Friday, March 24, 2017

Cleveland State named Dennis Felton as its next basketball coach

Dennis Felton
Cleveland State has named Dennis Felton as its next basketball coach, the school announced on Friday.

"Dennis Felton has a championship pedigree and has coached and recruited at the highest level," CSU Director of Athletics Mike Thomas said in a written statement. "He will be an outstanding leader for the student-athletes in our basketball program, on the court, in the classroom and in the community."

Felton will be officially introduced at a press conference at 2 p.m. on Monday.

"I'm extremely excited to return to the head coaching ranks with this opportunity at Cleveland State University," Felton said in a written statement. "I'm grateful to Dr. Berkman and Mike Thomas for the opportunity to lead this program. Cleveland State is an outstanding University that continues to grow in stature on the national landscape. I'm eager to start working with our players to build a championship program and getting out to share my vision of how we plan to partner with the entire community to do special things at Cleveland State."

Felton, 53, spent the last three seasons as the assistant head coach at Tulsa under Frank Haith where he was in charge of the defense. He has previous head coaching experience at Western Kentucky (1999-2003) and Georgia (2003-09).

At WKU, Felton had his most success with a record of 100-54, guiding the Hilltoppers to three straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament titles.

Felton was hired by Georgia in 2003. He went 84-91 at Southeastern Conference school, guiding the Bulldogs to the SEC Tournament title in 2008. He was fired in 2009 at mid-season following an 0-5 start in SEC play.

Prior to joining Tulsa, Felton worked in the NBA as a scout for the Phoenix Suns, a summer league coach for the New Jersey Nets and as director of pro personnel for the San Antonio Spurs.

Felton replaces Gary Waters who retired on March 7 after 11 seasons with the Vikings.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cleveland State loses another heartbreaker in double overtime

It’s an old adage that in basketball if you live by the three, you die by the three.

The Cleveland State men's basketball team found that out the hard way Saturday afternoon in a heartbreaking 74-68 double overtime loss to Wright State at the Wolstein Center.

The Vikings made just nine three-pointers all night while spending most of the evening chucking shots from the perimeter.

"The reason we lost this game is because half of our shots were threes," said Vikings head coach Gary Waters. "We need to find ways to get to the basket."

Thirty two of CSU's 62 shots came from three-point range. They made only 28 percent of them.

All seven of their shots in the second overtime came from long distance. They made only two of them.

"We can't shoot a lick," said Waters. "When you shoot 22-of-62 [35.5 percent], it's impossible [to win]."

Rob Edwards (17 points) went 3-of-9 from three-point distance. He missed a three from the top of the key at the end of regulation that could have sealed the game for the Vikings.

Bobby Word (16 points) missed all eight shots from long distance.

Demonte Flannigan was the lone bright spot for the Vikings.

The Villa Angela-St.Joseph product made all three of his shots from long distance and led CSU with 22 points. He was 8-of-12 from the field.

Flannigan's dunk tied the game at 60-60 and sent the game into double overtime. He only attempted one shot in the second overtime - a three-pointer.

Wright State's Grant Benzinger scored six of his game-high 26 points in the second overtime. His fourth three-pointer of the game gave WSU the led for good 63-61.

Benzinger was 10-of-18 from the field, including 4-of-9 from long distance. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.

"We let Benzinger get away," said Waters. "He scored only four points in the first meeting."

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cleveland State loses another close game

The Cleveland State men's basketball team once again found themselves in a position to win down the stretch and once again, they did not capitalize down the stretch.

CSU rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half and took a one point lead with 57 seconds to go, but Drew McDonald knocked down three free throws to give Northern Kentucky a 62-60 victory.

"That game was our game to take, but we didn't finish it. That has been our M.O. all season," said Vikings head coach Gary Waters.  "We got one guy who can score and we don't have anyone who can help him."

Edwards led the Vikings (8-19, 4-11 HL) with 19 points, while Kash Thomas added 11. Demonte Flannigan and Bobby Word struggled, shooting a combined 4 -for-18, for 15 points.

Carson Williams led the Norse (18-9, 9-5 HL) with 22 points.

CSU held McDonald, who scored a career-high 37 points against the Vikings in the first meeting in Highland Height, Ky., in check for most of the game. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.

McDonald was 1-for-7 from the field, but cashed in at the line, going 10-for-13.

Friday's loss at the Wolstein Center marked the seventh time during conference play that the Vikings have lost by five points or less.

"Breakdowns and mistakes," Waters said about what the difference have been in all these close games. "It came down to three plays - two free throws we missed, a layup Demonte [Flannigan] missed and a turnover by Kash (Thomas)."

Trailing 61-60,  Flannigan missed a point-blank layup with seven seconds left.

"All he had to do is lay it in. That was the game," said Waters.

Flannigan, a Villa Angela-St. Joseph product, was just just 2 of 10 from the field and finished with six points.

