Friday, February 5, 2016

Detroit 71, Cleveland State 63: Zone defense stymies Vikings again

Flannigan scores career-high 25 points

By Tom Mieskoski

Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters is never afraid to tell it like it is.

Following CSU's 71-63 loss to Detroit on Thursday night at the Wolstein Center, Waters said he plans to "clean the house" after this season and bring in some more shooters.

"When you see our team a year from now, you're going to see about five other guys who can hit threes," he said after the game.  "I already told them (in the locker room) we are cleaning this house. (Right now), we have about 1 1/2 shooters."

The Vikings (7-17, 2-9 Horizon League) tied season-lows in three-point field goals made (3) and three-point percentage (15 percent) in the loss to the Titans (11-11, 5-6 HL).

Chris Jenkins made six of Detroit's 10 three-pointers and finished with a game-high 20 points.

"We let Jenkins get away. That's on us," said Waters. "I'm a believer if you allow a team to hit (10) threes you have a great chance of losing. Think about the Cavaliers, when they beat teams, they hit their threes. If they don't hit their threes, they have a chance to lose. That's why the three has become a viable weapon today."

It was only two years ago, that CSU finished second in the nation in three-point percentage (.409) during the 2013-14 season.

But recent transfers of Bryn Forbes and Trey Lewis have left CSU thin on shooters.

Entering Thursday game against Detroit, CSU was ninth in the HL in three-point percentage (.323), trailing only UIC (.304).

With freshmen walk-on Daniel Levitt still out with a knee injury, CSU is down to only one consistent shooter in Rob Edward.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, Edwards struggled against the Titans and missed all six of his attempts from long range. He finished with seven points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field.

It was a tail of two different shooting halves for the Vikings.

CSU got off to a slow start, making only one of its first nine shots from the field. But the Vikings finished the half strong, making 14 of its last 23 shots and trailed 33-31 at the break.

The Vikings also started the second half strong, making two of its first five shots, but then Detroit switched to a 2-3 zone and their shooting woes started.

They made only one of its next seven shots, while Detroit started to pull away.

With the game deadlocked at 36-36, a 15-2 run over the next five minutes, capped off by back-to-back three-pointers from Jenkins, gave the Titans a 51-38 lead and they never looked back.

"They knew they couldn't guard us inside, so they stayed in the (2-3) zone and dared us to shoot it," said Waters. "They usually don't run a 2-3 zone. That tells you they knew how bad we were (at shooting from the perimeter). They usually run a 3-2 zone. When you run a 3-2 there is only two guys on the baseline, then you can get it in (down low). But with three on the baseline, they (wanted) our guards to shoot it."

Waters' young squad struggled to attack the zone and kept settling for outside shots in the second half.

Almost half of CSU's shot attempts in the second half, came from beyond the three-point line, where they were 3-of-13 shooting.

"This team was beatable today," said Waters. "We just couldn't hit any shots. Think about it. They played man-to-man in the first half and we shot 47 percent. They played zone all the second half and we shot 37 percent. That's the difference in the game."

Demonte Flannigan had his best game as a Viking, scoring 19 of his career-high 25 points in the first half.

"He (Flannigan) came in to my office yesterday and before the game and said, "I'm going to be a beast today." said Waters. "They couldn't stop him in there. You can't beat a team with just one guy. I told them (in the locker room) if we had four people in double-figures we will be in every game to win."

Flannigan, a Villa Angela-St. Joseph product, had his way against Detroit's man-to-man defense in the first half, shooting 9-of-12 from the field. But in the second half, Detroit's 2-3 zone limited Flannigan to just three shots in the final 20 minutes.

Vinny Zollo was the only other Viking in double-figures, finishing with a career-high 16 points. He made two of CSU's three 3-pointers and finished 6-of-9 from the floor.

Detroit posted four players in double-figures. Carlton Brundidge added 12 points for the Titans, while Jaleel Hogan and Gerald Blackshear had 10 points a piece.

"It comes down to can we hit some shots and that's what we can't do," said Waters. "Until we do a better job of (shooting), it's going to be hard for us to win games. Some days we hit shots, some days we don't."

In remembrance: The Titans wore a large decal with the letters "TR" on their jerseys in honor of Reggie Hall, a sports producer for WXYZ in Detroit who died in a car crash in December.

Hall, who was known as "Titan Reggie," played baseball at UD and was a huge Titans fan.

Yates returns: Andre Yates returned after missing the previous two games with high ankle sprain and plantar faciatis.

Yates, who came off bench, had four points in 26 minutes. He started the second half in place of Terrell Hales.

"He is still struggling (with the injuries) a little bit," said Waters.

Buddha sighting:  Yates wasn't the only change Waters made at the half. Freshmen forward Jeron "Buddha" Rogers started the second half in place of Jibri Blount.

"We didn't have anyone to guard Paris Bass," said Waters. "That's why he started (the second half).

Next up: CSU host the Oakland Grizzlies men and women's basketball teams in a double-header on Saturday. The CSU men tip-off at 1 p.m., followed by the women's game.

Prior to the men's game, former CSU standout Norris Cole will be honored by having his jersey number, 30, retired.

Then at half-time, Kailey Klein will be honored by having her jersey number, 23, retired.

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