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Cleveland State Vikings Use Solid Contributions By Freshmen To Defeat Detroit Titans, 77-64

by - Published February 24, 2012 in Conference Notes
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The Cleveland State Vikings and Detroit Titans squared off on Thursday evening at the Wolstein Center in a matchup with major ramifications for seeding in the Horizon League Tournament. Both the Vikings and the Titans headed into Thursday’s matchup riding drastically different five-game streaks. Picked by many preseason analysts to win the Horizon League, the Titans have recently begun to live up to their lofty preseason expectations and came to Cleveland with a five-game winning streak. In contrast, the Vikings limped into Thursday’s game looking to shake a five-game losing streak that has been the result of a groin injury to talented senior D’Aundray Brown and the Vikings’ inability to adjust without their best defender in the starting lineup.

Many of the Vikings’ recent losses have come from their inability to score points in the first half. After the Vikings fell behind by a score of 14-4 with slightly more than 13 minutes left in the first half, the Wolstein Center crowd became somewhat nervous as they understandably began to worry that the Vikings were in the process of yet again falling behind by a sizable deficit that could not be overcome in the second half. Sensing the urgency of the situation, the Vikings rallied to narrow the Titans’ lead to three points with slightly less than six minutes left in the first half. The Titans fought back and expanded their lead to nine points towards the end of the first half. Unlike in previous games, though, the Vikings refused to give in. Following a Vikings timeout with approximately one minute remaining, freshman Ike Nwamu drained a 3-pointer that cut the Titans’ lead to six points and brought the Wolstein Center crowd to their feet despite the fact that the Titans headed into the locker room with a 38-32 lead.

In the second half, the Vikings played the style of basketball that propelled them to the top of the Horizon League standings earlier in the season and wore out the Titans. The Vikings’ relentless pressure defense and hustle limited the Titans to 21.7% shooting in the second half. Surprisingly, the Titans did not exploit the fact that the Vikings’ key big men—freshman Anton Grady and senior Aaron Pogue—were in foul trouble during the second half. Eli Holman, the Titans’ talented senior center who possesses NBA-level talent, only finished with six points. On offense, the Vikings shed their recent pattern of relying on jump shots and instead patiently worked the ball around and frequently wound up with easy baskets near the basket.

After initially retaking a one-point lead with 11 minutes left on another Nwamu 3-pointer, the Vikings briefly lost the lead before retaking it for good with 7:22 left in the game. The Vikings proceeded to steadily extend their lead and ultimately won the game by a score of 77-64. With their win, the Vikings snapped the five-game losing streak that had threatened to sink the team’s chances of postseason success.

As previously mentioned, the loss of Brown has been an immense blow for the Vikings and the Vikings have struggled to replace his defense and rebounding. Tonight, the young core who will lead the Vikings next season and beyond—Grady, Charlie Lee, Marlin Mason, and Nwamu—delivered down the stretch and played some of their best basketball of the season. In fact, some of the Vikings’ best play of the game occurred when the Vikings had three freshmen on the floor. Lee’s final stat line of 12 points and 5 assists does not reflect the major impact that he had on this game, as he ran the Vikings’ offense for much of the game and did not turn the ball over while dealing with the Titans’ full-court pressure. In his second career start, Mason—who was initially slated to redshirt this season and who was pressed into action only because of an injury to Sebastian Douglas—nearly ripped off a double-double, scoring 15 points and pulling down 9 boards. Nwamu’s 8 points, two of which came on 3-pointers, all came at key moments in the game. Although Grady was saddled with foul trouble for much of the game, many of his 8 rebounds were pulled down while the Vikings were battling back into the game.

The Titans’ Chase Simon led all scorers with 17 points. Trevon Harmon led the Vikings with 16 points. Every Vikings player who played in Thursday’s game scored, providing the Vikings with a balanced attack that had been missing in recent games.

With a win on Saturday against the Wright State Raiders, the Vikings can finish no lower than third in the Horizon League standings. If the Butler Bulldogs lose to the Valparaiso Crusaders on Friday evening, the Vikings can clinch the second seed in the Horizon League Tournament with a win on Saturday. Vikings fans should be prepared for their fair share of scoreboard watching and nailbiting as the final few games of yet another hotly contested Horizon League campaign play out and last-minute jockeying for tournament seeding ensues!

Much Is At Stake In The Final Week Of Horizon League Play

by - Published February 21, 2012 in Conference Notes
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The last week of conference play has arrived in the Horizon League. Over the past few years, the battle for the top seeds in the Horizon League has not been decided until the final game of conference play. This year is no exception, with multiple teams having a legitimate chance of securing one of the two top seeds in the Horizon League Tournament and the extremely important double-bye that gives the two top seeds an automatic spot in the semifinals.

The Valparaiso Crusaders currently sit at the top of the Horizon League with a 12-4 record in conference play, over two games ahead of the second place Cleveland State Vikings. A win tonight over the Loyola Ramblers will allow the Crusaders to clinch at least a share of the school’s first-ever Horizon League regular season championship and allow the Crusaders to host the Horizon League Tournament. The Crusaders will battle the Butler Bulldogs to end the season in a game that has major ramifications for the Bulldogs’ seeding in the Horizon League Tournament.