After McDonald split a pair at the line, CSU had one last chance, but they couldn't get a quality shot off. Rob Edwards' three-point attempt at the buzzer resulted in an air-ball.

CSU shot 30 percent in the opening half and trailed 33-27 at the half.

The Vikings started the second half slow as NKU made four of its first five shot to take its largest lead 12, 42-30.

CSU rallied using a match-up zone to slow down NKU's high powered offense. The zone held the Norse to just one field goal in the final 11:14.

A 14-6 run gave CSU a 58-56 lead with 2:33 to go, but then CSU's offense stalled again. They went the final 2;32 without a field goal.

McDonald answered back with a three-pointer - his only field goal of the game - put the Norse up 59-58.

CSU would take one last lead as Anthony Wright calmly knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Vikings up, 61-59.

But McDonald sank 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to give NKU its sixth win in its last seven games.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Big second half sends Cleveland State past Detroit Mercy

Whatever message Gary Waters delivered to his players at halftime Thursday came through loud and clear.

Down by seven at the half, Cleveland State flat-out got after it on both ends of the floor and snapped its three-game losing streak with a 90-73 victory against Detroit Mercy at the Wolstein Center.

The Vikings opened the second half on a 29-5 run and and never looked back.

"That's the best run we had in a long time," said Waters. "The second half we came out like we should have played in the first half."

Rob Edwards scored a team-high 24 points to lead five Vikings (7-16, 3-8 Horizon League) in double figures. Bobby Word scored all 17 of his points in the second half. Kash Thomas added 15 points and seven assists. Anthony Wright contributed 11 points and Demonte Flannigan 10.

Corey Allen led the Titans (5-18, 3-6 HL) with 24 points. He was 6 of 9 from three-point range.

So, what did Waters say at the break?

"Defense in the first five minutes,'' Word said of the halftime message,

Waters added: "It wasn't said like that. I was pretty blunt in the lockerroom because I thought we had no life and no energy [in the first half]."

CSU's aggressive defense caused the Titans to turn it over five times in their first seven possessions of the second half, which led to a lot of easy transition points for the Vikings.

Detroit Mercy opened the second half with a three-pointer from Allen to take its largest lead, 10, 43-33.

Then it was all CSU.

The Vikings took control of the game, scoring the next 19 points - 10 coming from Edwards, who knocked down a pair of threes.

CSU opened the second half, making 12 of its first 16 shots to built an 18 point lead, 65-47, with 10:27 to go.

They never trailed by less then 12 the rest of the game.

CSU shot a blistering 61.3 percent in the second half, including 8 of 16 from long range.

After shooting 51.9 percent in the opening half, Detroit made just nine field goals in the final 20 minutes.

CSU held a 26-25 led with 4:39 to go in the first half, but were outscored 15-7 the rest of the way as the Titans took a 40-33 lead at the break.

“We let them score too many points in the first half," said Waters.

Wright starts second half:  Wright started the second half in place of Derek Sloan.

"We were playing their basketball and they were pounding us inside. We wanted to go small ball and make them have to play us," said Waters. "I thought the key [to the 29-5 run] was A Wright. He brought energy."

Inside the numbers: The 90 points were the most scored by the Vikings this season. Previous high was 85 in a win against Western Michigan at the Q in early December.

CSU came in averaging a Horizon League-low 66.8 points a game.

It was the most points that CSU has scored in nearly four seasons when Charlie Lee scored a career-high 31 points in a 92-85 victory at Oakland during the 2013-14 season.

Peppers practice: Gavin Peppers, who is slated to red-shirt this year after suffering an Achilles injury during the preseason, has began practicing with the Vikings.

"Peppers has looked good [in practice]," said Waters. "I'm not going to play him just for a few games."

The transfer from Laramie County Community College in Wyoming was slated to open the season as CSU's starting point guard.

Court repairs: According to Waters, CSU was only able to practice yesterday on their home floor as the court was being repaired this week.

"[The court] was gaping and they had to repair it from underneath," he said.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Valpo's Peters too much for Cleveland State

Cleveland State was only able to contain Alec Peters for about nine minutes Saturday, but in the final 31 minutes Valparaiso's star forward showed why he's a top NBA draft prospect.

Peters, who rates as the No. 29 prospect in this year's upcoming draft, scored 19 of his 30 points in the second half to help hold off CSU's late rally as the Crusaders held on to a 78-67 victory at the Wolstein Center.

"Peters had a phenomenal game," said Vikings head coach Gary Waters. "Every time we made a mistake, he made us pay."

Rob Edwards led the Vikings (5-13, 1-5 HL) with 22 points, while Bobby Word added 14, knocking down four three-pointers.

"We needed more from Rob today [to beat a team like Valpo,]" said Waters.

The Vikings held Peters scoreless through the first two media timeouts as CSU built an early 16-4 lead.

