Before the season started, Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters said CSU will be better in January and February then in November and December.
After nine games, CSU stands at 3-6, 0-2 in the Horizon League. Waters said he thought CSU would probably be 5-4 at this point before the season started.
Waters is still backing up his preseason statement. "Mid-January is when we will start to take strides," he said. "Mid-January is when I feel our team will start to know each other."
CSU begins its toughest stretch in the non-conference schedule today with four of the next five games against teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last year: Robert Morris (3-4); No. 6 West Virginia (6-0); No. 13 Ohio State (7-1); and Kansas State (8-1).
"I told our team in the locker room (after the Detroit game) the next five games will still not define us on what occurs. What we are doing is getting better each game," Waters said.
Waters said he would break down the next five games into three sections so the team can focus on whom they're playing.
Section I includes Wilberforce (6-4), a NAIA school, who faces the Vikings today at 2 p.m. at CSU's Woodling Gym, and Robert Morris (Dec. 15).
Section II includes West Virginia (Dec. 19) and at Ohio State (Dec. 22). And section III is at Kansas State (Dec. 29).
During last Saturday's 69-62 loss to Detroit, Waters found some success on defense using a 2-3 man-zone, which is much different from a standard 2-3 zone because a 2-3 man-zone puts pressure on the ball. With the zone, CSU held Detroit to one point in the final 11:08 of the first half.
"I rather play man, but I think (the zone) fits some of our personnel better," Waters said. "We are still going to play man-to-man, but we will mix it up and play some zone."
There are three areas on defense that Waters said CSU has been struggling with: committing too many fouls; giving up too many rebounds; and middle penetration was really hurting us.
Now there are three things Waters says he needs to work on teaching his players about the zone: Slides; how to rebound out of it; and how to run out of it.
Junior point guard Lance James suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot during last Wednesday's practice. James had surgery on Friday and is out about six weeks.
Sophomore guard Josh McCoy has been plagued with a torn labrum in his hip since the preseason and will have surgery in St. Louis after the winter break. McCoy is most likely out for the remainder of the season.
Former Cleveland State point guard Cedric Jackson continues to impress for the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League.
Jackson is averaging 13.5 points, 5.5 assists, 7 rebounds, and 1.75 steals per game through four games, two starts. Jackson is also shooting 52.6 percent (20-of-38) from the field, 46.2 percent (6-of-13) on 3-pointers and 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from the free throw line.
CSU will honor the 1979-80 men's basketball team at Saturday's game against Wilberforce. The 1979-80 team, which featured Franklin Edwards, Darren Tillis, and current CSU Athletic Director, Lee Reed, set a school record for, wins in a season, going 17-9. Edwards (1981, Philadelphia 76ers, 22nd-overall) and Tillis (1982, Boston Celtics, 23) are the only Vikings players ever to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft.... It will be only the second game that CSU has played in Woodling Gym since the Vikings moved cross campus to the Wolstein Center in 1991.... From 1973-91, CSU had a record of 123-21 (.854) at Woodling Gym.... CSU signee Devon Long had 26 points and 16 rebounds in Detroit Crockett Tech's, 80-57, opening day victory against Detroit Douglass.... CSU has a Viking Voyage bus trip planned for Ohio State on Dec. 22. Tickets are $25 and include a game ticket, a CSU replica jersey, round-trip transportation and pizza and pop. For more information call 216.687.5454.