It was only their biggest game of the year to date. With the potential to take sole control of first place in the Horizon League, controlling their own destiny the rest of the way, the Cleveland State Vikings came out of the tunnel for their showdown with Valparaiso seemingly ready. Their largest crowd of the year (4,521) was ready. Everyone was on their feet as the ball went in their air…. and just like that, everything went, splat.
Valpo took control from the opening tip and never looked back. In the blink of an eye, the Vikings were down 17-1. While the Crusaders were hitting everything, the home team couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (unofficial count had CSU missing NINE first half layups, en route to a 25% shooting evening). Even with star Center Kevin Van Wijk going down with an injury just seven minutes into the game, Valpo just took it to Cleveland State. Outside bomber Ryan Broekoff exploded for 24 points and reserve forward Richie Edwards added 20. For the first time in ages, the Vikings were not the aggressor; their opponent was.
And it never got any better as Valpo led by 12 at the half and by as many as 23 on CSU’s home floor on their way to a 59-41 pasting of the Vikings.
While the 25% field goal percentage tells a huge part of the story in this one, one stat in particular can be pointed to as the difference. Valparaiso shot 11-22 (50%) from three-point land while CSU was a putrid 1-13 (7%). The closest the Vikings got after falling behind 17-1 eight minutes into the game was when they scratched and clawed their way to that 12 point halftime deficit. But the game was never really that close.
Head Coach Gary Waters, in a “master of the obvious” quote after the game, said “That was a bad outing for us.”
That is an understatement.
The main issue now is that with Valpo’s big win, they have swept Cleveland State and now essentially hold a two-game lead in the race for the Horizon League regular season title. Its going to be next to impossible for CSU to catch Valpo in disecting the schedules. Valpo has just four Horizon League games left, while CSU has five. Two of the Crusaders four games remaining are against league bottom feeders Loyola (0-13) and UIC (3-10) at home. Theyir lone road game remaining is Saturday against Youngstown State. The Vikings still have to travel to Wisconsin to face tough opponents Green Bay (5-7) and Milwaukee (8-6).
The goal now for Waters’s club should be to hang on to that second place slot and grab one of the two all important double byes in the Horizon League tournament. Hosting the tournament at the Wolstein Center more than likely became a pipe dream after last night’s no show.
To make matter worse, Senior D’Aundrey Brown, who has been nursing a sore groin and missed the last game, attempted to give it a go in this all important match up last night. He ended up playing just eight first half minutes and re-injuring himself. Waters said after the game we probably won’t see Brown again until next week at the earliest. On this night, Im not even sure a healthy Brown would have made a big difference. CSU’s shooters were all cold at the same time on the wrong night.
Leading scorers Jeremy Montgomery and Tre Harmon were a combined 8-30 and missed 10 of the 11 threes they took. Junior Tim Kamczyc played 38 minutes and took just five shots, hitting two. Aaron Pogue and Anton Grady were stifled in the post. It just wasn’t CSU’s night.
Unfortunately, this all happened in front of a huge crowd at the Wolstein Center. The hope was they could win this thing, build off of that momentum, and ride it through the Butler game Saturday all the way through to the Horizon League title. Ah, the best laid plans. CSU must now go the route they did when they took down Butler in March of 2009 – win on the road in the Horizon League Tournament to get that bid to the big dance.
(photo via Scott Shaw/PD)