In Norris Cole, D’Aundray Brown, Jeremy Montgomery, and Trevon Harmon, Cleveland State Coach Gary Waters returns four guards who saw considerable minutes on last year’s tournament team.
Over the last few games, while only two started last year, Waters made the decision to start all four of them this time around. A four guard line-up may give some things up – like size – but it also allows you other opportunities…such as pressuring the basketball for ninety-four feet.
CSU stretched their defense out that way on Saturday against UIC (University of Illinois – Chicago), and when Trevon Harmon (12 points) hit a jumper with 17:44 to go in the first half, the Vikings had cashed in on a few early Flames’turnovers, and couple disjointed offensive sets, to the tune of an 8-0 lead out the gate.
Not that UIC Coach Jimmy Collins didn’t think the Vikings would come out ready to play:
“Any time that you go against a Gary Waters’ team and a Vikings team it is tough. They get loose balls, play defense and are just a tough team to play. We went out and played hard tonight and made progress with our offense and defense.”
Credit Collins’ club for doing just that, because it looked like the route was on early… but then the whistles started blowing. At the 11:06 mark in the first half, with CSU then nursing a 12-8 lead, PG Norris Cole (13 points) was called for his third foul and forced to sit for the rest of the half.
With Cole on the bench UIC made a game of it. Foul trouble forcing the Vikings to retreat into a 2-3 zone for the rest of the half, UIC forwards Jeremy Buttell (game high 22 points) and Brad Birton (8 points) went to work. The 6’7” interior players combined for 17 of their team’s 33 points before intermission, which was fuel for a 33-20 run by the visiting Flames that saw them sitting on a five point advantage (33-28) with 1:24 to go.
But before both teams would meet to talk about it, the Vikings tied it back up. After a couple FT’s by D’Aundray Brown (13 points), freshman Charlie Woods (3 points) – who only played 3 minutes but don’t sleep on this 6’7 forward from Michigan – hit a big three from the corner on his first trip down the court after checking in to knot it at thirty-three apiece, just before intermission.
Norris Cole on his early foul trouble:
“Some of my fouls weren’t necessary and I just need to work on that in practice, because that doesn’t help my team at all when I get in foul trouble and I’m sitting on the bench. I’m happy our team stepped up and took the lead when I was on the bench, Charlie (Woods) and Jeremy (Montgomery) really stepped up when I was out.”
The second half started the same way the first half did. With Cole back in the line-up, CSU rolled out the pressure again, and Cole – who didn’t score in the first half – scored 12 second half points in a span of just under eleven minutes as the Vikings pushed the lead out to 55-45 with 9:26 to play. Then Cole picked up his fourth foul, and despite extending the lead to fourteen with their leading scorer on the bench when Jeremy Montgomery (team high 17 points, 5 assists) scored off a sweet feed from big man Aaron Pogue (6 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) at the 4:26 mark, UIC would eventually come all the way back.
Coach Waters on allowing UIC back into the game:
“When you are in control of a game and you let a team back in because of your own miscues its disappointing. We will continue to work on that and try to not let that happen again. We are a much better team than what we showed in the last five minutes.”
Probably a much better team due simply to the fact that two starters – Norris Cole and Aaron Pogue – would both foul out during those final minutes. Then with 50 seconds to go, UIC’s Chris Buchanan (6 points) would convert a three-point play to cut the margin to 66-63, but that’s as close as they’d get, as CSU would go on to win 70-63.
Notes: CSU ups their record to 7-10 (3-2) with the win. UIC falls to 5-11 (1-5). D’Aundray Brown left the game and went to the locker room with an injury early on the second half, but returned to finish the game. UIC leading scorer Robo Kreps (15.5 ppg) was held to 3 points, however Head Coach Jimmy Collins said in the post game press conference that Kreps was hampered by a shoulder injury, and he had considered not playing him at all before eventually letting him give it a go. CSU turned the ball over 21 times – Montgomery had 8 to UIC’s 17 (Spencer 6). CSU’s Jared Cunnigham (6 points) hit back-to-back threes in the first half to cut the deficit to 30-28 at the time. CSU outrebounded UIC 33-27. Up next for CSU is a top-25 team in Butler, at Butler on Thursday.
Gary Waters photo credit: Brendan Bowers
In addition to having media credentials to cover all Cleveland State home games for Midwest Sports Fans, Brendan can also be found talking all things Cleveland Cavaliers at his Cavs blog, Stepien Rules, or on twitter @StepienRules.
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