April 17, 2014

Dancin…Dancin…DANCIN! Cleveland State is Headed to the NCAA Tournament

Cedric Jackson Cleveland State 57
Butler 54
(box)

Two times this season the Cleveland State Vikings had the lead with less than a minute to go against the conference leader and rival Butler. Two times, they lost. CSU head coach Gary Waters was determined to not let this happen again. As he told his team before the game (caught by the ESPN cameras) “two times we had these guys, and we let them get away.”

This time they didn’t.

The third time was indeed the charm for Waters and his team. After trailing for most of the first 30 minutes, Tournament MVP Cedric Jackson hit one of his four threes to put the Vikings ahead for good and send them to their first NCAA Tournament in 23 years. They did it in typical Cleveland State fashion under the direction of Waters;  stingy defense and quality offensive possessions.

Jackson put on perhaps his best performance of his Viking career. The senior St. John’s transfer played all 40 minutes and controlled the game on both ends. He led all scorers with 19 points, dished out eight assists, and grabbed seven boards. His back to back threes with CSU down six were a part of an 8-0 which tied the score at 28 late in the first half. You could see the calm, cool, play of a Senior who knew this was his last shot at the big dance. “We wanted to be aggressive and I had to step up. It feels so good,” said Cedric after the game.

It didn’t look good for a while as star J’Nathan Bullock struggled most of the night in the face of constant double teams everytime he touched the ball in the post. He shot just 4-12 from the floor and Waters even sat him at key times down the stretch in favor of the post duo of George Tandy and Chris Moore, who were superb defending Horizon League Player of the Year. Not only did Jackson step forward, but the the unsung hero of this CSU victory was Freshman Guard Jeremy Montgomery.

The precocious kid from Chicago is known as the Vikings best deep threat and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Playing without defensive stopper D’Aundrey Brown and with starter Trey Harmon saddled with three fouls early in the second half, Waters turned to Montgomery and he responded. The Lefty stroked three huge threes and finished with 11 points in a key 21 minutes of play off the bench. His triple gave CSU its first lead since the early in the game at 47-45 with just over 11 minutes remaining.

In a game where the officiating was extremely spotty on both ends (the third foul calls on Bullock and Howard were as bad as they get), credit Tandy, Moore, and Bullock for keeping Howard at bay. He scored right at his average, 14 points, but he had to work extremely hard to get them. He had a tough time with the size and athleticism of Tandy and the physicality of Moore and Bullock.

Defensive credit must also go to Waters, who twice in the second half junked his classic man to man style for a triangle and two on Howard and Shelvin Mack (with Jackson and Tandy) and a diamond and one on Mack (with Jackson) after Mack torched the Vikings for 15 points in the first 26 minutes. He didn’t hit a field goal in the final 16 minutes of the game.

After a Jackson layup with 4:55 remaining, CSU was clinging to a 56-50 lead and began to take the air out of the ball on each offensive possession. Said Waters: “Our goal was to control the tempo at that point.  If we cut the clock down and got it under three minutes, we would win. It was the defense that won it.” It wasn’t the best strategy in the world at that point (or at least it seemed that way to me), but with the defense the Vikings were playing, it worked. Gordon Hayward’s one-handed tip-in with 6:20 left was the last field goal Butler would make.

Norris Cole’s perfect reading of the passing lanes gave Cleveland State a shot to ice the game at the line with 14 seconds left up two. Cole split a pair at the line, giving Butler one last shot to send the game to OT.That one last shot turned into three. Mack misfired on a contested three, but Hayward grabbed the offensive board. He trey attempt was off the mark as well, but Shawn Vanzant was their to grab the rebound, he made a third attempt to tie the game, but the ball slipped from his hands as the clock hit zero.The Vikings rushed the floor in jubilation.

Coach Gary Waters threw his arms to the sky in celebration. Nobody deserved this one more than he did. It has taken him just three seasons to turn a dead program into an NCAA Tournament team. He has worked so hard to give his players the reasons to believe. They came through for him and he came through for them.

Said a proud Waters after the game: “These guys are a bunch of fighters and they persevered.”

Congrats to the entire Cleveland State program for punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Somewhere in Indiana, Kevin Mackey  is smiling.

——-

Apparently after the game, CBS Sportsline had the score and recap flip-flopped. Thanks to the Dawg Pound Daily for this find

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    As a fan of “that other Big 10 team” that most of you wish would not be named, I’m happy for the Vikes on one level (I always love me some underdogs in March, regardless), but sad because now Butler will be taking one of the at-large spots that my team has worked so hard to get.

    Someone should buy Kevin “Mouse” McFadden some tickets to the NCAA games, because you can always use all the good mojo you can get.