The Cleveland State Vikings are in second place with a record of 10-5 in Horizon League play. Currently in the midst of a four game losing streak, the Vikings are only one half-game ahead of the Detroit Titans and Butler Bulldogs. The Vikings will square off tonight against the Green Bay Phoenix and return home for two games against the Detroit Titans and Wright State Raiders. Coach Gary Waters has struggled to replace the contributions of the injured D’Aundray Brown, who has missed multiple games with a groin injury. The Vikings will need to win each of their last three games in order to maintain their grip on second place.

The Detroit Titans and Butler Bulldogs both possess conference records of 10-6 and are battling for third place. Butler is playing the UIC Flames this evening and will end the year with a contest against Valparaiso. Detroit will travel to Ohio for two road games against Cleveland State and the Youngstown State Penguins. Both teams have recovered from rough starts to the season and currently possess major winning streaks. Even if neither of these teams secures a double bye in the Horizon League Tournament, both of these teams could easily win four more consecutive games in the Horizon League Tournament in order to secure the Horizon League’s automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The Milwaukee Panthers and Youngstown State Penguins are currently battling for fifth place. Sporting conference records of 9-7, both the Panthers and Penguins will seek to keep the seventh-place Green Bay Phoenix at bay in order to have the opportunity to host a game in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament. Both the Panthers and the Penguins had solid starts to the season, and they could easily surprise an unsuspecting team in the Horizon League Tournament and send a higher seed home far earlier than expected.

The Wright State Raiders currently sit in eighth place with a conference record of 7-9. Although most teams would be displeased with this spot in the standings, their performance this season has been a pleasant surprise given that the Raiders are an extremely young team.

The UIC Flames are in ninth place, and the Loyola Ramblers are in tenth place. Despite their low standing in the conference, the Ramblers’ talented tandem of Ben Averkamp and Walt Gibler can pose problems for any team in the Horizon League.

Needless to say, the last week of Horizon League play will be as hard-fought and as intense as the past few months of action, and fans should enjoy the great week of action that lies ahead!

Cleveland State Loses To Drexel Dragons 69-49 In ESPN BracketBusters Matchup

by - Published February 18, 2012 in Conference Notes
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The Cleveland State Vikings and Drexel Dragons squared off on Saturday morning at the Wolstein Center as part of ESPN’s BracketBusters series. Saturday’s contest marks the second straight year in which the Vikings have participated in the BracketBusters series. Last season, the Vikings dropped a hard-fought contest to Old Dominion on the road in which the now-departed Norris Cole set a new BracketBusters record for points scored when he dropped 35 points on the Monarchs.

The Vikings took the floor on Saturday morning looking to shake a three game losing streak, having lost three straight games against some of the toughest teams in the Horizon League—the Valparaiso Crusaders, Butler Bulldogs, and Milwaukee Panthers. In contrast, the Dragons headed into Saturday’s contest with a 14 game winning streak.

In an attempt to reverse the Vikings’ recent struggles and cope with the loss of senior D’Aundray Brown, who has been described by Vikings coach Gary Waters as the team’s best player, Waters replaced freshman Anton Grady in the starting lineup with Marlin Mason, another talented freshman. This move should not be viewed as a statement about the play immensely talented Grady, but rather as an attempt by the Vikings to slow down the Dragons’ three-guard attack and to provide the Vikings with more offensive firepower off the bench.

Unfortunately, this move did not work. Saturday morning is quickly proving to be no friend to the Vikings, who struggled from the outset for the second straight week in a nationally televised Saturday morning game. The Dragons stormed out to a 19-3 lead with slightly more than 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Damion Lee’s nine points helped the Dragons silence the Wolstein Center crowd.

The Vikings’ tenacious defense allowed them to claw back into the game and cut the Dragons’ lead to 8 points with approximately six minutes remaining in the first half. However, the Dragons responded with a 15-7 run to end the first half that allowed them to head into the locker room with a commanding 38-22 lead.

Lee and the Vikings’ Trevon Harmon led their teams with 13 points in the first half. No other player for the Vikings scored more than four points, who only had four players enter the scoring column during the first 20 minutes of play.

The Dragons came out breathing fire in the second half, using a dazzling display of outside shooting to rip off a 13-5 run and take a 51-27 lead in the first five minutes of the second half. The Dragons’ lead steadily grew throughout the second half, and the Vikings were down by as many as 29 points.

Despite the deficit, the Vikings refused to quit, and they used an 18-9 run to cut the Dragons’ lead to 20 points by the end of the game. Nevertheless, the Vikings lost by a score of 69-49. Saturday’s loss marked the Vikings’ fourth straight loss and their third loss in a row at home.

However, Vikings fans who are feeling uneasy about the team’s postseason chances should not panic. In his postgame comments, Waters still sounded optimistic about the Vikings’ chances for the rest of the regular season. Waters stated that the Vikings will “keep fighting until we get it right” and expressed the belief that the Vikings will be in good shape once they are able to restore the high-pressure defense that helped them race out to a successful start to the season.

The Vikings will travel to for a Tuesday evening matchup with the Green Bay Phoenix in what should be another intense Horizon League conference game. The Vikings will need to approach each of their last three remaining games with the intensity of a postseason matchup if they intend to maintain their tenuous hold on second place in the Horizon League standings and secure an automatic spot in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament.

