Cleveland State hosted Marist in a nationally televised game and responded by thoroughly controlling the entire contest. CSU shut down a potent Red Foxes offense, holding Marist to 29.6-percent shooting for the game while connecting on 43.5-percent of its own shots in the 59-44 victory.
CSU and Marist where paired together as part of the ESPN U BracketBuster series. When the match-up was announced on February 4th, the Vikings where in the midst of a five game losing streak and stood at 14-9 on the season. Marist had a record of 14-8 and was second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Coming into the game, CSU had rebounded to win four-of-six games, while Marist lost four-of-five since the pairings were announced to drop to sixth in the MAAC.
The two teams continued the trends on Saturday. Marist came into the game averaging 70.1 points per game but the perimeter based Red Foxes never found an opening in the Vikings attacking defense. Four players in Marist's eight man rotation shoot 38-percent or better from three-point range. None connected on more than one long range shot as the Red Foxes finished 3-20 (15-percent) from beyond the arc.
The first half was close as Marist scraped to stay within striking distance. CSU maintained at least a four point advantage for most of the half, taking a 26-22 lead into the locker room. The offense got a spark off the bench from freshman Norris Cole, who scored seven points in eight minutes.
The Vikings came out in the second half and took control, consistently increasing the lead throughout the early stages of the half. CSU re-established J'Nathan Bullock in the post. The junior forward scored eight first half points but didn't receive any touches during the last five minutes of the half. Bullock came into the game averaging 20.6 ppg over the last five games and it was clear the Red Foxes had nobody to match up with the 240 pound forward.
Following back-to-back baskets and a free-throw by Bullock, Cedric Jackson responded with a deep three-pointer to increase the lead to 11 at 38-27 with 14:22 remaining in the game. The lead remained 11 at the 9:48 mark after two George Tandy free-throws made the score 43-32, but Marist had one more run left in them.
The Red Foxes connected on two threes and took advantage of four CSU turnovers to make a 12-3 run that closed the gap to 46-44 with 4:42 remaining.
CSU went to old reliable on the ensuing possession and found Bullock under the basket for an and-one lay-up. The momentum changing play spawned a game ending 13-0 run for the Vikings. Bullock added three more free-throws and Breyohn Watson chipped in five points during the run.
CSU was led by Bullock's 19 points and 13 rebounds. The double-double was Bullock's fifth of the season and 11th of his career. Jackson and Cole were next for the Vikings with ten points a piece. It was Cole's second straight game in double figures after scoring a career high 14 vs. Milwaukee. Jackson added to his Horizon League leading totals in assists and steals with three of each.
Ray Stilphen led Marist with nine points and 10 rebounds. Stilphen is a St. Ignatius High School graduate and a resident of Bay Village, OH.
The win pushes CSU to 19-11, 11-6 on the season. The victory was the 200th of Gary Waters' career. The coach was awarded the game ball in a post game ceremony. The victory also set a Wostein Center record for wins in a season. The Vikings are 12-2 at home.
CSU Next travels to Youngstown State on Saturday March 1st to round out the Horizon League schedule. As things stand now, the Vikings are slated host Detroit on Tuesday March 4th in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament.