Cleveland State men's basketball coach Gary Waters is willing to take wins this time of year in any fashion they come his way.
The Vikings' 66-60 win over visiting Youngstown State behind 23 points from junior Devon Long on Tuesday evening before 2,041 at the Wolstein Center was one that came with a different flavor.
"That one ended ugly but the kids were resiliant and came ready to play against a team that handled them pretty well last time at Youngstown State," said Waters, whose team continues to fight to finish at least sixth in the 9-team Horizon League that would secure a home game to begin the league tournament on March 5.
"It's nice to win two in a row," added Waters has he left the press room with his team getting back to .500 overall at 12-12 and 4-6 in the league before a Saturday visit from first place Valparaiso.
In a game of runs, the Vikings had the last word, going on top at 50-48 with a 3-pointer from sophomore Charlie Lee with just 5:44 remaining to begin a 9-point run that concluded with CSU holding a 56-48 edge with 3:38 left on a 3-point play by sophomore Marlin Mason.
But while Lee and Mason were key in that run, it was Long, who was the go-to guy from start to finish with a career best 23 points on 9-of-11 from the field and an uncharacteristic 5-for-6 from the free throw line to pace four Vikings in double figure scoring.
"Our plan was to flip the script on the season and I had to regain my confidence and prove that to my team," said Long, who helped the Vikings to a 30-23 lead at intermission with 14 of his 23 points.
Many of Long's points came from getting the ball down on the blocks where he was nearly perfect.
"I told Charlie (Lee) that as soon as he saw me to not be afraid to get me the ball," added the 6-7 junior who had played limited minutes in his two previous seasons at Cleveland State.
Long's 23 points far out-distanced his previous career single high of 12 set in CSU's 80-63 loss at North Carolina earlier this season.
Prior to CSU breaking away in the final five minutes, the teams traded the lead 10 times in the second half starting with the Penguins regaining the lead at 36-35 when Bobby Hain, who led YSU with 15 points, went inside for a layup with 14:43 left.
Hain's basket capped a 10-point run that helped the Penguins rally from a 30-23 halftime deficit and it was a back and fourth battle for much of the rest of the game.
While the Vikings were able to hold down Damian Eargle to nine points after he had been averaging more than 20 points in recent outings, the Penguins did get 14 points from Blake Allen and 11 from Kamren Belin but fell to 5-5 in the Horizon League and 13-10 overall with the loss.
Cleveland State, which plays four of its next five Horizon League games at the Wolstein Center, had a different cast of leaders in the scorebook with 10 points each from sophomore Sebastian Douglas, Lee and freshman Junior Lomomba.
"My job is offensive rebounds," said Douglas, explaining his big night that included a big putback that beat the shot clock and gave CSU a 60-55 lead with just 1:36 left in the game.
The trio of Douglas, Lee and Lomomba countered CSU getting just four points from freshman Bryn Forbes, who was averaging a team best 12 points a game and no points from senior Tim Kamczyc, who was still averaging nine points a game despite tough outings recently.
"Tim has not scored much in recent games but Bryn just had an off night," explained Waters, whose team is 12-2 when it scores 60 or more points.
"We had to keep (YSU) in the 50s or 60s because we just can't score 70 points," added Waters. "We played the team who is the best team in the league at running its offense and we held them to 60 points and the had a few layups in the end to get there. We played well on defense."