Friday, January 18, 2008

Cleveland Basketball...Back on the Map

What a night for the basketball teams of my great city. The Cavaliers go into San Antonio and take down the Spurs in a game where Lebron James shoots 9-24 from the field and The Cleveland State Vikings, your one and only local college basketball team, knocks off the #12 ranked team in the nation, Butler. The Cavs are clearly a team on the move in the East, winning nine of 11 to put themselves right there for the four spot. The Vikings are now 6-0 in the Horizon League, all alone in first place with essentially a two game lead over Butler, who is now 5-2.


I'm not going to sit here and act like I watched a ton of this game, because I didn't. But I will say that going into San Antonio and winning is huge for this team. Lebron probably won't win MVP again, but is there any question which player is most valuable to his team? Without Lebron, this team doesn't win 20 games. That said, with Lebron on the bench in the second quarter, the Cavs went on a 24-4 run, led by that vaunted Devin Brown/Damon Jones backcourt duo. Both gave played very well of late. You have gotta show some love to Boobie Gibson as well, who has takent to his Vinny Johnson-esque microwave role. His big three with 1:13 left gave the Cavs a two point lead. Mike Brown thanks the lord every morning for these three, since his starting guards have done little to nothing. Once again. Sasha Pavlovic and Larry Hughes were non-factors offensively, combining for eight points on 3-11 shooting. Hughes does deserve props for his defense on Tony Parker.

Anderson Varajao played another stellar game, scoring 12 points and grabbing 14 boards off the bench. Drew Gooden had no business trying to guard Tim Duncan, but Andy did an excellent job as always. Holding Duncan to 20 points is considered a feat. Z knocked down his usual slew of jumpers for 17 points. Oh, did I forget to mention a guy named Lebron James who led the Cavs with 27, nine rebounds, and seven assists? I love the way this team is playing and so does former KU great Gooden. "This was a big game for us to see where we are," Gooden said. "Although we've had a slow start, we're starting to come around. We're playing better basketball and we showed that tonight because we fought."

The Stat Guru weighed in via email: I know that this was not a playoff game, but it was on national TV and the Spurs needed a W before their big rodeo trip. However, tonight's win against San Antonio validates my view that the Cavs undeservedly get no respect for what they accomplished last year. Once again, their run to the Finals was dismissed as taking advantage of injuries. Granted the Wiz were decimated, but the Nets did not have Krstic all year and got to where they were without him. We beat the Pistons in six and it could have been four. In the Finals, we play a team that we swept 2-0 in the regular season. However, our starting point guard gets hurt and is ineffective in the first two games and does not play in games 3 or 4, which we lose by a total of four points. Yet, Hughes' injury has never been mentioned once by any commentator as a reason why we lost, much less got swept by the Spurs. We know that he can't shoot and the Cavs have flaws, but it is hard to argue that we have played pretty well with our healthy starting five over the past year or so. Instead, we lost because the East is terrible, the Cavs were lucky, injuries, David Stern's conspiracy.

Cleveland State

Because of a commitment I could not get out of, I wasn't at the Wolstein Center last night to witness the rebirth of Vikings Basketball. My father was a season ticket holder forever. I went to games my whole life growing up, both at Woodling Gym and at the Convo. Then when he passed, I wasn't living here and I stopped going. He would have loved being there last night. More than 5,000 fans witnessed the first Vikings win over a ranked team since 1986, they stormed the floor afterwards to show their appreciation.

For Junior J'Nathan Bullock, a three year starter who has been through the worst at CSU, last night was so sweet. "This is the biggest victory so far in my collegiate career and we hope for many more," said Bullock, who persevered through 6-for-16 shooting. "It was a beautiful feeling to have the students rush the floor and push us to victory." He led the Vikings with 14 and nine rebounds. St. John's transfer Cedric Jackson held all-Horizon League Guard A.J. Graves to just 2-11 from the field. The Vikings D was swarming. Take away F Pete Campbell's 5-7 from deep, and Butler was just 1-16.

This victory will go a long way for the program and it's suffering fans. Usually, they are lucky to get over 2,000 people at home games. With a 6-0 start in league play and a program defining win over the #12 ranked team in the country, this city, always looking for a winner, should have no problem getting behind this hard working bunch of kids. "It's a big win, but maybe I'm not showing it in my emotions," said Waters, "I looked at it as a home game and if we gave it up then they have the edge in the league. I thought we competed as hard as we could and grunted it out."

It's time for Cleveland to get out and support this team. Tickets are very affordable, unlike NBA games, and there is finally a quality product out on the floor to enjoy. There is a long way to go, but keep this up, and they'll be hosting the semi's of the Horizon League tournament with a shot to get to the big dance.

CSU Has Picture-Perfect Win - Bill Livingston, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Vikings Thrill Hungry Crowd - Joe Maxse, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Not Finals, But it's a Win - Brian Windhorst, Akron Beacon-Journal

Bulldogs Fall Two Back in Loss Column - David Woods, Indy Star

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