Monday, March 23, 2015

CSU Basketball Notebook: Cleveland State visits NJIT Monday night for second-round CIT matchup

The Cleveland State men's basketball team will continue its postseason run in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament with a second round road game at NJIT on Monday.

It will be CSU's (19-14) first-ever meeting with NJIT, the only independent school in Division I.

The Highlanders (19-11) have won 14 of its past 16 games and are playing in its first-ever postseason tournament.

In its first-ever postseason game, NJIT rallied from a five point deficit at the half to pull out a 84-77 victory over New Hamphire in front of a sold out Fleisher Center.

In December, the Highlanders shocked the college basketball world by upsetting then-No.17 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. They also have wins against NCAA tournament participate Hampton, St. Francis Brooklyn (NIT), Delaware State (CBI), St. Francis, Pa. (CIT), Maryland-Eastern Shore (CIT) and Yale.

Just seven years ago, NJIT lost a Division I record 51 straight games. Head coach Jim Engles has built the Highlanders program from scratch. He has taken a team that won only one game his first year and has led the Newark, N.J. school to a school record 19 wins.

CSU advanced to the second round of the CIT with a 86-57 blowout victory over Western Michigan on Wednesday in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Against the Broncos, CSU had one of its best offensive performances of the season. They shot 57 percent from the floor and knocked down a season-high 13 three-pointers.

Charlie Lee led four Vikings in double figures with a season-high 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting. The Milwaukee native hit a career-high eight treys against WMU.

Grady had his 10th double-double of the season with 21 points and tied his career-highs in rebounds (14) and assists (6), while Marlin Mason and Trey Lewis each added 13 points a piece.

The Highlanders rank 79th in Division I in scoring, averaging 71.2 points per game.

Sophomore guard Damon Lynn leads four Highlanders in double-figures, averaging 17.5 points per game. The others are junior guard Winfield Willis (12), sophomore forward Tim Coleman (11.5) and junior guard Ky Howard (11.3).

The Highlanders have only two players taller then 6-6.  6-10 freshman forward Vlad Shustov (2.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 9.3 minutes.) and 6-8 senior forward Daequan Holiday (5.9 pts, 4.4 rpg, 18.3 mpg).

NJIT is 13-2 at home, while the Vikings are 6-10 on the road.

Fans can watch the game at watchcollegeinsider.com.

Shot clock: The CIT is one of three postseason tournaments (NIT and CBI are the others) that are experimenting with a 30-second shot clock, instead of the normal 35-second shot clock.

1,000 point club: Lewis needs 21 points against the Highlanders to become the 23rd member of CSU's 1,000 point club. Lewis has 979 points at CSU since transferring from Penn State.

The Garfield Heights native, who scored 111 points at PSU as a freshman, went over the 1,000 point milestone for his career in CSU's victory at Green Bay on Feb. 20.

Lee and Grady scored their 1,000 career points in CSU's victory over Youngstown State on Feb. 4.

General Lee: Lee needs two more assists to move into second place on CSU's all-time assists list and six more to become the all-time leader in school history. Lee has 458 assists and trails only Franklin Edwards (459) and Ken "Mouse" McFadden (463),

Homecoming: Tonight's game against NJIT will be a homecoming game for CSU head coach Gary Waters who coached Rutgers University from 2001-06. Waters led the Piscataway, N.J. school to three NIT appearances in five years - including a runner up finish in 2004.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cleveland State to play at Western Michigan in CIT tourney

The Cleveland State men's basketball team will play at Western Michigan on Wednesday in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

CSU (18-14) will be making its second straight appearance in the CIT, a 32-team single-elimination non-bracketed tournament geared towards mid-major programs that do not get bids to the NCAA or NIT tournaments.

Last year, CSU was eliminated in the opening round of the CIT, falling at Ohio, 64-62.

The Broncos (20-13) finished sixth in the Mid-American Conference. They lost to Akron in the second round of the MAC Tournament in Cleveland.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cleveland State accepts bid into CIT for second straight year

The Cleveland State men's basketball team will make its ninth appearance in a postseason tournament after accepting an invitation to play in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament on Friday.