Butler Bulldogs Hang On To Defeat Cleveland State Vikings, 52-49

by - Published February 11, 2012 in Conference Notes
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Although the rivalry between the Cleveland State Vikings and Butler Bulldogs may not be as nationally known as the rivalry between Duke and North Carolina, the intensity that is in the air whenever these two Horizon League rivals square off is just as strong. In fact, the animosity between these two teams may be even stronger than many major conference rivalries due to the fact these two teams often square off with the Horizon League’s automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament at stake. In 2009, the Vikings upset the Bulldogs on their floor to secure their first tournament appearance in decades. The Bulldogs exacted some measure of revenge in 2011, when they defeated the Vikings in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals on their way to winning the league’s automatic bid and their second straight appearance in the NCAA Championship Game.

Anyone who thought that the intensity of this year’s second matchup between the two teams would be diminished because the Bulldogs are somewhat of a long shot to repeat at Horizon League champions was sorely mistaken. After a disappointing loss on Thursday night to the Valparaiso Crusaders, the Vikings took the floor looking to begin another winning streak and to remain in contention for first place in the Horizon League. Coming off a road victory over the Youngstown State Penguins, the Bulldogs headed into Saturday’s morning contest looking to position themselves for yet another surprising postseason run.

After the Vikings notched a quick 4-2 advantage early in the first half, the Bulldogs used a 20-6 run to take a 10 point lead with slightly less than seven minutes left in the first half. Although the Vikings whittled away slightly at the Bulldogs’ lead, they were never able to come closer than seven points and the Bulldogs headed into halftime with a 28-18 lead. The Vikings’ Thursday night shooting woes continued into Saturday’ s contest, as the Vikings only shot 24.1% in the first half and were 0-9 from 3-point range. The Vikings would have been in serious trouble if not for the play of freshman Anton Grady, who replaced the injured D’Aundray Brown in the starting lineup and 12 points in the first half while contributing solid defense inside against the Bulldogs’ tall front line.

A concerned Wolstein Center crowd had much to cheer about early in the second half, as the Vikings stormed out of the locker room and immediately got to work erasing the Bulldogs’ lead. Powered by the 3-point shooting of senior Trevon Harmon, the Vikings used a 19-8 run to retake the lead with slightly more than 11 minutes left in the game.

The last 11 minutes played out in the usual style of Vikings\Bulldogs game, with the outcome not determined until the final buzzer and with both teams refusing to give an inch. The Bulldogs’ height advantage ultimately proved to be the difference, as they were able to pull down several key offensive rebounds late in the second half that led to important second shot opportunities for the visiting Bulldogs.

Ultimately, the Bulldogs escaped with a 52-49 victory when Grady missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer that could have tied the game for the Vikings.

Grady led all scorers with 18 points. Roosevelt Jones paced the Bulldogs with 17 points.

Although the Vikings still maintain a solid grip on second place in the Horizon League, which will allow them to receive an automatic spot in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals, Saturday’s loss means that the Vikings will need to win the majority of their remaining games if they intend to remain in second place. The Bulldogs’ win on Saturday allowed them to move into contention for third place in the Horizon League, allowing them to be in position for a favorable opening-round matchup if they continue their winning ways.

Valparaiso Crusaders Dominate Cleveland State Vikings 59-41

by - Published February 9, 2012 in Conference Notes
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The Cleveland State Vikings and Valparaiso Crusaders squared off on Thursday night at the Wolstein Center in one of the most important games of the season for both teams. While the Vikings’ season-opening victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores may have been extremely important with regards to quality wins that are considered by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, the Vikings’ best route to the NCAA Tournament is to win the Horizon League Tournament. In order to maintain their hold on first place in the Horizon League, have the opportunity to host the Horizon League Tournament, and secure an automatic spot in the tournament semifinals, the Vikings needed to defeat the Crusaders, who currently are in second place in the Horizon League.

Unfortunately for the Vikings and their fans, the Crusaders used a barrage of outside shooting to defeat the Vikings on their home floor by a score of 59-41.

The large Wolstein Center crowd was silenced early in the game as the Crusaders ran out to an 11-1 lead. Ryan Broekhoff scored all of the Crusaders’ points while the Vikings missed multiple layups and played nothing like the team who has dominated the Horizon League in recent weeks. The Crusaders gradually extended their lead throughout the middle of the first half as the Vikings missed several shots from close range.

After the Crusaders extended their lead to 20 points, the Vikings rebounded with a 9-1 run to close the half and head into the locker room trailing by 12 points. Tim Kamczyc scored four of the Vikings’ points during this run and contributed to the Vikings’ solid defensive effort against Broekhoff, who only scored three points in the first half following his 11 point barrage to open the game.

Anticipation of a Vikings comeback filled the air when the Vikings took the floor in the second half. However, the Crusaders simply refused to back down. Two quick 3-pointers by the Crusaders pushed their lead to 16 points within the first minute of the second half. Although the Vikings continued to battle, the Crusaders slowly extended their lead throughout the course of the second half. With slightly more than 12 minutes remaining, the Crusaders had built a seemingly insurmountable 21 point lead. Undaunted, the Vikings narrowed the gap to 13 points with 7:43 remaining in the second half.  Unfortunately for the Vikings and their fans, the Vikings were able to pull no closer. Despite the fact that the Vikings forced the Crusaders into 17 turnovers, the Vikings’ abysmal 25.9% shooting kept them from earning a comeback victory.

Both teams dealt with major injury issues during the game. The Vikings’ D’Aundray Brown, one of the team’s best defenders, was only able to play eight minutes as he could not overcome a painful groin injury that kept him out of action on Sunday. Kevin Van Wijk, one of the Crusaders’ best players, only played 7 minutes before he departed with what appeared to be a serious leg injury.

