FORT WAYNE, Indiana - The Cleveland State Vikings overcame a slow start to top Purdue Fort Wayne 67-55 on Saturday night, claiming a share of the Horizon League Regular Season Title for the first time in a decade.
Cleveland State and Wright State own identical 16-4 conference records, meaning the two will finish as co-champions. For the Green and White, it marks the first time finishing atop the league standings since the 2010-11 campaign.
Cleveland State's 16 #HLMBB victories also set a new program record for most wins in any conference, topping the 15-1 mark posted by the 1992-92 squad in the Mid-Continent Conference.
- With Cleveland State's win, the Vikings are the 2020-21 Horizon League Regular Season Champions. It's the first time since the 2010-11 season the Green and White finish the season atop the Horizon League.
- This is only the fifth time in program history the Vikes finished the regular season No. 1.
- Cleveland State, with 16 #HLMBB wins on the year, have now set an all-time program record for most wins in any conference/league.
- Announced after the Saturday's victory, the Vikings will enter the 2021 #REACHtheHORIZON Tournament as the overall top seed.
- Cleveland State had four players score in double figures: Tre Gomillion (18), Torrey Patton (16) and Tre Gomillion (13), Algevon Eichelberger (11).
The Vikings fell into another early deficit, trailing 22-12 only 10 minutes into the game as the Mastodons controlled the opening half, shooting 45.8 percent from the field while canning six triples.
With his team trailing in the second half, Vikings Head Coach Dennis Gates turned to Jeremy Sanchez for a spark off the bench. The sophomore, who entered the contest having played only 17 minutes on the season, responded with a steal and score to bring the Vikings within 35-34.
On the next possession, D'Moi Hodge nailed a transition three-pointer for a 37-36 Vikings lead, their first of the game. After Purdue Fort Wayne answered with a Jalon Pipkins jumper, Sanchez grabbed an offensive board and finished under the hoop to make it 39-38 Cleveland State with 13:52 on the clock.
Hodge stepped up again with a deep triple to stretch the lead to 48-40 before Craig Beaudion added a three-pointer of his own to cap off a 14-2 run and hand the Green and White a 51-40 edge, the largest of the night for either side, with 10 minutes to play.
Purdue Fort Wayne refused to go quietly, crawling back within two possessions multiple times over the final eight minutes of play, but the Vikings attacked the basket ferociously, generating 21 second-half attempts at the charity stripe and capitalizing with 16 points.
The Vikings topped the Mastodons 12-5 over the final 5:54 to pull away and finish out a second half that saw them outscore Purdue Fort Wayne 45-25.
Starting center Deante Johnson was removed due to injury after only four minutes on the court. Senior Algevon Eichelberger answered the call off the bench, logging a season-high 33 minutes while grabbing six boards.
Cleveland State's second-ranked defense held the Mastodons to 19 points below their season average entering the contest (74.0).
With a first-round bye in hand, the Vikings will host a Horizon League Tournament Quarterfinal at the Wolstein Center on Tuesday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m.