vikings had shot better than 28 percent from the charity stripe in the first half.

The team quickly turned it around at the beginning of the second half, shooting 84 percent from the line down the stretch.

Cleveland State started pulling away after two consecutive fouls from the Titans. Lee hit two free throws with just over a minute to play.

Shortly after, Lewis took a hard foul courtesy of Detroit guard Paris Bass. Following the play, Trey made both free throws with slightly less than a minute left to play.

After regaining possession, Lee was fouled yet again, which sent him to the line where he hit two free-throws that would seal a Cleveland State victory.

“If we would have hit our free throws, we would have dominated this team,” Lewis said after the game.
Waters had nothing but the best to say about his team during the post-game conference.

“We were without two starters but our guys picked it up and played hard to compete at home and that’s what you’ve got to do,” he said. “I thought we just played tough, tough defense.”

The fact that the Vikings held Detroit to just 37 percent shooting from the field reveals that statement to be true.

“I don’t think we ever expected to lose,” Grady said. “We were two starters down but us three as a unit, we knew what we had to do.”

Grady said, when asked if this was one of the better victories that they had put together this year, “we’re all playing like it’s crunch time.”

Lee said the team is starting to play with a championship mentality.

On Friday, Jan. 23, 2,800 basketball fans came to the Wolstein Center to witness Cleveland State briefly retain sole possession of first place in the Horizon League.

Lewis was glad to see the increase in the number of people that came out.

“They’re definitely starting to come out and support us more and we’re feeding off of that energy,” he said.

The Vikings lost 59-56 at Oakland University on Jan. 26. They return home to face the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Jan. 31.