Broekhoff led all scorers with 24 points. Jeremy Montgomery led the Vikings with 15 points. No other player for the Vikings scored in double figures.

The Vikings will need to forget this loss and recover quickly if they intended to maintain their hold on second place in the Horizon League, as the Butler Bulldogs will be coming to the Wolstein Center for a nationally televised contest on ESPNU that will tip off at 11:00AM. The Crusaders will travel to Youngstown for a matchup with the improved Youngstown State Penguins on Saturday night.

Big Sky Conference update – Jan 26, 2012

by - Published January 26, 2012 in Conference Notes
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JUST IN TIME FOR TONIGHT’S GAMES… All the news you ever wanted to know about the Big Sky, the weekly edition.
YOUR WEEKLY DAMIAN LILLARD IS A STUD LINK-FEST: A Salt Lake Tribune story on his success. USA Today also jumped in sometime in the last week to talk about him. Then there’s this little blurb which went up at noon EST on Wednesday afternoon. Finally, here is Lillard’s Draft Express page.

Eastern Washington
Record: 9-11, 3-4, t5th
Weekend: 0-1
Major superlatives: Lost by 2 in OT; 76 ppg for, 78 against.
Season conference stats: 4th scoring offense (72.7 ppg), 4th scoring defense (69.9 ppg), 3rd scoring margin (plus-3.7). Percentages: 173-417 FG (9th), 67-196 3-point (7th) 96-140 FT (5th).
What it means: Portland State walked into Cheney and walked out with an OT win, which only intensifies this rivalry and makes the return trip on Feb. 25 potentially for anything from the No. 3 seed to maybe EWU getting into the tournament. And it’s just fun. Worse is the knowledge you had the lead throughout the second half, though it never got higher than five, but got outscored 7-3 in the final 1:28 of regulation. Also, having the lead until the final 40 seconds of OT and coughing it up is going to make Jim Hayford’s club really, really mad.

Idaho State
Record: 5-14, 3-4, t5th
Weekend: 1-0
Major superlatives: Won by 16; 78 ppg for, 62 ppg against; plus-16 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: T7th scoring offense (64.0 ppg), 3rd scoring defense (69.0 ppg), 7th scoring margin (minus-5). Percentages: 156-368 FG (7th), 42-123 3-point (8th), 94-138 (6th).
What it means: More road-warriorness from the Bengals – “NAU led by 11 points early in the contest, but the Bengals came back to tie the game at the half and carried the momentum into the second half. After extending the lead to 10 points at 52-42, the Bengals went on a 14-0 run to pull away from the Lumberjacks, leading by as many 25 points. NAU was out-scored 46-30 overall in the second half.” Now all they have to do is beat UNC in Greeley (which happens tonight) and they can start to maybe think about the postseason. Unless they continue to go 1-2 every three home games, which projects to a 2-6 or 3-5 home record. In conference.

Montana
Record: 13-6, 6-1, 2nd
Weekend: 2-0
Major superlatives: Won by 18, won by 29; 80.5 ppg for, 57 against; plus-23.5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 3rd scoring offense (75.0 ppg), 1st scoring defense (60/9 ppg), 1st scoring margin (plus-14.1). Percentages: 182-348 FG (1st), 48-113 3-point (2nd), 113-151 FT (3rd).
What it means: Feast on the weary and poor, bide time until the rematch with Weber State. And watch out for the intrastate rival, who could be nipping on UM’s heels when the first rivalry game comes around in Bozeman in a couple Saturdays.

Montana State
Record: 10-8, 5-2, 3rd
Weekend: 2-0
Major superlatives: Won by 7, won by 12; 78 ppg for, 68.5 against; plus-9.5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 5th scoring offense (72.0 ppg), 6th scoring defense (70.9 ppg), 5th scoring margin (plus-1.1). Percentages: 178-388 FG (5th), 56-132 3-point (3rd), 92-129 FT (4th).
What it means: There was crunch-time defense and MSU set itself apart, albeit at home vs. UNC. True test will come in Greeley, Colo. But MSU seems to have found a gameplan – shoot steady when possible, start hot and counter-punch when punched. MSU jumped from almost seventh in FT percentage to fourth and sank 34 free throws this past weekend at home, but it is relying on outscoring opponents and getting defensive stops only when it matters.

Northern Arizona
Record: 5-15, 1-7, 8th
Weekend: 0-2
Major superlatives: Lost by 14; lost by 16; 64.5 ppg for, 79.5 against; minus-15 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: t7th scoring offense (64.0 ppg), 9th scoring defense (76.8 ppg), 9th scoring margin (minus-12.6). Percentages: 181-431 FG (8th), 45-129 3-point (6th), 105-155 FT (7th).
What it means: Seven losses in a row, and now the big question becomes “Where does this program go once this season ends?” Safe to say there won’t be a playoff berth for NAU unless UNC and ISU completely fall apart. The chance to play spoiler is all the Lumberjacks can look for at this point and the administration must start thinking about the program’s future. There is a good young base to work with because Adras was a solid coach and he and his staff recruited well.

