It wasn’t on any of the ESPN networks, nor was it against a team in the Top 25, let alone Top 10. However, this game may have been equally as important for Cleveland State.
In a BracketBuster-like matchup, Cleveland State traveled to Kent State—just a 40-mile trip southeast from Cleveland—and came away with a 57-53 win.
Each team was coming off a big early-season win on the road against a power-conference team. Cleveland State, of course, pulled out an extremely impressive 13-point win at then-No. 7 Vanderbilt. Kent State won a late-morning affair last Tuesday in Morgantown, defeating West Virginia by 10.
As the score may indicate, the matchup between these two was an ugly-shooting, high-turnover affair. Cleveland State and head coach Gary Waters are just fine with that.
Against Vanderbilt, the Vikings forced 20 turnovers, and held the Commodores to just 23 percent shooting from three-point range. Against Kent State, the Vikings made their opponents’ lives even more miserable. They forced 22 turnovers, and held the Golden Flashes to a pitiful 1-of-17 from long range.
Cleveland State starts four seniors, led by Jeremy Montgomery, D’Aundray Brown and Trevon Harmon. That experience is proving to be a huge asset for Coach Waters’ team to help close out games. Their tenacity on the defensive end seems to wear teams down later in ballgames.
Against St. Bonaventure last Friday, the Vikings trailed by nine with under 10 minutes to play. They held the Bonnies to just nine points the rest of the ballgame and came back to pull out a last-second three-point victory.
If Cleveland State can continue to play 40 minutes of high-intensity, high-pressure basketball, they will be a very tough team to beat throughout the season. A hard-fought win over Kent State—the favorite to win the MAC this year—only adds to the already high confidence level that this senior-led group possesses.
At 4-0, and with wins in two of the toughest games they have on their schedule, Cleveland State is in position to potentially go into Horizon league play undefeated. In the non-conference, they have a couple more potentially challenging road games, against Rhode Island and Akron. The latter of those teams already has a big win of their own, at Mississippi State.
With tonight’s win, Cleveland State helped further prove they are not a one-hit wonder after winning at Vanderbilt. They are a team to keep an eye on between now and March.