GAME #35 | NCAA First Round
No. 13 Cleveland State at No. 4 Villanova
Saturday, March 18 | 5:00 p.m. | Philadelphia, Pa.
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SETTING THE SCENE
The Cleveland State women's basketball team will be making its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament this weekend - and first since 2010 - traveling to Philadelphia, Pa. to take on Villanova in a First Round contest at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 18. Cleveland State enters the NCAA Tournament with a 30-4 overall record and will be playing as a No. 13 seed, while Villanova is currently 28-6 and is playing as a No. 4 seed. The Vikings earned the Horizon League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after capturing the 2023 Horizon League Tournament Title earlier this month.
A WIN ON SATURDAY WOULD…
Give the Vikings their first NCAA Tournament win in program history…Put Cleveland State at 1-0 against Villanova all-time…Advance Cleveland State to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.
CLEVELAND STATE IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
This will be Cleveland State's third appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and first under head coach Chris Kielsmeier. The Vikings are 0-2 in NCAA Tournament play in program history, falling at Stanford in their first-ever appearance during the 2007-08 campaign, and coming up short at Notre Dame in the 2009-10 season. Playing as a No. 13 seed this year will mark the highest seed for the Vikings, as Cleveland State played as a 15-seed in each of its first two NCAA Tournament appearances.
…#HLWBB IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Cleveland State will be the third Horizon League representative in the NCAA Tournament over the last three years, joining IUPUI (2022) and Wright State (2021) as the three most recent #HLWBB teams in the NCAA Tournament field. In each of the last three NCAA Tournaments the Horizon League representative has been a No. 13 seed.
ENTERING THE TOURNAMENT…
The Vikings own a 30-4 overall record - winning four straight games and 13 of their last 14 contests. Cleveland State owns a 13-1 record in non-league games so far this season, while the Vikings finished Horizon League regular season play with a 17-3 mark.
A LOOK AT THE BRACKET
The winner of Saturday's first round game between Cleveland State and Villanova will advance to the round of 32 and face the winner of No. 5 Washington State/No. 12 FGCU in a second round game on Monday, March 20. During regular season play, the Vikings faced one team in the NCAA Tournament field, opening the season at fifth-seeded Iowa State.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Villanova enters NCAA Tournament play with a 28-6 overall record on the year…The Wildcats earned an at-large berth into the tournament field, and will be playing as a four-seed…Villanova enters the weekend ranked 10th in both the AP and WBCA Coaches Top-25 polls…Villanova has won five of its last six games, with the lone loss during this stretch coming against UConn in the BIG EAST Championship…As a team, Villanova leads the nation with a 1.64 assist/turnover ratio, while the Wildcats also rank in the top-10 in blocked shots (7th-5.6/game)…Individually, Maddy Siegrist leads all Division I players with 984 total points (28.0 ppg), while Lucy Olsen ranks fifth with a 2.85 assist/turnover ratio.
HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS!
For the third time in program history the Vikings captured the Horizon League Tournament title, posting a 73-61 victory over Green Bay in the championship game earlier this month. Cleveland State earned its second straight trip to the #HLWBB Championship following a 63-60 overtime win against Northern Kentucky in the #HLWBB Semifinals - which marked Cleveland State's fourth straight trip to the Horizon League Semifinals. The Vikings opened #HLWBB Tournament play with a 65-52 win over Milwaukee in the Quarterfinals.
…THREE NAMED TO ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
After claiming the Horizon League Championship, Cleveland State had three players named to the All-Tournament Team, including junior Destiny Leo who was named the #HLWBB Tournament MVP. Leo averaged a team-best 15.7 points per game, including a 25-point performance against Northern Kentucky in the semifinals. Also earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team were Brittni Moore (14.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, back-to-back double-doubles in the semifinals & championship) and Gabriella Smith (15.3 ppg, .571 field goal %, nine steals).
CLEVELAND STATE'S POSTSEASON SUCCESS
Over the last three seasons Cleveland State has played in 15 postseason games (including Horizon League Tournament and WBI), owning a record of 12-3 during this stretch, including a perfect 3-0 mark so far this season. During the 2020-21 campaign the Vikings won three games over three days to claim the 2021 WBI Championship, marking the first postseason title in program history.
30 WINS AND COUNTING...
Last week's 73-61 victory over Green Bay in the #HLWBB Championship marked the 30th win of the 2022-23 season for the Vikings, improving the program record for wins in a single-season. Cleveland State set the program record with 24 wins earlier this season, as a 73-63 victory at Purdue Fort Wayne eclipsed the previous record of 23 wins which was set back during the 1982-83 campaign. Cleveland State enters NCAA Tournament play as one of just four Division I teams with 30+ wins on the year.
Entering NCAA Tournament play two Vikings are in the 1,000-point club, as junior Destiny Leo enters Saturday's game with 1,408 career points and senior Brittni Moore currently has 1,019 total points on her collegiate career. Leo, who reached the milestone against Campbell back in December, is one of just 11 Vikings all-time to eclipse 1,400 points, ranking 11th on the CSU Scoring List. Moore reached the 1,000-point milestone in last week's #HLWBB Semifinal victory against Northern Kentucky, marking the first time since the 2017-18 campaign that multiple Vikings on the same team have eclipsed 1,000 career points.
LEO NAMED #HLWBB PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Earlier this season junior Destiny Leo was named the Horizon League Player of the Year, becoming just the third Viking in program history to earn Player of the Year honors. Leo, who was also named to the All-League First Team, averaged a league-best 17.9 points per game through regular season play, while also notching a league-high .385 three-point field goal percentage and .919 clip from the free throw line.