Northern Colorado
Record: 6-12, 3-4, t5th
Weekend: 0-2
Major superlatives: Lost by 18; lost by 12; 65 ppg for, 80 against; minus-15 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 6th scoring offense (67.4 ppg), 5th scoring defense (70.0 ppg), 6th scoring margin (minus-2.4). Percentages: 157-313 FG (2nd), 32-62 3-point 42-89 (1st), 116-173 FT (8th).
What it means: Losses on the road to the Montana teams mean a logjam for one of the last two spots. Not much because the road record is 1-2 in conference, but the home games against the Montana schools become that much bigger. If the Bears sweep at home this weekend, they’re at 5-4 and right back in it. Big game tonight vs. ISU.

Portland State
Record: 10-9, 4-3, 4th
Weekend: 1-0
Major superlatives: Won by 2 in OT; 78 ppg for, 76 against.
Season conference stats: 1st scoring offense (77.7 ppg), t8th scoring defense (75.7 ppg), 5th scoring margin (plus-2). Percentages: 181-364 FG (3rd), 43-109 3-point (5th), 139-184 FT (2nd).
What it means: This home weekend is very big. Even a split might vault them into third. There’s not much more to add at this point; this weekend is very big and all the Vikings know it.

Sacramento State
Record: 5-13, 0-7, 9th
Weekend: 0-2
Major superlatives: Lost by 7, lost by 29; 60.5 points for; 78.5 against; minus-18 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 9th scoring offense (61.1 ppg), 7th scoring defense (71.1 ppg), 8th scoring margin (minus-10.0). Percentages: 153-353 FG (6th), 29-104 3-point (9th), 93-142 FT (9th).
What it means: The tailspin continues and the fanbase is apathetic to it at this point.

Weber State
Record: 15-3, 7-0, 1st
Weekend: 1-0
Major superlatives: Won by 14; 81 ppg for, 67 against.
Season conference stats: 2nd scoring offense (77.1 ppg), 2nd scoring defense (65.3 ppg), 2nd scoring margin (plus-11.9). Percentages: 178-397 FG (4th), 58-146 3-point (4th), 126-151 FT (1st).
What it means: The top 3, right now, is intriguing. WSU has command of the Big Sky, but has to make the always-dreaded-by-everyone Montana trip later this year. Randy Rahe’s club, if it continues to play steady and solid, will host the BSC tournament for what feels like the hundredth year in a row, but they didn’t host last season and had only hosted six years in a row before that. If not, Missoula or even Bozeman has an outside shot at hosting a tournament.

Cleveland State Vikings Overwhelm Milwaukee Panthers 83-57

by - Published January 22, 2012 in Conference Notes
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In a game with major implications for the regular season Horizon League championship and seeding for the Horizon League Tournament, the Cleveland State Vikings dominated the Milwaukee Panthers by a score of 83-57 in a game in which the Panthers never led.

The Vikings and Panthers began the day in a tie for second place with conference records of 6-2. The winner of today’s matchup would be in a tie for first place with the Valparaiso Crusaders, who began Sunday with a 7-2 conference record after a win on Saturday against the UIC Flames.

These teams’ last matchup was a memorable one. Last season, the Panthers defeated the Vikings in the Wolstein Center in a late-season Horizon League matchup that ultimately denied the Vikings the chance to host the Horizon League Tournament and obtain an automatic spot in the semifinals. The Vikings were thus forced to play two games before facing the Butler Bulldogs in the semifinals, and the Vikings’ fatigue may have ultimately been the difference in their loss to the Bulldogs.

The bitter memory of these teams’ last meeting at the Wolstein Center may have been on the Vikings’ minds at the start of the game as the Vikings burst out to a 19-9 lead. Jeremy Montgomery’s seven points led the Vikings’ balanced attack.

After the Vikings extended their lead to 13 on a dunk by freshman Anton Grady with slightly less than five minutes remaining in the first half, the Panthers used a 9-4 run to narrow the Vikings’ lead to eight by the end of the half. Paced by their blistering 57.7% shooting performance in the first half, the Vikings headed into the locker room with a 36-28 lead.

In the second half, the Vikings once again came out looking for revenge against their conference rivals. Paced by six quick points from senior D’Aundray Brown, the Vikings quickly stretched their lead to 45-30. The Vikings extended their lead to 51-30 following an Anton Grady block and a fast break layup by Trevon Harmon.

Although the Panthers rallied at various points in the second half, the Vikings never allowed the Panthers to narrow their lead to less than 16 points. The Panthers’ dismal 26.9% shooting performance in the second half kept them from substantially cutting into the Vikings’ lead.

Vikings coach Gary Waters emptied his bench with approximately three minutes left in the game, allowing Ike Nwamu, Devon Long, and Marlin Mason to receive playing time.

The Panthers’ James Haarsma and Harmon led all scorers with 15 points. Haarsma was the only Panther in double figures. All five Viking starters scored in double figures.

The Vikings’ win ensures that they will continue to have a solid chance of hosting the Horizon League Tournament in March, as well as obtaining the two-game bye that will allow the Vikings to rest and recover before the tournament semifinals. The Vikings will have the week off before traveling to Youngstown State on Saturday for a rematch against the Penguins, who defeated the Vikings at the Wolstein Center on New Year’s Eve. The Panthers will return to Milwaukee for an important matchup against the Butler Bulldogs on Thursday.

As the Horizon League begins the second half of conference play with several teams having a realistic chance of finishing at the top of the league, each game will be pivotal and Horizon League fans should look forward to a month of competitive basketball.