CSU will play a road game against a foe to be determined on either Tuesday, March 17 or Wednesday, March 18.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cleveland State's Grady, Lewis and Lee earn All-Horizon League honors

Cleveland State's regular season concluded Friday with a disappointing loss to Valparaiso on its homecourt.

On Monday, the Vikings had a much better day as junior forward Anton Grady, junior guard Trey Lewis and senior guard Charlie Lee were each honored when the Horizon League announced its annual men's basketball honors this afternoon.

Grady and Lewis were named to the all-Horizon League first team. Lee and Grady were also chosen to the league's five member all-defensive team.

Friday, February 27, 2015

CSU Basketball Notebook: Vikings still Alive for No. 1 seed

Despite Sunday's devastating loss to Milwaukee, Cleveland State is still very much alive for the No. 1 seed and a chance to host next week's Horizon League tournament quarterfinals and semifinals.

With Valparaiso's 63-60 loss at Detroit on Wednesday, the No. 1 seed is up for grabs heading into the final weekend of HL play.

Valpo (25-5, 12-3 HL) leads the HL with one game to go.

However, Cleveland State (17-12, 11-4 HL), Green Bay (22-7, 11-4 HL) and Oakland (16-14, 11-4 HL) are a game back of the Phoenix.

The top four seeds will be determine on the court as CSU host Valpo (ESPNU, 10 p.m.) on Friday and Green Bay host OU on Saturday (ESPN3, 2 p.m.).

Here are the remaining seeding scenarios for the top four seeds:

If Valpo wins and Green Bay wins. The final standings would have Valpo at 13-3, Green Bay at 12-4, and CSU and Oakland would be tied at 11-5. Valpo would host the tournament. Green Bay would get the No. 2 seed. OU would get the No. 3 seed over the Vikings because the Golden Grizzlies went 1-1 against Valpo, while CSU is 0-2 against the Crusaders.

If Valpo wins and Oakland wins. The final standings would have Valpo at 13-3, OU at 12-4 and CSU and Green Bay would be tied at 11-5. Valpo would host the tournament, while OU would get the No. 2 seed and double-bye into semi-finals. CSU would get the No. 3 seed over Green Bay because of the season sweep of the Phoenix (2-0).

If CSU wins and Green Bay wins. The final standings would have CSU, Valpo and Green Bay tied at 12-4. CSU would get the No. 1 seed, Valpo would be No. 2, Green Bay is No. 3 and OU is No. 4. CSU holds the tie-breaker between Valpo and GB because of head-to-head records between the three schools. CSU would go 3-1 against Valpo/GB, while Valpo is 2-2 and GB 1-3.

If CSU wins and Oakland wins. The final standings would have CSU, OU and Valpo tied at 12-4. CSU and OU would get the top two seeds because of they swept GB, while Valpo went 1-1. The top two seeds would be determined by who had the highest RPI. As of Thursday, CSU had a RPI of 121 and OU 139, per College Basketball News. Valpo is No.3, while GB is No. 4.

Blackout Valpo: All fans who attend Friday's CSU-Valpo game are encouraged to wear black. The first 1,000 fans will receive a "1 team, 1 goal" t-shirt.

Free parking: CSU is offering free parking to the first 300 cars in the CSU south garage on East 21st street and Carnegie Ave..

Keane questionable: Kaza Keane (right knee sprain) had an MRI on Friday and has a "slim chance" to play against Green Bay.

Keane injured his knee in the first half of CSU's 66-60 loss to Milwaukee on Sunday.

If Keane can't play against the Crusaders, freshmen Terrell Hales and Kenny Carpenter could see an increase in playing time.

"They have to step up and play if Kaza can't go," Waters said about Hales and Carpenter at his weekly media gathering on Tuesday.

Make up date?:  CSU's final nonconference game at Western Carolina last week was cancelled because of the weather.

The game could be possibly made up next year.

"We are looking at playing it a year from now," Waters said.

New home: Former CSU Viking Norris Cole has played well with the New Orleans Pelicans since being traded from the Miami Heat on Feb. 19.


In his first three games with the Pelicans, Cole is averaging 12.7 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds. He's shooting 55.6 percent (15-27) from the floor, including 44.4 percent (4-9) from three-point range.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cleveland State Game at Western Carolina Cancelled

Tuesday night's Cleveland State-Western Carolina basketball game has been cancelled due to weather and travel conditions.

