By Jamison Schroeder
The Cleveland State University men’s basketball team started the season off in a rough place. During their first five games, they ended up going 1- 4, with 3 of those losses coming on the road. However, that has not kept the team down as they have won their last two games playing in the nation’s capital. They seem to be getting back on the right track.
After a dominant defensive performance against Eastern Kentucky University, the energy on the team seems to have returned. The chemistry seems to be developing for the Vikings with a new coach alongside new transfers. This may have been one reason for the slow start. With a ton of new faces, it was going to take a while for that chemistry to develop between players and coaches.
That no longer seems to be the case, as the team is gelling together impressively, more specifically at home. There is a new attitude going around Cleveland State this season as more students are beginning to fill the seats of the Wolstein with the help of the Vicious Vikes. The home court has been the advantage for this season’s team and this, of course, is with help from the fans. There is plenty of basketball left to play, but if the Vikings manage to keep the momentum going at home as well as on the road, a potential title run could be in the works.
One of the main stories of the season has been the rejuvenated feeling behind the team. This includes a new coaching staff with new head coach Dennis Gates, as well as new transfers from all around college basketball that are helping this team reach their full potential. Sophomore Tre Gomillion and junior Algevon Eichelberger have been two of the most dominant players on the team so far, and this continued during their recent two-game stretch in Washington playing the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Eastern Kentucky. Both Gomillion and Eichelberger were named to the Battle for the Capital All-Tournament Team for helping the Vikings go undefeated in the games that were played in D.C., the only team to achieve that feat. Both players also earned a double-double playing in the capital, both being the first double-doubles of their careers.
The first game played in D.C. was against UNC Wilmington where the Vikings squeaked out a 47-46 win to improve to a 2-4 record. It was a tough defensive effort put on by both teams, the game coming down to the final seconds. The Vikings’ defense did not allow a single Seahawks field goal in the last 7:47 seconds of the game. Within those final minutes, it was an incredible team effort as they inched their way back from a 5-point deficit, as junior Craig Beaudion and freshman Hugo Ferreira played critical roles. As the last minute of the game arrived, Ferreira managed a huge steal along with a pass to Beaudion, who missed the layup. However, a rebound and putback from Gomillion closed the game out, putting the Vikings one point up for good.
The Vikings’ bench played a pivotal part in the 65-51 win over Eastern Kentucky, scoring 29 points, more than three times that of the opposing bench, which led to the Vikings improving to 3-4.
Another game-changer was the 32 points in the paint that the Vikings had, over the 12 points the Colonels made in that same area. On the other end, the Vikings defense was dominant in the second half, having a strong 15-minute stretch where they did not allow Eastern Kentucky to score a single point, gaining a 14-point lead in that time that they would go on to keep the rest of the game.
With momentum on their side after Washington, the Vikings returned home to defeat Robert Morris University 70-59 to improve their record to 4-4. It appears that the Vikings are coming together smoothly with Gates at the helm. This new attitude has given the team the energy they need to make this a strong season.