The SEC or Big East didn’t need to send teams like Vanderbilt or West Virginia to Northeast Ohio last night in order to create that big-time basketball atmosphere.
The Cleveland State Vikings and Kent State Golden Flashes took care of that by themselves. Besides, they beat those two teams already anyways.
As a result of those early signature wins, Cleveland State came in ranked 26th in the AP Poll while the votes Kent State received had them slotted at 37th. Both collectively recognized as two of the nation’s top-40 college basketball teams, both hailing from Northeast Ohio.
6,327 basketball fans filed in as a result last night. The largest crowd for a non-conference game at Kent State in forty years.
The players may have been a little too hyped up about all that though, on both sides. There was certainly a collection of spectacular plays scattered throughout the game, but it did lack some flow offensively. Trevon Harmon, after hitting the game winner against St. Bonaventure, went 0-9 from the field. Kent State Guard Mike Porrini had only 2 points in 36 minutes. There were a total of 42 turnovers in the game, and 38 fouls. Some of that had to do with defense, the rest of it with simply wanting to do well so badly.
I couldn’t have appreciated the effort from both sides more though, even if both coaches have them running windsprints all the way through Thanksgiving. They gym was electric at the opening tip, and those players in that game created that environment. Cleveland State did more to take advantage of it though, and came out on fire. Jeremy Montgomery hit two three’s early to give CSU a 12-2 lead they’d never look back from. He finished with a team high 13.
In an effort to possibly find out who he feels he can trust the most on a bench that literally appears to be at least 10 guys deep for CSU, Gary Waters substituted a whole new five in together at around the 14 minute mark. That second group, led by Charles Lee (7 pts 3 ast), Anton Grady (4 pts, 6 reb), and Sebastian Douglas (4 pts, 3 reb), helped maintain the Vikings lead until Waters subbed all five of his starters back in together about 7 minutes later. At the break Cleveland State led 30-21.
Both teams came out with an increased intensity in the second half, and Kent State fought all the way to the end despite the loss. The game wasn’t really as close as the final four point margin would indicate, but that should take nothing away from the team that KSU has this season. Justin Greene had 13 for Kent, and Chris Evans came off the bench to score 14. Even though they didn’t have their best games, guys like Carlton Guyton (8 pts), Randall Holt (7 pts), and Porrini can all play too.
Cleveland State is just a real good team this year. Even on an off-night, they can beat an AP Top-40 team on the road. That should be more the takeaway here, for both sides. Sure the game was sloppy at times, and for some reason no television stations felt it worthy to broadcast, but both of these teams are good. Both teams are NCAA Tournament teams. Cleveland State is just better.
The AP voters will reward CSU for beating the quality opponent that Kent State is at their place last night too. I expect them to be ranked in the Top-25 for sure next week. If CSU was as high as No. 22 I wouldn’t be surprised. Kent State shouldn’t fall too far off the radar either with the loss. The bigger test will be to see what these two teams will do from here.
How good the young players that Gary Waters has infused this group led by D’Aundray Brown (11 pts, 3 reb, 1 ridiculous blocked shot) with can’t be understated either. The numbers may not necessarily jump off the page at you, but Charles Lee is a very solid PG who knows how to play the position. Anton Grady will develop into a star one day too under Waters’ tutelage. It should be a fun ride this season with this CSU group as a result.
Next up for Cleveland State (4-0) is The Ticket City Legends Classic at Kingston Rhode Island where they open with Boston University on Friday. Kent State (2-1) plays host to Louisiana Lafayette next Monday.