Big Sky Conference update – January 18, 2012

by - Published January 18, 2012 in Conference Notes
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We’re back and slightly better than before, and we have the latest Big Sky notes.

Eastern Washington
Record: 9-9, 3-3, t5th
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Won by 5, lost by 1; 67.5 ppg for, 65.5 against; plus-4 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 4th scoring offense (72.2 ppg), 6th scoring defense (68.5 ppg), 3rd scoring margin (plus-3.7). Percentages: 145-347 FG (7th), 61-171 3-point (6th) 82-116 FT (4th).
What it means: Middle of the pack after nearly halfway through, with the upper hand on Northern Arizona, Sac State and Montana State. Only MSU is above the Eagles in the standings, which makes a Jan. 28 home date with the Bobcats the most crucial game the rest of the month, even as they host Portland State on the 21st.

Idaho State
Record: 4-14, 2-4, 6th
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Won by 1, lost by 12; 68 ppg for, 73.5 ppg against; minus-5.5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 9th scoring offense (61.2 ppg), 6th scoring defense (70.2 ppg), 8th scoring margin (minus-9).
What it means: One step forward, one step back. Down 14 with under 5 to go, win on a four-point play with 8 seconds left had people in Pocatello happy until they went to Portland and somehow the Vikings took 36 foul shots. They’ve got two road wins, one over a team picked highly by coaches & media (Northern Colorado). That’s big, but they’re 0-3 at home in the conference. Anomaly city for interim head coach Deane Martin.

Montana
Record: 11-6, 4-1, 2nd
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Won by 25, lost by 16; 61.5 ppg for, 67.5 against; minus-6 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 5th scoring offense (69.6 ppg), 7th scoring defense (71.8 ppg), 6th scoring margin (plus-10.4). Percentages: 128-248 FG (1st), 34-74 3-point (2nd), 74-101 FT (3rd).
What it means: For now, it means the Wildcats stand alone. UM played without center Derek Selvig, who can shoot and defend both outside and inside. Another post, Art Steward, fouled out with 16 minutes to go in the game. The Grizzlies are still on the path to finish top-2 right now, and shot a not horrible, but not great, 20-52 (38.5%) in the game to drop to 51.6% shooting in Big Sky play. You read that right – 51.6% despite a near-40% game in Ogden.

Montana State
Record: 8-8, 3-2, t3rd
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Lost by 14, won by 2, ; 71 ppg for, 66.5 against; plus-4.5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 8th scoring offense (60.4 ppg), 4th scoring defense (68.2 ppg), 8th scoring margin (minus-7.8). Percentages: 126-269 FG (4th), 38-87 3-point (3rd), 58-89 FT (7th).
What it means: One, the team is perimeter oriented. Nearly as many 3-pointers as free throws, and a better percentage from beyond the arc. Two, things are relatively as they should be for the Bobcats. MSU owns roadies over ISU and Northern Arizona now, but needed late heroics from a player or two to offset the fact it let a 15-point lead slip away. Suffice to say, crunch-time defense is not a current strong suit of the Bobcats’. Big game looms Saturday when Northern Colorado comes to Bozeman, but can’t overlook Sacramento State, as bad as the Hornets are.

Northern Arizona
Record: 5-13, 1-5, 7th
Weekend: 0-2
Major superlatives: Lost by 25, lost by 2; 62.5 ppg for, 76 against; minus-14.5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 7th scoring offense (63.8 ppg), t8th scoring defense (75.7 ppg), 9th scoring margin (minus-11.8). Percentages: 135-337 FG (8th), 30-93 3-point (8th), 83-119 FT (5th).
What it means: The honeymoon for interim head coach Dave Brown is over. Since the Arizona Styate upset at the buzzer, NAU has posted one victory, a 9-point win over fellow bottom-feeder Sac State. The next chance comes in Pocatello on Saturday, because they’re not losing in Ogden on Thursday. Outside of MSU, the losing streak margin is minus-18.75.

Northern Colorado
Record: 6-10, 3-2, t3rd
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Lost by 11, won by 1; 73 ppg for, 78 against; minus-5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 6th scoring offense (68.4 ppg), 3rd scoring defense (66.0 ppg), 4th scoring margin (plus-2.4). Percentages: 112-223 FG (3rd), 32-62 3-point (1st), 86-133 FT (8th).
What it means: If Portland State makes a charge, UNC will feel the pain of a loss. Staved off a Washington state sweep, barely, to stay above sea level after 5 BSC games. It’s been flip, flop since conference started and this weekend’s trip into Montana marks a four-game, two-weekend(ish) road trip for B.J. Hill’s team. They own a win over NAU, but ISU owns a win over them and hosts the Bears – after they get through playing UM and MSU.

Portland State
Record: 9-9, 3-3, t5th
Weekend: 0-1
Major superlatives: Won by 1, won by 12; 83 ppg for, 71.5 ppg against; plus-11.5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 1st scoring offense (77.7 ppg), t8th scoring defense (75.7 ppg), 5th scoring margin (plus-2).
What it means: The Washington teams are both on equal footing at this point, which was sort of expected but also seems strange in a way. This Saturday, they duke it out to get separation from each other in Cheney. PSU has a little momentum after two wins in a row, but Tyler Geving’s team seems mercurial at this point – like Hayford’s Eagles squad or both MSU and UNC.