The nonconference game will not be made up.

CSU released the following statement:
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Due to poor travel and weather conditions in North Carolina, the Cleveland State men's basketball game at Western Carolina scheduled for Tuesday (Feb. 17) has been cancelled.
CSU was scheduled to fly out on Monday afternoon, but the charter flight was cancelled. The Vikings were rescheduled to fly out on Tuesday morning, but poor travel conditions also cancelled that flight.
The Vikings return to action on Friday (Feb. 20) when CSU plays at Green Bay at 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cleveland State 67, UIC 59: Vikings Down Flames, Keeps Pace in Horizon League race

"Unbelievable."

That was the one word Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters used to describe the Vikings' defensive effort in the second half against the Illinois-Chicago Flames on Sunday.

Trailing by four at the half to an upset-minded UIC squad that had won its previous two games on the road, Waters challenged his team at halftime to pick up their intensity on defense.

The Vikings clamped down on defense in the second half, holding the Flames to just eight field goals in the final 20 minutes and pulled out a 67-59 victory at the Wolstein Center to keep pace with the top teams in the Horizon League.

CSU (16-11, 10-3 HL) trails first-place Valparaiso (24-4, 11-2 HL) by one game with three games to go. Green Bay is one-half game behind CSU for the No. 2 seed and Oakland is a game and a half back of the Vikings.

In the HL, the top two seeds receive double-byes into the semifinals and only needs to win two games to claim the championship. The No. 1 seed also gets homefield advantage throughout the tournament.

Seeds No. 3 and No. 4 get a bye into the second round and only needs to win three games in five days to claim the championship.

Sunday's win over UIC guaranteed that CSU will finish no worse then fourth in the HL.

CSU outscored the Flames 37-25 in the final 20 minutes.

The Vikings shot 65.2 percent (15-of-23) in the second half, while holding the Flames to 24.2 percent (8-of-33) shooting in the final 20 minutes, including 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from three-point range.

"I thought our pressure caused them problems in the second half," Waters said. "They had only two turnovers in the first half, but we turned them over seven times in the second half."

A key for the Vikings was keeping Anton Grady and Marlin Mason on the floor together in the second half.

Grady (six) and Mason (three) protected the rim in the second half, combining for nine of CSU's season-high 11 blocked shots, 10 of them came in the second half.

"I thought the biggest key in the loss to Detroit was Anton getting in foul trouble in the first half and only playing five minutes," said Waters. "This game Marlin was in foul trouble in the first half and he only played three minutes. I thought that stopped our momentum. I thought we were able to use them well in the second half."

Trey Lewis led the Vikings with 18 points. The Garfield Heights product made his first three three-pointers and shot 7-of-14 from the field. He also had five rebounds, three assists, a blocked shot and a steal.

Grady just missed his seventh double double of the season, finishing with nine points and 13 rebounds. The Cleveland Central Catholic product missed his first five shots from the floor, then made four of his last six.

CSU also had strong games from Mason (11 points), Charlie Lee (nine points, eight assists), Andre Yates (eight points) and Vinny Zollo (eight points).

UIC (7-20, 3-9 HL) was led by Ahman Fells and Paris Burns who each added 17 points.

The Vikings took control of the game mid-way through the second half.

CSU used a 19-6 run that turned a 37-34 deficit into a 53-43 advantage.

During the decisive run, six different Vikings scored.

A Lee jumper started the run and CSU scored eight straight field goals to take a 49-41 lead on Lewis' layup.

Lewis capped off the run with a jumper, then a driving lay-up to extend the lead to 53-43.

Defense also keyed the decisive run for the Vikings as they caused three turnovers and held the Flames to just 2-of-9 shooting from the floor during that seven minute stretch.

A Lee to Mason alley-opp gave CSU its largest lead of the afternoon 60-47 with five minutes to go.

But the Flames would make one last run. They made three straight three-pointers to cut the lead down to 60-56 with 2:22 left.

However, CSU closed out the game making 5-of-6 free throws to stay undefeated at home in conference play.

