Cleveland State men's basketball coach Gary Waters won his 300th career game Wednesday night as the Vikings rallied to defeat Notre Dame College 77-66 in a nonconference game at the Wolstein Center.
Waters hit the milestone in his 17th season and has a 300-221 career record. Waters has won 129 games at CSU, 92 wins at Kent State (1996-2001) and 79 wins at Rutgers (2001-06).
"God has blessed me to be able to coach this long and let this happen," said Waters, who is in his seventh season at CSU. "This happens because you have great kids. Coaches don't win 300 [games]. [It's] the players you have and your coaching staff. When you get that you have a chance to win [a lot of games]."
CSU improved to 7-4, while the Falcons dropped to 2-8.
Trailing by seven in the second half, CSU used a 20-8 run over the next seven minutes to take control of the game and never looked back.
The Vikings had five players finish in double figures and shot 60.4 percent from the field.
CSU's defense remains a work in progress. The Vikings allowed NDC to shoot 51 percent from the field. The Falcons also out-rebounded the Vikings by six, including a 12-7 advantage on the offensive side.
"We got to continue to work on this defensive end," said Waters. "I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight because I'll be worrying about that 51 percent."
The Vikings looked good early as they jumped out to a quick 20-8 run to start the game, but they would get careless with the ball and allowed the Falcons to get back into the game.
NDC, a Division II school located in South Euclid, Ohio, used a 24-10 run over the next 12 minutes to take a 32-30 lead on senior center Nathan Ensz's tip-in. During the run, CSU committed eight turnovers.
Sophomore forward Marlin Mason's three-point play just before the half gave the Vikings a 35-34 lead at the intermission.
It was only the second time this season that CSU has led at the half. The Vikings are 2-0 when they have the lead at the half and 5-4 when they have trailed or been tied at the half.
Freshman guard Tyree Gaiter, a Cleveland Heights native, kept the Falcons in the game in the first half as he scored 11 of his 16 points in the first 20 minutes.
"I let him [Tyree Gaiter] get into the paint too much in the first half and he got things going for himself and his team," said CSU's Charlie Lee.
Waters added: "Tyree thought he should be at Cleveland State. I knew he would take this on as a major challenge. I thought he kept his team in there by penetrating and hitting a couple of shots. I don't know if Charlie really understood what that kid was bringing to the game as opposed to I'm just playing another guy. I thought he did a much, much better job on him in the second half."
It was NDC who jumped out to the quick start in the second half as they opened with a 13-5 run to take a 47-40 lead on Ensz's lay-up.
"It never came across my mind that we were going to lose the game because the score never got out of hand," said Lee. "There was enough time on the clock for us to come back."
The Vikings would rally as sophomore forward Devon Long's jumper started a 12-4 run over the next six minutes to take back the lead.
A jumper from redshirt sophomore guard Sebastian Douglas gave CSU the lead for good, 52-51.
CSU shot a sizzling 72.7 percent in the second half. The Vikings defense also held the Falcons without a three-point field goal in the second-half (0-of-5).
The Vikings were led by Mason's career-high 19 points on 9-of-12 from the field. He also had four blocked shots.
"I just try to let the game come to me," said Mason.
CSU also got double-digit scoring from freshmen guard Bryn Forbes (12 points), Lee (11), senior forward Tim Kamczyc (10) and Douglas (10).
Freshman guard Junior Lomomba made his first career start for the Vikings and finished with seven points in 15 minutes.
"[Junior's foot] is about 75 percent," said Waters.
NDC was led by senior forward Eric Dummermuth with 18 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard DeArmond Lawrence also contributed 10 points for the Falcons.
CSU turned the ball over 21 times, which led to 24 points for NDC.
"I think over the last four games we have 18 to 19 turnovers per game," said Waters. "We got to get out of this bad habit."
The Vikings travel to intrastate rival Akron on Sunday.
Tom Mieskoski is a contributor to Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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