Friday, January 18, 2008

A Great Day for the Vikings

You don't have to pinch yourselves, CSU hoops fans. It really happened. Those fans charging the court last night? Yup, they weren't an illusion. The Cleveland State University basketball team really did stick it to #12 Butler, 56-52, for their first win over a ranked opponent since their legendary 1986 NCAA tournament run.

How great was it? So great that even Bill Livingston is pleasant this morning.

Led by J'Nathan Bullock's 14 points and nine rebounds, the Vikings capped their best week of basketball in decades by knocking off Butler, a mid-major superpower more accustomed to slaying college basketball's Goliaths than taking one on the chin from a college basketball David like CSU. The Vikings did it in style, too. They took an early lead and trailed only once in the game, despite the fact that Butler managed to knot the contest up on seven separate occasions.

There were a lot of contributors last night for the Vikings, but this season, there usually have been. In addition to Bullock, Cedric Jackson had 14 points, four assists, and five steals. Warrensville Heights' own Joe Davis came off the bench to score 13 points. Davis was 5 for 7 from the field, which is even more impressive when you consider that he was 3 for 4 from beyond the arc.

Davis's performance was another example of the kind of bench support that the Vikings have been getting this season. Going into last night's game, CSU's bench was averaging 25.6 points per game. They didn't come near to matching that last night, but they did contribute 15 points, while Butler's bench contributed 17. That's not so bad when you consider that Butler has the vaunted three point specialist Pete Campbell coming off the bench for it.

Last night's victory comes off of two straight road upsets of Detroit Mercy and defending Horizon League champion Wright State. The Vikings started this three game swing in sole possession of first place in the Horizon League, but I doubt very many pundits thought they'd be there now. But the Vikings sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the league over the course of the last week, and they added an exclamation point to it last night -- the road to the Horizon League title runs through Cleveland!

It's been a long, long wait for CSU fans, and although there were only 5,300 in attendance last night at the Wolstein Center, that's the most that have been there since they put the curtain up three seasons ago. I've got a feeling that three times that many people will claim to have been there. If that means fans are waking up to what's been going on at CSU this season, then I guess that's okay by me.

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