  • RandyOSU

    Congratulations to Gary Waters and CSU. Gary Waters is just a pure winner; tremendous person, great leader, great motivator, great communicator, and always well prepared with a plan. I’ve not seen a CSU team play with the efficiency, passion, persistance, mental toughness, awareness……….if ever, displayed in one of the toughest road venues (Hinkle Fieldhouse). I really truly had a feeling CSU would pull this out because of GARY WATERS.

    I also knew it wouldn’t take GW long to get CSU on the winning track…….that’s what winners and leaders do. He’s the best under the radar coach perhaps in the country, and CSU was fortunate to get him. Let’s hope CSU keeps this guy under contract for many years to come-he’s going to continue to make Cleveland proud on AND off the court. (and in the locker room and meeting rooms).

  • Boomhauer

    The look on Gary Waters’ face after the game was priceless. I think he was about to cry. It was awesome. What he’s done at CSU is nothing short of amazing. I just hope he sticks around and builds a mid-major powerhouse.

  • http://www.clevelandleader.com ClevelandLeader

    DP Says:

    Someone should buy Kevin “Mouse” McFadden some tickets to the NCAA games, because you can always use all the good mojo you can get.
    ____________________________________

    You obviously are like the rest of Cleveland fans and are a bandwagon fan of this team. If you knew anything about Cleveland State basketball you would know that the “Mouse” is nothing more than a rat that tried to get CSU on probation earlier in the 2000′s despite the University giving him a plush job. Keep Mouse McFadden as far away from this team!

  • mgbode

    Hey, if they were going to have 2 crushing defeats to Butler this year and win 1….they picked the right game to win.

    Can’t wait to pick C-State to upset whatever mediocre 6 or 7 seed from a big conference they get matched up with.

  • RandyOSU

    good call mgbode. CSU is well coached with Gary Waters…….I’d not want to face them in an opening round unprepared.

  • Harv 21

    I am ready to jump on the CSU bandwagon, after attending exactly one game since they left Woodling Gym so many years ago. What I saw on tv last night was a really well-coached team which appears short on quality players. Here’s hoping the NCAA appearance will ratchet up the school’s recruiting ability so they can start getting to the Dance regularly. Although they played great defense, it looks to me like they really need a good big man in the middle. And they need to keep this coach as long as possible.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    #4:
    I wouldn’t even go so far as to call myself a bandwagon fan. I didn’t watch the game, I haven’t been pulling for them or anything; I’m not trying to act like I’m a CSU fan at all. In fact, from my original post you could read a tinge of disappointment because it makes the pool of at-large bids smaller for the team I actually do support.

    I threw the Mouse thing in because I can remember watching those NCAA games when they went to the Sweet 16, and he’s the only player I can remember.

    Cut me a little slack, bro.

  • Adam

    @ DP

    I cant believe you like those sorry losers from up north…

    They are really bad in sports recently and theres no good reason for them to make the tournament. As for the football team – hahahahahahahah

  • http://www.clevelandleader.com ClevelandLeader

    #4:
    I wouldn’t even go so far as to call myself a bandwagon fan. I didn’t watch the game, I haven’t been pulling for them or anything; I’m not trying to act like I’m a CSU fan at all. In fact, from my original post you could read a tinge of disappointment because it makes the pool of at-large bids smaller for the team I actually do support.

    I threw the Mouse thing in because I can remember watching those NCAA games when they went to the Sweet 16, and he’s the only player I can remember.

    Cut me a little slack, bro.
    __________________________________

    The name “Mouse McFadden” just strikes a nerve with real CSU Basketball fans, that’s all…..

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    Understandable, CL.

    As for this one:

    theres no good reason for them to make the tournament.

    Michigan’s resume is every bit as good as Ohio State’s at the end of the day, and I suppose you think *they* should make the tournament…?

    OSU: 20-9
    RPI = 36; SOS = 31; Key wins (top 25 RPI): Butler

    UM: 18-12
    RPI = 42; SOS = 10; Key wins (top 25 RPI): Duke, UCLA, Illinois
    Michigan also beat Purdue, and gave Connecticut all they could handle on their home floor.

    In short, Michigan has every right to go to the Big Dance as OSU does…

  • Bridgecrosser

    I hope Waters can use this to seal all the players he was recruiting. The PD said he called all of them the night before and told them all to watch this CSU-Butler game. STONES. They lose 5 seniors so some fresh blood is needed.

    But this is great. Don’t settle for just showing up now, take a game or two!

  • Bobby O’Brien

    Amazing team. Congrats to Coach Waters and the Vikes!