The Vikings improved to 7-0 at the Wolstein Center in league games and are 12-2 at home overall.

It's the seventh time in eight years that CSU has reached double-digits in league wins.

CSU took an early 23-18 lead as they made its first seven three-pointers - Lewis and Zollo each had three of them.

But the Flames closed the half on a 16-7 run that gave them a 34-30 lead at the half.

The Flames only shot 32.3 percent (10-of-31) from the floor in the first half, while CSU shot 45.8 percent (11-of-24).

The difference in the first half came at the free throw line where UIC shot 10-of-12 (83.3 percent), while CSU made 1-of-3.

Senior day: Before the game, CSU honored its two seniors, Lee and Mason.

It was only fitting that both seniors played key roles in CSU's second half comeback.

Mason scored eight of his 11 points in the second half, while Lee scored all nine of his points in the final 20 minutes.

Lee's only three-pointer of the day gave CSU a 39-37 lead early in the second half. His eight assists tied a season-high.

"Charlie was playing on sure will out there today," said Waters. "He could barely move because his legs were tired. I thought he made just enough plays to give us what we needed to win this game."

Hales update: Terrell Hales missed Sunday's game with "a sore ankle." He injured his ankle in the first half of CSU's 66-65 loss to Detroit on Friday.

"I think the earliest we will get him back is against Green Bay," said Waters.

Familiar face: CSU recruit Rob Edwards, a standout at Cass Tech High School in Detroit, watched Friday's CSU-Detroit game from the stands.

Up next: CSU travels to Western Carolina for a non-conference game on Tuesday.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cleveland State 88, Wright State 72: Vikes Look to Finish Strong

Gary Waters is hoping that history doesn't repeat itself again this year.

With an 88-72 victory over Wright State on Saturday afternoon at the Wolstein Center, Cleveland State became the first Horizon League school to win nine games.

CSU (15-10, 9-2 HL), which have won three straight and six of its past seven, hold a half-game lead on both Valparaiso (21-4, 8-2 HL) and Green Bay (19-5, 8-2 HL), while Oakland (12-12, 7-2 HL) is a game back.

Once again, CSU enters February in control of its own destiny to host next month's HL tournament, but they will most likely need to win their remaining five league games in order to secure the No. 1 seed.

In the HL, the No. 1 seed gets to host the conference tournament quarterfinals and semifinals (March 6 and 7). The highest seed remaining after the semifinals will host the championship game (March 10).

CSU has never hosted the conference tournament since the league went to its current format for the 2002-03 season.

The importance of hosting the HL tournament means more this year because the top four teams - CSU, Valpo, Green Bay and OU - are a combined 21-0 at home in league play.

Three of CSU's next four league games are on the road, including a Feb. 20 rematch at Green Bay. They close out the season hosting Valpo at home in a nationally televised game on ESPNU, which could be for all the marbles.

"We have been in this place, maybe four times. Four times that we had this same case scenario [and didn't finish strong],  Waters said. "One year we were up two games going into [February] and we lost a key player, but I can't use that as an excuse. [This year] we want to finish strong."

What Waters is referring to is CSU's late season collapses in the month of February.

Three years ago when Anton Grady and Charlie Lee were freshman, the 2011-12 CSU squad started out 10-2 and held a half-game lead on second-place Valpo, then collapsed down the stretch.

They lost four straight conference games - including an embarrassing 59-41 loss to Valpo at the Wolstein Center and finished in second-place, two games back of the Crusaders.

The Vikings were upset by eventual HL tournament champion, Detroit in the semifinals.

Why does Waters think this year could be different?

"What I can say is we have had multiple lineups now," said Waters. "So you can use different people now to help you in games and that will help us in the long run because it gives us more numbers."

Another reason this could be a different year is the emergence of Grady.

Grady, an undersized 6-foot-8 forward who plays the five for CSU, dominated WSU's 6-foot-10 center Michael Karena, scoring 22 points in just 29 minutes due to foul trouble.

Sixteen of Grady's points came in the second half that helped hold off the Raiders late rally. He shot 10-of-13 from the floor.

"Anton was unbelievable inside," said Waters. "They couldn't handle him in there. He was scoring at will."

In CSU's 11 league games, Grady is averaging 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 58.1 percent from the floor.

