Cleveland State basketball has been re-invented through the practice of due diligence. The transformation of a Horizon League afterthought to respected yearly contender, is due in large part to the principled ideologies and their respective systematic implementation by Head Coach Gary Waters, who began his sixth season with the Vikings garnering a 71-58 road win at Vanderbilt this past Sunday. The Commodores were ranked seventh nationally at the time, and viewed as a team that will not only challenge for the Southeastern Conference title, but a team that is projected to be a dark horse, with regards to making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. It was an achievement that defies every popular misconception within the realm of college basketball, and yet it somehow escapes all but a brief opportunity for acknowledgment outside the urban Cleveland commuter school's campus! I have been puzzled as to why the local media coverage remains scant with regards to promoting the efforts and success that Cleveland State has amassed over the past five seasons. It is understandable that the national media relinquishes only brief mention to the noteworthy upsets that the sub red-line Division I basketball programs have produced, for their collective interest lies in the advancement of the BCS conferences, and the revenue generating process that is subsequently perpetuated by their coverage. Having said that, the under-the-radar status that the Vikings have within the media outlets available in the greater Cleveland area, belies imperceptibility.
On my drive to Goodman Arena at the Wolstein Center (located in downtown Cleveland), I chose to listen to both of the two sports talk radio channels (one FM and the other AM). I patiently waited for any mention of Cleveland State and this evening's game with St. Bonaventure of the Atlantic 10. Outside of the 20 minute sports ticker's mention that the game was to be played, there was no mention of the Cleveland State men's basketball program, let alone the slightest hint of encouraging people to attend the game. Disappointed? Truly! Shocked? No! As fans of college basketball's inhabitants that reside below the red-line, we have become accustomed to the lack of acknowledgement, but never pacifistic about it!
I arrived at the arena two hours early for the "Hoopy Hour" promotion (weekday games only) which brandished "$2 drafts and cheap eats." Taking into account the country's economic status (and mine), the decision to partake made me feel extremely Ben Franklin-ish (poor attempt at a "thrifty" reference)! I have always been an "arrive to the venue early" type of sports fan, so the promotion allowed me the opportunity to feel thrice as good about my anal-retentive habit of punctuality!
Both Cleveland State and St. Bonaventure are experienced. Their starting rosters combined for an amazing seven seniors and three juniors! Both teams are very sound defensively, which is a direct reflection of Coach Waters and St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt. The ideology of allowing your players to play an up-tempo style of offense (which today's players identify with, and prefer), but never at the cost of defense (or lack thereof), is a staple for both coaches when recruiting prospective student-athletes. Both understand the importance of the focal point to winning their respective conference championships, defense! This game was never hyped, but I felt it had all the tangibles necessary of being a last possession game. Two very under-rated coaches, experienced starters, reliable benches and relentless defense.
I had circled this game immediately upon my decision to join Kyle's 800 game project and I will best try to paint a picture utilizing rhetoric worthy of the two teams who will take the court.
St. Bonaventure won the opening tip but committed turnovers on their first three possessions that allowed Cleveland State's Jeremy Montgomery (6-2 Sr. Guard) to open the scoring off two of the Bonnies miscues. The relentless defense demonstrated by both teams bolstered their already solid reputations, but had it not been for Cleveland State forcing the Bonnies into eleven first half turnovers, the score could've been worse than the five point deficit (37-32) that the Vikings faced at intermission. St. Bonaventure benefitted from Andrew Nicholson (6-9 Sr. Forward) playing about as good a first half as they could hope for by leading his team and all scorers, with 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field. Add a free throw and three blocks, and that my friends, is a solid eighteen minutes of work out of a possible twenty!
Cleveland State's ultra talented 6-4 Sr. Guard D'Aundray Brown, played a frustrated first half while only managing five points, but added three assists and two steals. The lack of shot opportunities for Brown due to the intensity of Mark Schmidt's Bonnies' defensive efforts, allowed Trevon Harmon (6-1 Sr. Point Guard) to fill the void with ten points on four of seven from the field,(two of those coming from behind the semi-circle that rewards you with an extra point if accuracy finds your fingertips). The largest lead of the first half was a St. Bonaventure seven point advantage achieved through an Eric Mosely (5-10 Jr. Guard) three pointer from the top of the key at the 10;19 mark, yet that was short lived. On Cleveland State's next possession, Brown hit a three pointer to cut the Viking's deficit to four which segued into a CSU 7-0 run that tied the game at twenty two with 6:52 remaining before halftime. Both teams ran their offenses and did not take quick, ill-advised shots (another philosophy that both coaches faithfully preach).
With the first half ebb-and-flow pace firmly entrenched within the psyche of fans in attendance, the anticipation of a tightly contested second half was all the rave within the lines at the concession stands. Cleveland State may be under appreciated by the masses, but the fans that do show up are extremely loyal and supportive!
To open the second half, the Bonnies ran off five unanswered points to push their lead to nine, which led Gary Waters to call a timeout. Cleveland State answered with a 9-0 run which began with a Harmon three at the 18;04 mark, and ended with a pair of Jeremy Montgomery (6-2 Sr. Guard) free throws drawn off of a Charlon Kloof ( 6-3 Soph. Guard) foul which led to the first media timeout taken with 15;36 left.
