One of the most difficult things in sports is to defeat a rival three times in a single season. Last night, the Cleveland State Vikings, led by coach Gary Waters, showed resilience and grit in beating Butler for the Horizon League championship, 57-54. The Vikings (25-10) will be an intriguing NCAA Tournament team because of their experience at the guard position; tenacious defense; and the ability to bomb from deep. Last night, the Vikings made 10 3-pointers.
From the IndyStar:
Cleveland State trailed Illinois-Chicago by nine points with less than five minutes left in a quarterfinal Friday, Wisconsin-Green Bay by 12 in a semifinal Saturday and Butler by eight in the second half.
“They never quit,” Waters said. “That was the fight in these young men. They said, ‘Coach, we will not be denied.’ ”
Cleveland State (25-10) earned the Horizon’s automatic bid and will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1986.
Butler (26-5) was on track for an NCAA bid anyway but now awaits Selection Sunday for what would be a third at-large spot in seven years. The outcome will inevitably hurt seeding for the Bulldogs, who went 7-4 in their final 11 games and could fall to the Nos. 7-10 range.
Jackson shot 7-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-8 on 3s, and added eight assists in earning tournament MVP honors. “Unbelievable” is the way Butler coach Brad Stevens and sophomore center Matt Howard both described him.
Jackson’s 3-pointer put the Vikings ahead to stay, 50-48, with 10 minutes remaining. His drive increased the margin to 56-50 with 4:56 on the clock. The Vikings scored one point thereafter, but Butler could not overtake them.
“Sometimes I think we over-analyze things,” Stevens said. “Cleveland State is a terrific team.”
Ice Water — Brrrrr…Swish!!