Sacramento State
Record: 5-11, 0-5, 9th
Weekend: 0-2
Major superlatives: Lost by 5, lost by 1; 63.5 ppg for, 66.5 against; minus-3 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 8th scoring offense (61.4 ppg), 4th scoring defense (68.2 ppg), 8th scoring margin (minus-7.8). Percentages: 106-245 FG (6th), 24-81 3-point (9th), 71-112 FT (9th).
What it means: People are starting to finally get fed up with Katz’s stagnancy and appalled he still has three years left on his contract. Second last in ppg (61.4), mid-pack in points allowed (68.2) and in the bottom four in most of the metric statistical categories. There’s not much more to say about a team on a six-game skid.

Weber State
Record: 14-3, 6-0, 1st
Weekend: 2-0
Major superlatives: Won by 14, won by 16; 71.5 ppg for, 56.5 against; plus-15 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 2nd scoring offense (76.5 ppg), 2nd scoring defense (65 ppg), 1st scoring margin (plus-11.5). Percentages: 145-321 FG (5th), 54-132 3-point (5th), 115-138 FT (1st).
What it means: The cheese stands alone. The Wildcats turned a 21-19 deficit into a 16-point rout, outscoring the Griz 61-43 from the 9 minute mark of the first half onward. Weber’s lead was 27-22, then ballooned to 49-36 at the half. Kyle Bullinger and Frank Otis came back to play, with Otis chipping in seven points in 11 minutes off the bench. They’re starting to get healthier, which means problems for the rest of the Big Sky.

Cleveland State Use Barrages from Outside to Defeat Loyola

by - Published January 7, 2012 in Conference Notes
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The Cleveland State Vikings started 2012 off on a winning note with a 69-48 victory at home on Saturday afternoon over the visiting Loyola Ramblers.

In his pregame radio comments, Vikings coach Gary Waters stated that the Ramblers’ 5-10 record heading into Saturday’s matchup was deceiving and that the Ramblers were much better team than their record indicated. The Ramblers’ performance in the first half reflected Waters’ statements, as the Ramblers hung tough for most of a low-scoring first half. After falling down by a score of 3-1 early in the game, the Ramblers regrouped and took a 5-3 lead with slightly more than 14 minutes left in the first half.

The Ramblers did not relinquish this lead until Vikings guard Trevon Harmon sunk a 3-pointer to give the Vikings a 13-11 lead with approximately eight minutes left in the first half. Harmon’s perfect shooting performance from 3-point range in the first half helped the Vikings head into the locker room with a 32-17 lead at halftime. Harmon, who missed Thursday’s game with a concussion suffered during the Vikings’ matchup against Youngstown State on New Year’s Eve, led all scorers in the first half with 12 points. The Vikings’ solid defense held Ramblers standouts Ben Averkamp and Walt Gibler to five points each.

In the second half, the Ramblers refused to quit and narrowed the Vikings’ lead to 13 with slightly more than 13 minutes remaining. The Vikings pushed back and extended their lead to 19 on a 3-pointer from senior D’Aundray Brown with approximately 12 minutes remaining. Although the Ramblers refused to allow the Vikings to pull away, they were never able to narrow the Vikings’ lead to less than 13.

After the Vikings extended their lead to 23 on a fast-break layup from Brown, Waters was able to empty his bench with 2:36 remaining in the game. Freshman Marlin Mason, who made his collegiate debut on Thursday night, quickly brought the crowd to their feet with a powerful two-handed dunk. Mason later converted an impressive 3-point play to finish the game with five points. Although Waters had frequently stated that he intended to redshirt Mason this season and only played him because of Sebastian Douglas’ injury, Mason’s solid play in his first two games of action make it clear that he will be a valuable contributor to the Vikings this season and beyond.

The Vikings ended the day with a 69-48 victory, raising their record to 14-3. The Ramblers fell to 5-11.

Harmon, who only missed one shot all game long and sank a career-best six 3-pointers, led all scorers with 20 points. Gibler, Averkamp, and Denzel Brito led the Ramblers with 10 points each.

Next weekend, the Vikings will travel to Indiana for two Horizon League conference games. On Friday, the Vikings will battle the Butler Bulldogs in a highly anticipated matchup that will be televised on ESPNU. The Vikings will end the weekend with a contest against Valparaiso on Sunday. The Ramblers will return to Chicago for a home matchup with UIC.

Big Sky roundup, week 1

by - Published January 5, 2012 in Conference Notes
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Opening weekend in the Big Sky

Eastern Washington
Record: 7-7, 1-1
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Won by 16, lost by 8; 76.5 ppg for, 72.5 against; plus-4 scoring margin; 52-112 FG; 20-53 3pt; 29-43 FT.
Summary: One night, the lead stuck. The other, it didn’t. The Eagles made an early 25-10 lead against Montana State and rode it to an 82-66 victory. How? EWU was outrebounded and committed 21 turnovers, but shot 50% (FG)-40%(3pt)-70% (FT), four in double digits and forced 22 turnovers themselves.
Two days later, Eastern took a nine-point lead (47-38) on Laron Griffin’s jumper but quickly fell silent from there. Cliff Ederaine split a pair of foul shots to cut UM’s lead to 49-48, then didn’t score for three minutes after that. The Eagles trimmed it to a point a couple times, but couldn’t flip it around.
What it means: Middle of the pack, but a big road win in Bozeman (only the ninth time in 36 tries) gives EWU the upper-hand over the Bobcats at this point.