The last time CSU went to the NCAA tournament they had a dominate big man in J'Nathan Bullock.

Lee led the Vikings with a season-high 27 points, 16 of them came in the second half. The Milwaukee native was 7-of-11 from the floor and made all 12 of his free throws.

"Charlie had one of his phenomenal games," said Waters. "He controlled the tempo, hit his free throws and hit some big shots."

Trey Lewis added 15 points, while Andre Yates (10 points) and Marlin Mason (six) provided all 16 points from the bench.

WSU (11-13, 3-7 HL) had five players in double-figures, led by Joe Thomasson who had 17 points off the bench. Karena, Reggie Arcenaux and Grant Benzinger each added 13 points for the Raiders, while Chrishawn Hopkins added 10.

CSU had its best offensive performance of the season. They had season-highs in points (88) and field goal percentage (61.2).

Midway through the first half, CSU made nine straight field goals and scored 13 straight points to take a 23-10 lead on a three-pointer from Lewis.

With Karena sitting on the bench with three fouls, WSU switched to a five-guard lineup late in the first half that gave CSU some matchup problems.

A 10-3 run over the next three minutes closed WSU within 26-20.

"They tried some things out there running five guards and that's hard to guard," said Waters. "At one point, we had to go away from what we do just so we could keep them in front of us because they are great drivers."

Back-to-back threes from Lee and Yates capped off an 18-9 run and gave CSU its largest lead of the half, 44-29.

However, WSU scored the last four points to cut the lead down to 44-33 at the half.

CSU shot a blistering 66.7 percent (16-of-24) from the floor in the first half, while WSU shot 41.7 percent (10-of-24), including 2-of-10 (20 percent) from three-point range.

The second half was a different story.

WSU made seven of its first nine field goals in the second half, including 3-of-4 from three-point range, to pull within 56-50 on Benzinger's second three of the half.

"We had some breakdowns," said Waters. "Our matchups were kind of mixed up at the time. We kind of broke down a little bit."

CSU answered back with five straight points from Grady to push the lead back into double figures, 61-50.

"We got to feed our horse," said Lee. "They were too little inside."

Three times, the Raiders closed within four, but CSU was there to answer back each time.

A three-pointer from Arcenaux cut the lead to 66-62 with 9:58 left, but that was the closest they would get. CSU answered back with a layup from Lewis and a jumper from Grady to push the lead out to 72-64.

With CSU leading by nine late in the game, Waters took some advice from his coaching staff and switched to an amoeba zone defense.

The gamble worked as WSU scored only two field goals in its final nine possessions.

"Coach Larry [DeSimpelare] said to me 'coach can we try the amoeba'. I was hesitate because I didn't want [Benzinger] to run around hitting threes, but I gave in," said Waters. "I thought it really did a good job [of slowing them down]."

CSU closed the game out making 12 of 13 free throws down the stretch to preserve the win. Lee made 9-of-9 from the line in the final 5:48.

The Vikings shot 56 percent (14-of-25) in the second half, while WSU shot 66.7 percent (16-of-24), including 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) from three-point range.

Up Next: CSU travels to Detroit on Friday night. ESPNU will televise the game. Tipoff is 8 p.m.


CSU Basketball Notebook: Anton Grady Quietly Having POY-Worthy Season

As we begin to head into the homestretch for the Horizon League basketball season, the buzz surrounding individual awards is certainly going to start picking up.

Several names have already emerged as top contenders to take home the Player of the Year award.

Green Bay's Keifer Sykes is there, as is Valparaiso's Alec Peters and Oakland's Kahlil Felder. Cleveland State's Trey Lewis and Detroit's Juwan Howard, Jr. should also be in the mix.

One player who could almost be a little bit overlooked in the discussion, however, is CSU redshirt junior Anton Grady.

Grady, a 6-foot-8 forward, is averaging 13.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

In his first 14 nonconference games, Grady averaged just 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds, while shooting 42.1 percent. The Vikings went 6-8 in those games.

But since conference play began, Grady has taken his game to another level.

In CSU's 11 league games, Grady leads the Vikings in scoring (16.2) and rebounding (8.9), while shooting 58.1 percent from the floor.  His improved play is one of the biggest reasons that CSU have won nine of its first 11 league games and are in first place in the HL.