Just as most felt that this early second half surge by Cleveland State would finally allow the Vikings an opportunity to take full advantage of the benefits which come from playing on their home court, St. Bonaventure went on a 15-5 run aided by four CSU turnovers and a 3:24 Viking scoring drought which ended on a Montgomery three with 9:04 to play.
That basket led to a 7-0 run by Cleveland State which saw Trevon Harmon add a pair off free throws off of Eric Mosely's third personal foul, and an Anton Grady (6-8 Fr. Forward) put-back off of a Sebastion Douglas (6-4 Fr. Guard) miss with 7;43 left in the second half and the Bonnies holding but to a one point lead. From that point on, the largest lead by either team was limited to only three points. The turning point occurred at the 3;32 mark, when St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson was awarded his fifth foul from keeping a driving D'Aundray Brown from scoring. Nicholson's solid night (19 pts., 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and two assists) had ended, and the Vikings capitalized on his absence. A three point lead with two Brown free throws pending, had the Bonnie's Mark Schmidt in a position that most would agree to be non-beneficial. Brown, with a calmness that runs congruent with the senior label, made both penalty shots and now, St. Bonaventure was staring at a one point lead (61-60) and their star on the bench. To make matters worse, their point guard Moseley was one foul away from receiving his opportunity to earn a permanent seat next Nicholson, not far removed from that of his coach.
After a Moseley turnover and a Da'Quan Cook (6-8 Sr. Forward) foul which resulted in a pair of made free throws by Montgomery to give CSU their first lead since having a 26-24 advantage with 5:14 left in the first half, Mosely missed a contested three from the wing and the Vikings pushed their lead to three on a Tim Kamczyc (6-7 Jr. Forward) jumper off of an Aaron Pogue (6-9 Sr. Forward) assist, and land the score at 64-61, Cleveland State.
St. Bonaventure tied the game with a Michael Davenport (6-5 Sr. Guard) "and one" three point play, by virtue of Kamczyc's first personal foul with 1:30 to play in regulation. Both teams traded missed layups and Harmon connected on what would be his fourth (and most important) three point basket of the night , which came with just 2.8 seconds remaining! A Jeremy Montgomery steal off of a Jake Houseknecht (6-9 Jr. Center)inbounds pass ended with Cleveland State celebrating their third win of the season and relegating St. Bonaventure to a 1-1 record (and a long depressing bus ride back to Olean, NY).
The announced attendence for the game was a disappointing 3,073 patrons, which falls well short of the 8,500 capacity of CSU's Wolstein Center. At the expense of redundance, I lay fault at the feet of the local media for their inability to recognize the capabilities of this Cleveland State University basketball program which has answered every question of even the most scrutinous of sports fan could generate! They play hard, and with conviction! Lest not forget the fact that they have maintained a level of improvement and progress that has led to numerous notable upsets during the regular and post-season, during the past five campaigns. Wagon jumpers are always welcome, but the reasons as to why the lack of interest lingers, stifles any and every form of cognition.
I was fortunate to sit only 10 rows behind the Viking bench and somehow felt that I had owed something more than the $15 I paid for my ticket to witness a game that played up to, and exceeded expectations for two grossly under-rated programs. Mark Schmidt, since leaving Robert Morris, has not received the credit due for turning around a St. Bonaventure program that had been mired in scandal and total disarray for the better part of a decade. I find it to be unconscionable that any Atlantic 10 conference program would overlook the Bonnies (sans Xavier) this season.
Being a glutton for punishment, and curious as to what the sports talk radio circuit would be saying about the Vikings victory, I quickly dialed in the new FM sports talk station 92.3 The FAN upon entering my car. Disappointed? Truly! Shocked? No!
at CLEVELAND STATE 67, SAINT BONAVENTURE 64 11/18/2011
SAINT BONAVENTURE 1-1 (0-0) -- D. Conger 4-5 0-0 8; A. Nicholson 9-14 0-1 19; M. Wright 2-6 1-1 7; D. Cook 1-3 3-4 5; M. Davenport 3-8 1-1 7; E. Mosley 4-5 0-0 11; C. Kloof 2-3 1-3 5; J. Houseknecht 0-0 0-0 0; J. Gathers 0-1 0-0 0; C. Johnson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-46 6-10 64. CLEVELAND STATE 3-0 (0-0) -- D. Brown 4-9 2-3 12; T. Harmon 7-12 2-2 20; T. Kamczyc 3-7 0-0 6; J. Montgomery 3-9 5-8 12; A. Pogue 3-4 0-1 6; A. Grady 3-7 0-0 6; C. Lee 0-1 3-4 3; S. Douglas 0-1 0-0 0; L. Ndaye 0-0 0-0 0; I. Nwamu 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-52 12-18 67.
Three-point goals: BONA 6-15 (M. Davenport 0-2; A. Nicholson 1-3; D. Conger 0-1; E. Mosley 3-4; M. Wright 2-4; C. Kloof 0-1), CLST 7-17 (D. Brown 2-3; T. Harmon 4-7; J. Montgomery 1-3; T. Kamczyc 0-2; C. Lee 0-1; I. Nwamu 0-1); Rebounds: BONA 23 (A. Nicholson 6), CLST 27 (A. Pogue 6); Assists: BONA 10 (A. Nicholson 2), CLST 17 (T. Kamczyc 4); Total Fouls -- BONA 16, CLST 15; Fouled Out: BONA-A. Nicholson; CLST-None.