Idaho State
Record: 3-10, 1-1
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Lost by 14, won by 2; 60.5 ppg for, 66.5 against; minus-6 scoring margin; 42-98 FG; 15-41 3pt; 22-35 FT.
Summary: Chase Grabau put up a career-best 31 in the loss and ISU kept up with Weber in the second half, but no one else scored in double figures. On Monday, two more three-pointers and three more two pointers (12) offset UNC hitting 10 more free throws (plus-2) and the fact that five Bengals scored just one more point than Morgan (11).
What it means: See above, replace road win in Bozeman with Greeley and MSU with UNC.

Montana
Record: 9-5, 2-0
Weekend: 2-0
Major superlatives: Won by 11, won by eight; 77 ppg for, 67.5 against; plus-9.5 scoring margin; 48-95 FG; 15-31 3pt; 43-56 FT.
Summary: Montana made 15-of-26 (57.7%) field goals in the first half and was 7-of-9 (77.8%) from three-point range against Portland State. Against EWU, an 18-1 run turned the tide and Mathias Ward scored a career-best 28 as the Griz shot 50.5% from the field in weekend 1
What it means: The start of a solid BSC season and the second 2-0 start in Big Sky play after weekend 1.

Montana State
Record: 6-7, 1-1
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Lost by 16, won by 13; 76 ppg for, 77.5 against; minus-1.5 scoring margin; 52-112 FG; 13-32 3pt; 35-50 FT.
Summary: The biggest win-loss swing goes to the Bobcats, who played … not good against EWU, then found itself against PSU to snap a four-game skid. Looking back, the only thing MSU did badly was allow 11 3-pointers to the Eagles. They hit 21 FGs to 27 for EWU in the same amount of shots.
What it means: A huge three-game road swing looms, with a chance to steal two road wins and momentum from teams purportedly weaker (Idaho State and Northern Arizona). Middle of the pack with four other schools.

Northern Arizona
Record: 5-9, 1-1
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Won by 9, lost by 16; 68.5 ppg for, 72 against; minus-3.5 scoring margin; 49-119 FG; 17-40 3pt; 22-34 FT.
Summary: Simple enough. Won the game they should have, lost the game they should have (maybe, depending on who you ask).
What it means: Middle of the pack with four other schools, won at home, lost on the road.

Northern Colorado
Record: 4-9, 1-1
Weekend: 1-1
Major superlatives: Won by 16, lost by 2; 67.5 ppg for, 60.5 against; plus-7.5 scoring margin; 44-80 FG; 12-20 3pt; 35-52 FT.
Summary: A last-second layup went awry. Sophomore guard Tate Unruh, the team’s leading scorer, sat out most of the game with a left ankle injury sustained early in the first half and played just seven minutes. Add Unruh, or even that layup make, and UNC might be 2-0. Also, a minus-10 turnover margin (17) in the game didn’t help
What it means: Unruh most likely is there for the return trip to Pokey. Go into Sacramento and get a win and things will be right again before a huge homestand against the state of Washington.

Portland State
Record: 6-8, 0-2
Weekend: 0-2
Major superlatives: Lost by 11, lost by 13; 68.5 ppg for, 80.5 against; minus-12.0 scoring margin; 48-115 FG; 9-31 3pt; 32-41 FT.
Summary: The Vikings couldn’t defend against the Treasure State, allowing a combined 53% on field goals (56-105). Twenty-two missed 3-pointers, which is about right (PSU shot 27% in the pre-conference play and averaged 4.5 a game). Charles Odum didn’t show up early in either road game – 23.5 points in two games, but scored 37 of his 47 points in the second half.
What it means: Depends on whom you ask. They say you never lose in conference until you lose at home (or something to that effect). But starting 0-2 in conference and falling into a four-game tailspin can’t be good for confidence or egos.

Sacramento State
Record: 5-8, 0-2
Weekend: 0-2
Major superlatives: Lost by 9, lost by 11; 63.5 ppg for, 73.5 against; minus-10 scoring margin; 48-109 FG; 10-32 3pt; 21-37 FT.
Summary: Decent shooting, bad free throws. Three players in double figures for the weekend and a almost great game against Weber – down 40-27, Sac State pulled within 42-36 at the 15:27 mark, but never got closer – gives Hornet supporters mixed feelings. The Hornets had a fifth player in the last two seasons leave recently, as Walter Jackson announced he was leaving the program on Dec. 26, three days before the conference opener at NAU. Boosters have come out in support of Katz and noted he will get through his contract, which runs out after 2013-14.
What it means: See Portland State, change four-game skid to three.

Weber State
Record: 10-3, 2-0
Weekend: 2-0
Major superlatives: Lost by 14, won by 9; 76 ppg for, 63.5 against; plus-12.5 scoring margin; 48-101 FG; 16-39 3pt; 40-46 FT.
Summary: Ho-hum, kind of. Lillard went for 48 on opening weekend at home, but Scott Bamforth returned in a scoring aspect (20 points, 4.5 rebounds & 4 assists) while shooting 42 percent from the field and 91 percent from the free throw line. Bamforth averaged 12.3 points in the month of December prior to Big Sky play. Jordan Richardson, Darin Mahoney and Kyle Tresnak have also come together in Kyle Bullinger’s absence and will be the starting lineup from now on.
What it means: See Montana. Things will start to separate for WSU (and the Griz) this weekend.

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Conference Coverage

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