In league games only, Grady is the only player in the HL in the top five in scoring (fourth), rebounding (second), field goal percentage (fourth), blocked shots (three) and steals (first).

Heading into Saturday's game against Wright State, Grady had five double doubles in his previous six games. The only game he didn't have a double double was against Green Bay when he went for 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting.

On Saturday, Grady did not get another double-double, but was too much for WSU's 6-foot-10 junior center Michael Karena to handle. He scored 22 points in only 29 minutes due to foul trouble and was 10-of-13 shooting from the floor.

"Anton was unbelievable inside," Vikings head coach Gary Waters said after CSU's 88-72 victory over WSU. "They couldn't handle him in there. He was scoring at will."

Sixteen of Grady's points came in the second half.

"You got to feed our horse," CSU senior guard Charlie Lee said. "They were too little inside."

Grady has overcome three knee surgeries on both knees to become the most dominate big man in the HL.

"I thought he was going to dominate the league [as a sophomore]. How athletic he was and how he was moving," Waters said. "I remember when we played at Green Bay [his freshman year] he literally took them apart with 27 [points] and 18 [rebounds]. Then the knee [surgeries]."

After his freshman year, Grady had his second knee operation (his first knee surgery happened during his junior year at Cleveland Central Catholic).

"He really rehabbed during the summer and came back ready to go again," said Waters. "He was really dominating in there [as a sophomore], I think we started out 5-1, then he went down. From that point on, he had struggles with his knees."

In the six games Grady played as sophomore, he was averaging 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocked shots per game.

He had his third knee surgery and redshirted the 2012-13 season.

Grady played in 31 games last year, averaging 10.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 24.6 minutes per game. But he wasn't fully recovered.

He told the media after a game last year that he still had pain in his knees.

But before the season began, Grady told the media his knees felt the best that they have been in his four years at CSU.

"I think this is the best offseason since I've been here," Grady said after the WSU game. "[Strength coach] Tim [Bilbrey] and [athletic trainer] Max [Benton] have made a game plan and after every game and every practice we do certain things to make sure my legs are feeling good."

Waters said CSU has also cut practice time by an hour.

When Grady heard Waters mention about practice being cut short, he shouted out: "And is has been working. Nine and two [CSU's record in conference play]."

Milestone for Waters: Saturday's game was Gary Waters 600th career game as a head coach.

"That means I'm getting old," Waters, CSU's all-time winnegest coach, said laughing.

In his 19th season as a head coach, Waters has compiled a record of 343-257 at Kent State, Rutgers and CSU.

Waters is 172-122 in nine seasons at CSU.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cleveland State 76, Green Bay 62: Vikings Return the Favor, Rout Phoenix

Before Cleveland State's game against Green Bay on Saturday afternoon, Trey Lewis reminded Anton Grady about what happened in last year's first place showdown.

"I was telling Anton right before the game started, 'do you remember what happened last year.' They came here and dominated us and that left a bad taste in our mouths," Lewis said. "So we came out here with the mindset that we are going to return the favor."

Last year in February, Green Bay came to Cleveland leading the Horizon League and holding a game lead on the second-place Vikings.

But on the day before the game, CSU's leading scorer Bryn Forbes came down with the flu and was hospitalized the next morning prior to the game.

Without Forbes, CSU never recovered.

Green Bay jumped out to a 24-5 lead and never looked back. They wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Horizon League tournament with a 68-54 victory at the Wolstein Center.

On Saturday, Green Bay came back to Cleveland leading the HL again and holding a half-game lead on the second-place Vikings.

And once again, CSU had to find a way to win without one of its top players in Marlin Mason, who missed his third straight game with a viral infection.

But this time, CSU was ready for the Phoenix.

They jumped out to an early 25-8 lead and never looked back. CSU moved back into a share of first-place in the HL with a 76-62 victory over Green Bay at the Wolstein Center in front of its largest crowd of the season.

"We could have played in an empty gym and would have been ready to play," Grady said.

CSU (13-10, 7-2 HL ), winners of nine of its last 11 games, are tied with Valparaiso (20-4, 7-2 HL) for first-place in the HL standings.