WILLIAMS NAMED #HLWBB SIXTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
For the second time over the last three seasons the Vikings earned Horizon League Sixth Player of the Year honors, as senior Deja Williams picked up the award earlier this year. Williams, who came off the bench in all but one game during regular season play, averaged 6.5 points, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Through 31 regular season games, Williams helped the Vikings to a league-best 75.2 points per game, while also helping the Vikings average 9.16 steals on the defensive end of the court to lead all league teams.
MOORE, NGWAFANG & REISMA EARN ALL-LEAGUE HONORS
In addition to Destiny Leo and Deja Williams, the Vikings earned four additional Horizon League postseason honors, as Brittni Moore was named Second Team All-League, Amele Ngwafang was named to the All-League Third Team and All-Defensive Team, while Jordana Reisma earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team. Cleveland State's five #HLWBB honorees led all league teams.
CSU OFFENSE FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS
Cleveland State enters NCAA Tournament play as the highest scoring team in program history, notching 2,533 total points so far this season. The Vikings, who lead the Horizon League averaging 74.5 points per game, rank 10th nationally with a 17.1 scoring margin through 34 games played. Cleveland State has eclipsed 70 points 22 times this season, including a 73-point performance against Green Bay in the #HLWBB Championship game. In addition, the Vikings have had one of their more efficient seasons from the field, currently ranking fifth in the CSU Single-Season Record Book with a .428 field goal percentage and ranking second with a .350 clip from three-point range.
…LEO ON THE OFFENSIVE END
A large part of Cleveland State's offense has come from junior Destiny Leo, as she leads the team averaging 17.7 points per game this season, notching 13 20-point games - including four 30-point performances. Leo, who ranks 24th nationally with 603 total points on the year, is one of just four Vikings all-time to record 600+ points in a single-season. Almost half of Leo's field goals through the first 34 games have been from behind-the-arc, as she has converted 87 three-pointers to rank 16th among Division I players - while also being just four three-pointers shy of setting a CSU Single-Season record.
VIKINGS AT THE CHARITY STRIPE
As a team, Cleveland State has combined for a program-record 580 free throws made this season, leading all Division I teams entering NCAA Tournament play. The Vikings are averaging 17.06 free throws made per game, ranking second nationally in the category, trailing only LSU at 17.27. Last time out, the Vikings went 22-for-23 from the free throw line, marking the ninth time this season that Cleveland State has converted 20+ free throws.
…LEO FROM THE FREE THROW LINE
Entering Saturday's NCAA First Round game, Destiny Leo continues to be one of the top free throw shooters in the country, owning a .908 clip from the free throw line on the season (158-for-174) to rank ninth among Division I players (with 60+ more attempts than all eight players ranked above her). Leo, who owns the top-two marks in the CSU Single-Season Record Book for free throw percentage (.908 in 2022-23 and .906 in 2021-22), also ranks 15th nationally with her 158 made free throws on the year. So far this season, Leo has been perfect from the free throw line in 20 games, including a 7-for-7 effort against Green Bay in the #HLWBB Championship game last time out.
CLEVELAND STATE ON THE DEFENSIVE END
Through regular season and Horizon League Tournament play Cleveland State has been one of the best defensive teams in #HLWBB, leading the league in rebounding (42.1) and blocked shots (4.00), while ranking second in steals (9.06). Nationally, the Vikings rank 18th with their 42.1 rebounds per game, while also ranking 10th with a .353 field goal percentage defense.
…VIKINGS ON THE BOARDS
Thirty-four games into the 2022-23 campaign Cleveland State is outrebounding its opponents by 7.5 rebounds per game, marking a program record for rebounding margin in a single-season. A large part of the Vikings' rebounding efforts over the last few weeks has been Brittni Moore, who is averaging 10.2 boards over the last eight games. During this stretch, Moore has tallied five double-doubles, including a 12-point, 10-rebound performance against Northern Kentucky in the #HLWBB Semifinals and a 14-point, 10-rebound effort against Green Bay in the #HLWBB Championship.
SAVING HER BEST FOR LAST
After averaging just 6.3 points through the first 30 games of the 2022-23 campaign, senior Gabriella Smith enters NCAA Tournament play averaging 15.2 points over Cleveland State's last four contests, notching double-digit points in all four games. Smith, who has posted a .594 clip from the field over the last four games, paced the Vikings in the #HLWBB Championship game with a season-high 19 points in the win over Green Bay, including a 5-for-7 performance from three-point.
VIKINGS SET PROGRAM RECORD WITH 16-GAME WIN STREAK
Earlier this season, Cleveland State set a program record with a 16-game win streak, dating from November 12, 2022 through January 12, 2023. The Vikings, who set the previous record with 11 straight wins during the 2019-20 campaign, were one of just four Division I teams with a win streak of 16+ games at the time (South Carolina, Ohio State, LSU).
HEAD COACH CHRIS KIELSMEIER
The Vikings will be under the direction of fifth-year head coach Chris Kielsmeier during the 2022-23 campaign, who owns a 96-53 record at Cleveland State and a 512-169 overall record in 23 seasons as a head coach. Kielsmeier, who joined the Vikings as the seventh head coach in program history prior to the 2018-19 season, recorded his 500th career head coaching win in a 107-65 decision at Detroit Mercy earlier this season. When the Vikings take the court on Saturday, Kielsmeier will have coached in the NCAA Tournament at the Division I, Division II and Division III levels, including a 2008 Division III National Title at Howard Payne University.