CSU opened the game making five of its first 10 shots from the field, while Valpo (14-4, 4-1 HL) started off 1-of-11.

But the Vikings couldn't hold on to the lead for the long.

"Peters started playing,"Waters said about what turned the game around in favor of Valpo. "Then he went to work."

Peters was held to one shot in the first nine minutes.

Coming out of the second media timeout, Peters knocked down his first shot of the game - a 3-pointer - closed the Crusaders within 16-7 and sparked a 30-12 run to close out the half that allowed Valpo to take control of the game.

Peters second 3-pointer, tied it at 27-27 and his free throw gave them the lead for good, 28-27.

CSU went the final five minutes of the opening half without a field goal and trailed 34-28 at the intermission.

Peters led the Crusaders with 11 first half points, while Edwards (nine) and Demonte Flannigan (seven) paced the Vikings.

A three-point play from Peters extended Valpo's lead to 17, 47-30.

The Vikings would make it interesting. Using a fullcourt press, CSU closed to within four, 68-64, but they ran out of gas.

Valpo closed the game on a 10-3 run to pull out the win.

"I thought we played hard enough to win," Waters said. "The problem was we had two periods when we let them get away from us."

CSU shot 38.9 percent from the field and were 8-of-24 from three-point distance.

Valpo shot 42.3 percent from the field and were 2-of-11 from long range. The Crusaders held a huge edge at the free throw line, getting to the charity stripe 37 times and making 32 of them, while CSU was 17-of-25.

The Crusaders also held a 43-25 edge in rebounding.

Scoring drought:

The Vikings went through one long stretch where they made just 4-of-21 shots and took a 27-22 CSU lead and turned it into a 47-30 Valpo advantage.

"We need to shoot better period," said Waters. "We need to shoot 45 percent."

Return of the press: Waters indicated that press is here to stay.

"This week is the first week we said we are going to go at it full pledge pressing," he said. "I know in order to press like that it takes time. I thought today we took a big step. Monday we will take another step until we finally get this mastered."

Waters was asked by a reporter if he plans to press for the entire game.

"That is the plan," he said.

Maxwell shines: Following CSU's 59-54 loss to UIC on Thursday, Waters was very critical of sophomore point guard Nelson Maxwell after he turned it over four times.

But on Saturday, Waters praised the walk-on from Orange Village. Maxwell was the one running the show in the second half when CSU made its late run.

"I thought he played much better. He hit some key baskets and didn't turn it over," Waters said. "I thought he was a big reason why we got back into the game."

Maxwell tied his career-high with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. He had one assists, three rebounds and only one turnover in 18 minutes.

 Next up: CSU travels to second-place Oakland on Monday.

 The Golden Grizzlies (14-4, 4-1 HL) are coming off its first conference loss - a 93-88 setback - against rival Detroit at the O'rena Friday.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cleveland State men's basketball blows 9-point lead, falls to UIC

Cleveland State let another second half lead slip away Thursday night at the Wolstein Center.

The Vikings held a nine-point lead with 13 minutes to go, but the Vikings couldn't close out the Illinois-Chicago Flames.

UIC shot 60 percent in the second half and used a 24-7 run to take control of the game and held on to a 59-54 victory.

"We gave a game a way today," said Vikings head coach Gary Waters whose squad dropped its third straight. "Our problem is we didn't execute down the stretch. And we turned over the ball at the wrong times. When we do a better job of [taking care of the ball] we will start to win ball games."

CSU (5-12, 1-4 Horizon League) shot 39 percent from the field and turned it over 19 times. UIC (9-8, 2-2 HL) shot 42 percent from the field and held a 39-30 edge in rebounding.

Rob Edwards led the Vikings with 13 points, while Bobby Word and Jamarcus Hairston added 10 points a piece.

Dominique Matthews and Clint Robinson led the Flames with 11 points a piece, while Godwin Boahen added 10.

The Vikings shot just 37 percent in the opening half, but closed the half on a 9-0 run to take a 23-20 lead at the intermission.

CSU opened the second half strong. They made five of its first eight shots to take a 39-30 lead on Word's second three-pointer of the half, Then it went south for the Vikings.

They turned it over five times in the final 13 minutes and shot 6-of-11 from the free throw line down the stretch.

"You can miss free throws down the stretch," said Waters.

Peppers update: Gavin Peppers, CSU's projected starting point guard, is still recovering from a "bad bone bruise" on his foot and is likely headed for a red-shirt.

"It's a great possibility that Peppers won't play this year," Waters said.

Peppers hasn't appeared in a game this season for the Vikings.

Next up: CSU host Valparaiso, the preseason pick to win the Horizon League, on Saturday afternoon at the Wolstein Center. Tipoff is 3 p.m.

The Crusaders (13-4, 3-1 HL) have won four of its last five and are coming off a 78-62 victory at Youngstown State on Thursday.

"We got to go out and fight like dogs," Waters said.