FORT WAYNE, Ind. — It took a long time, but Cleveland State men's basketball has officially regained its place at the top of the standings.
CSU beat Purdue Fort Wayne 67-55 Saturday to clinch a share of its first Horizon League regular season championship since 2011. The Vikings trailed throughout the first half by as many as 10 points, but outscored the Mastodons 45-25 after intermission.
Tre Gomillion led the Vikes with 18 points and Torey Patton added 16 along with 10 rebounds, while Algevon Eichelberger had 11 points and six boards off the bench. D'Moi Hodge's 3-pointer less than six minutes into the second half gave CSU its first advantage of the game and was the start of a 19-6 run that helped put the game out of reach.
The win caps off an incredible turnaround for Cleveland State, as the program had not even had a winning record in six years. During that time, the team saw the retirement of longtime coach Gary Waters and the firing of his replacement Dennis Felton after just two seasons amid significant controversy. Even in 2020-21, second-year coach Dennis Gates overcame an 0-3 start and a devastating 55-point loss to Toledo before the Vikings ripped of a nine-game winning streak to establish themselves as true contenders.
Watch Nick Camino's interview with Dennis Gates from Jan. 14:
Cleveland State (16-7, 16-4 Horizon league) will be co-champions with Wright State (18-5, 16-4), which beat Northern Kentucky this afternoon. The Vikings and the Raiders split their two regular season games with each other, meaning the top seed in the upcoming Horizon League tournament was determined by a tiebreaker formula being utilized as a result of unbalanced conference schedules caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vikings emerged as that No. 1 team, clinching at least a bid in the National Invitation Tournament.
Both CSU and WSU have earned first-round byes in the conference tournament and will host second-round home games on March 2, with the Vikings slated to face the lowest remaining seed who advances from the first round. The winner who ultimately emerges from the 12-team bracket will earn the Horizon League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Cleveland State has been there twice before, most recently in 2009 during the Waters era.