The loss drops Green Bay (17-5, 6-2 HL), the preseason favorites to win the conference, to second place, a half-game back in the standings.

CSU is off to their best start in the conference play after nine games, tying the 2007-08 and 2011-12 squads.

The Vikings' big three of Lewis, Grady and Charlie Lee combined for 61 points.

Lewis scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. He shot 9-of-15 from the floor, including four three-pointers and was 3-of-4 at the foul line.

Grady continued his dominance in HL play and contributed 24 points and six rebounds. He shot 8-of-13 from the floor and was 8-of-11 from the charity stripe.

In CSU's nine league games, Grady is averaging 14.4 points and a conference-best 9.4 rebounds per game.

Lee added 12 points and dished out seven assists.

A key for the Vikings was keeping Keifer Sykes and Jordan Fouse in check.

Sykes, the HL's leading scorer at 19.2 points per game, was held to 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Fouse had six points and eight rebounds.

Junior guard Kaza Keane took on the challenge of guarding Sykes and held the HL's preseason Player of the Year without a shot attempt from the floor in the first half.  Sykes scored nine of his points in the second half, most of them came when the game was already decided.

Waters pointed out that two of Sykes field goals came on break away steals and dunks.

"So we really held him to just two field goals," he said. "We shut him down."

Lewis took on the challenge of guarding Fouse and held the 6-foot-7 swingman to 3-of-8 shooting from the floor.

"This is the first time we controlled Fouse," Waters said. "Fouse has been the biggest nemesis for us. We lost to them twice last year and both times he had big games. I thought we did a great job on him."

Carrington Love led Green Bay with 14 points. Greg Mays added 13 and Daeshon Francis 10.

It was only fitting that CSU's defense played a key role in the game.

The Vikings held Green Bay, the highest scoring team in the HL, to 10 points under their scoring average of 72.1 points per game.

"We wanted to control the tempo," said Waters. "I think we did a good job of that."

The Vikings were able to control the tempo by walking the ball up the court.

Green Bay, who likes to get out and score in transition, had only six fast break points.

It was a close game for the first five minutes as CSU led 11-8 at the first media timeout.

Both teams got off to good starts shooting the basketball. CSU made five of its first six shots, while Green Bay made 4-of-8.

But the next five minutes were dominated by CSU.

By the second media timeout, the Vikings pushed the lead out to 20-8. The Phoenix got careless with the ball and turned it over five times during that five minute stretch, which led to seven points for the Vikings.

Grady scored eight of CSU's first 20 points as he made his first four shots from the floor.

"Coach [Waters] came up with about three new plays against the zone and we executed them to perfection," said Grady. "I was really happy because two of the three [plays] were for me."

A three-pointer by Lewis and a layup from Demonte Flannigan put CSU up by 17.

However, CSU would let Green Bay back into the game as it went through another long scoring drought.

The Vikings would score only two field over the final 8:46 of the first half as Green Bay used a 10-2 run to close within 30-21.

But a Flannigan lay-up just before the half gave CSU a 32-21 lead at the intermission.

CSU shot 51.9 percent (14-of-27) from the floor in the opening half, while the Phoenix were held to 8-of-21 (38.1 percent) shooting.

Lewis (10 points) and Grady (nine) combined for 19 points in the first half. Mays led Green Bay with eight points. No other Phoenix player had more then three points in the first 20 minutes.

The Phoenix scored the first six points of the second half to close within 32-27, which led to a timeout by CSU.

Coming out of the timeout, CSU responded with a 14-4 run - 10 of those points coming from Lewis - that pushed the lead out to 46-31 with 12:32 left.

However, Green Bay would make one last run. A three-point play by Sykes cut the deficit to 47-39.

But a three-point play from Andre Yates pushed the lead back to double digits.

The Vikings closed out the game by making 18-of-23 free throws down the stretch for their biggest home win in six years.

Mason update: Waters said Mason had another spinal tap on Thursday and he "instantly felt better."

Mason sat on CSU's bench Saturday and could return next week.

Up next: The Vikings host in-state rival Youngstown State on Wednesday, while Green Bay travels to Wright State on Monday.