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Vikings Overwhelm Loyola, Find Missing Piece In Harmon
Vikings Overwhelm Loyola, Find Missing Piece In Harmon
This was not exactly Loyola's National Championship group of 1963, that team of Jerry Harkness and Coach George Ireland, the starters on which were dubbed the Iron Five for rarely leaving the court. The truth be told, Coach Jim Whitesell's current Ramblers didn't provide much competition this night for Cleveland State, going down 8-0 at the 3:15 mark, 20-7 at the second media timeout, and 48-26 by halftime. Jay Pearlman recaps the Vikings latest win.
This was not exactly Loyola's National Championship group of 1963, that team of Jerry Harkness and Coach George Ireland, the starters on which were dubbed the Iron Five for rarely leaving the court.
It wasn't even the 1977-78 team this writer had a chance to watch lose to Bradley in double overtime in old, tiny, glorious Alumni Gym (the gym with the running track circling overhead, and the team that bested Larry Bird's Indiana State).
The truth be told, Coach Jim Whitesell's current Ramblers didn't provide much competition this night for Cleveland State, going down 8-0 at the 3:15 mark, 20-7 at the second media timeout, and 48-26 by halftime.
J'Nathan Bullock and company had little trouble this night, dispatching Loyola by a final score of 76-50.
Bullock led all scorers with 20, on 7-9 shooting, including 3-3 from behind the arc.
A bigger story of this game was not that CSU won so easily, but that this group of Ramblers-not a true Division I player among them in this writer's view-managed to come into this game with a .600 winning percentage, having won 9 of their first 15 games, including a stunning defeat of Wisconsin-Green Bay three nights earlier, 62-60.
Observing their personnel, I was never able to identify a point guard.
Leading scorer J.R. Blount-averaging 16, and the Rambler who hit two free throws with 5 seconds left to beat Green Bay-is an undersized 6-0 second guard, and came into the game shooting 14% from the arc (that's not a typo).
So to coin a phrase, it appears Coach Whitesell has been "doing it with mirrors."
But the biggest story this night was about Cleveland State, specifically about Viking freshman guard Trevon Harmon from Pasadena.
As oft-chronicled in this space, while the Vikes were the preseason Horizon favorites by league voters and in most publications, from the very beginning one crucial element was absent from the mix:
perimeter shooting, particularly from the guard positions.
Yes, power forward Bullock came into last night's game shooting 37% from the arc for the season (5 percentage points better than his career mark).
But the trio of starting guards has been abysmal from outside, Norris Cole shooting under 25% from the arc, Cedric Jackson even worse at 19%, and D'Aundray Brown hardly shooting at all from the outside (he has hit 3 of the 7 treys he's taken).
But Brown hurt his ribs last week at Wright State (not his elbow as reported here, and not his shoulder) and will miss three or four weeks, and the matchups Saturday at Detroit dictated that forward George Tandy replace Brown as a starter.
But against Loyola's three-guard alignment, Coach Waters named Harmon his starter for Brown, played "Trey" 18 minutes in the first half and 34 for the game, force-feeding the newly eligible freshman the basketball he missed in a year and a half away from the game.
And a star was born.
Harmon shot 5-9, 4-7
from the arc, scored 17, and showed the deep range heretofore only seen in practice.
(Ok, we saw a glimpse in his two threes and eight points in the last five minutes Saturday in Detroit, helping CSU hold off the Titans).
Coach Waters talked guardedly about Harmon after the game, telling us that "he's a scorer, he looks to score," and that "he can do a lot of things out there with the ball."
And it's not certain yet that Harmon will continue starting once Brown returns;
heck, it's not even certain that he'll start Saturday night against Illinois-Chicago.
But when Coach said that either Coles or Harmon will defend Horizon leading scorer Josh Mayo on Saturday, it strongly implied that Harmon will be out there for the opening tip.
And for most of the minutes thereafter.
That's Trevon ("Trey") Harmon, who is wonderfully athletic, quick, dribbles with both hands, and-oh yes-has NBA range, a high platform, a quick release and a great stroke on his jump shot.
Most of you know just how valuable a quality perimeter shooter can be, taking pressure-and often an opponent's best defender--off of his teammates, opening up teammates' penetration, keeping opponents from zoning.
And while Harmon acknowledged not yet being the scrappy defender and rebounder Brown is, his presence on offense should open the game up for everyone:
Jackson won't be doubled as often, and should get to the rim;
Bullock can play closer to the goal, as he's done for most of his career;
Cole can more easily be the slasher we know he can be, both in half court and in transition.
So while he may or not start each game for his remaining 3½ years, Harmon should contribute hugely each night, beginning last night.
And that just might turn this entire season around for the Vikings.
Having lost to nationally ranked Butler and at Wright State, and not yet having played 5-0 Wisconsin-Milwaukee, it appeared prior to this night that the Vikes might have trouble living up to their preseason billing, and could be hard-pressed to earn the second seed in the Horizon tournament which provides a double bye to the semi-final round (a seed even more valuable than a first or second seed in the NFL playoffs).
Now with Harmon emerging, this team truly can be what preseason prognosticators expected, should be able to win conference games home and away, and just might best everyone between here and its February 28
rematch with Butler at Hinkle.
And while high-flying Butler continues to role, with Harmon filling the most obvious gap on CSU's team, the Bulldogs just might have reason to look over their shoulders during the last two weeks of February.
CSU News and Notes:
When asked why Atwater sophomore Eric Schiele was not on the bench last night, Coach Waters reported that the diminutive sophomore shooter has decided to transfer, to find a level where he can play more minutes.
Of course, it was Schiele more than any other Viking who lost playing time to Harmon once Trey became eligible.
I suspect the entire CSU community joins Coach Waters in wishing Schiele well wherever he goes (this writer suspects Schiele could be headed to Division III, or even to an NAIA school).
Around the Horizon tonight, coming off a hard-fought one-point loss at Wright State, Jerry Slocum's Youngstown State team continued its quality play, besting Illinois-Chicago at home 80-70.
Second guard Kelvin Bright-who this writer has called a "poor man's Shelvin Mack"-dominated the game offensively, scoring 23 on 6-15 shooting, including 3-6 from the arc and 8-9 from the line.
Still playing without star guard Vaughn Duggins, Wright State was no match for Butler in Indianapolis, falling 64-48.
Freshman Gordon Hayward had 12 points and 11 boards for the Bulldogs.
And behind Jake Diebler's 15 and Urule Igbavboa's 14, Valpo easily bested Detroit at home, 64-41.
Tomorrow night is the first of a series of Horizon games to be broadcast at 9 pm on Fridays on ESPNU, this game featuring league-leading Milwaukee (5-0) hosting rival Green Bay (3-1).
Reeling from three straight conference losses, previously high-flying Illinois-Chicago visits Wolstein Center Saturday night to face the Vikings, game time at 7:30.
Along with the Horizon's leading scorer Josh Mayo (averaging 19.5 coming into last night's game), UIC comes in with the league's leading rebounder in Scott Vandermeer (averaging 9 coming into last night's game).
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