Marauders display high level of resilience in pursuit of SIAC West Division Championship
WILBERFORCE, Ohio – With a season filled with dramatic victories and difficult defeats, the Central State Marauders have earned a top seed in next week’s SIAC Tournament after winning the regular season SIAC West Division Championship.
“Resiliency continues to define our team. We took some tough early losses. At one point, we had lost seven straight games before turning it around with a big road win at LeMoyne-Owen in late January,” CSU head coach Joseph Price says. “Our guys never quit and kept fighting to get us back into contention in the division. I also think our fans played a big role in our success. They helped pull us through the low moments of the season with their unwavering support which kept us motivating to succeed for them as well. We ended the regular season on a nice winning streak and have gained a lot of confidence entering the conference tournament.”
CSU ended the season with seven straight victories to propel the team to the top of the divisional standings. The winning streak allowed the CSU men’s program to capture its first divisional title since becoming an exclusive member of NCAA Div. II. Lane College’s loss to Spring Hill earlier this week gave CSU the edge in the conference tiebreaker for the divisional crown.
“We fought through challenges all year long. The players really earned this one with their dedication and execution in the final month of the season,” says Price. “We lost an All-American early in the season in Dwight Richards, Jr. and had to redevelop our strategy and team chemistry. We have been fortunate to have guys who are selfless and do anything to make the team better. Our overall team mindset is what helped us bring home the first SIAC West Division title in our program’s history.”
Nearing the end of January with a 6-13 record, CSU was revitalized by the play of Div. I transfer Charles (Chuck) Ruise. Ruise, who played the previous two seasons at IPFW, became active in CSU’s 76-62 road win over LeMoyne-Owen. He went on to average 14.4 ppg in the final nine games of the year, with a season-high 27 points coming in a double-overtime victory over rival Kentucky State.
Davone Daniels, who is one of the top three-point shooters in the SIAC (41.4%), credited Ruise on filling a key void to the team.
“We knew that we needed another guard like Chuck (Ruise). When he was activated, we immediately became a better team. Since his arrival, all of us have been way more efficient on the floor and have found ways to win the close games down the stretch.”
In addition to Ruise and Daniels, CSU’S most consistent play has come from junior Chris Scott. The 6’9 forward has solidified himself as one of the top post players in the conference by leading the team in scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). Scott has also showed the touch from long-range, converting 37.8% from beyond the arc.
“I give all the credit to our players making plays in some of the biggest moments during our winning streak,” Price says. Chuck, Chris and Davone are just a few names on a long list of guys who have stepped up in close games to help us climb to the top of the division.”
The Marauders enter the postseason with a 14-14 overall record and a 11-8 ledger in conference play. Earning an opening round bye, CSU will play Wednesday night at 7:45 pm cst (8:45 pm est) against the winner of Monday’s No. 4 east seed – No. 5 west seed game.
“We were picked to finish seventh in the SIAC West Preseason Projections. I commend our players for being mentally tough and maintaining the confidence to know that we could rise to the top,” Price says. “We put ourselves in a tough spot earlier in the year and responded with big wins on the road in February. I am really excited that our seniors have been able to experience success in their final season with the program. They have done a great job and will continue to lead us as we prepare for postseason play.”
All tournament games will be played at Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
Player reactions to the division title
“We showed a lot of heart. At one point, we had lost seven straight games and battled back to get into contention. Our goal going into the postseason is to keep our winning streak alive and keep the season going for as long as possible.”
–Junior forward Chris Scott
“We have been trying to do this for a long time. We came close to winning a G-MAC title when I was a freshman and we let it slip away. For us to finally get this divisional title means a lot to me and to the other seniors on this team who have been here for the last four years.”
–Senior forward Jeremy Brown
“All the hard work has paid off. When you work long and hard for something and you finally achieve it, there really isn’t more satisfaction than that. We were losing a lot of close games earlier in the year. The addition of Chuck (Ruise) really put this team over the edge and we were able to finish the regular season strong.”
-Senior guard Sterling Gilmore
“Winning is what matters to me. No matter what sport you play, you always want to win. I am proud to be able to say that we are the division champions. I was really confident in the ability of this team. Even when we weren’t playing well, I knew we had it in us to be a good team. Moving forward into the postseason, I just want to leave everything I have out on the floor. I want to do everything possible to help us win and have no regrets when my collegiate career comes to an end.”
–Senior forward Jeremy Brown
“This means a lot to me. I am happy I have been able to make a difference and help the team as best I can. This championship is going to help the school and the program out a lot and we look forward to continuing a long run in the postseason.”
–Junior guard Charles Ruise
CSU has not lost in the month of February (7-0).
CSU’s seven-game winning streak is the longest active streak in the SIAC.
CSU has not won more than seven games in a row since the 2012-2013 season (8 games).
With his performance last Wednesday, senior Jeremy Brown eclipsed 800 career points and 700 rebounds.
CSU earned NCAA conference affiliation in 2011, becoming a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. The men’s and women’s basketball programs began competing as members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the fall of 2015.