Running and Stunning: The Cinderella Story of the 1985-86 Cleveland State Vikings mens basketball team


The era started just in time for the 1983-84 basketball season, an era which would eventually become known as the “Run & Stun” era of Cleveland State University Viking basketball, headlined by first year coach Kevin Mackey. Mackey’s first Viking team finished 14-16, including 4-10 in the AMCU-8 conference. Mackey’s next season, 1984-85 would see a drastic improvement as Cleveland State finished 21-8 overall and 11-3 in conference play, giving them the regular season conference title in the AMCU-8. The Vikings, however, would fall to fourth-seeded Missouri State in the conference tournament semifinal by a score of 79-76. Despite the premature ending of the then best season in Cleveland State basketball, the expectations were set and the Vikings were ready to exceed them and send shock-waves through the college basketball world in the process.

Entering the 1985-86 season, the Vikings were ready to hit the hardwood with a solid starting five which included forwards Clinton Smith, Clinton Ransey, forward Paul Stewart, and center Eric Mudd, and the best secret in town, Ken “Mouse” McFadden. McFadden, an incoming 6’1” freshman guard from New York City. McFadden, who never graduated high school and was recruited by Mackey on the AU circuit entered Cleveland State with his GED in hand, only to leave as the schools all-time leading scorer with 2,256 points. With the Mouse on the loose, this Vikings team was about to go on a historical run.

The Vikings opened up the 1985-86 season on November 25th with a convincing win over Clarion, 105-65. The Vikings would go on to win their next three games with blow-out victories over Central Connecticut State, Youngstown State, and Ohio Wesleyan. Cleveland State, with 4-0 record in hand took their unblemished record on the road to Columbus to face in-state king, Ohio State. In a 99-95 defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes, the Vikings opened up some eyes.

 Cleveland State refused to dwell on the close defeat to Ohio State, and picked up the pieces and embarked on another four game win streak with wins over Akron, Kent State, Eastern Michigan, and Maryland Eastern Shore. The Vikings to their 8-1 record on the road to face the #2 ranked Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Cleveland State put up a solid effort, but still fell in defeat by a score of 105-85, to drop to 8-2 on the season with conference play looming in the near future.

 Cleveland State, again rebounded in the wake of defeat by routing Utica at home by a score of 92-61, upping their record to 9-2 before hitting the road for a three game road trip, which included two conference games to open up AMCU-8 play. The Vikings swept the road trip with convincing wins over conference foes Wisconsin-Green Bay, and Illinois-Chicago. Also on the list of victims on the road swing was DePaul, whom Cleveland State defeated 90-75 in a non-conference match-up.

 The Vikings would go on to win another three in a row, improving their record to 15-2 overall and a unblemished 5-0 in AMCU-8 play, however, it would once again be Missouri State as a thorn in the Vikings side, defeating them 65-61 in Missouri and handing Cleveland State their first conference loss. Content with only having three losses in the loss column, the Vikings were about to embark on a adventurous and historic 14 game winning streak, a record which still remains the longest in school history.

 Cleveland State started the historical run at Kent State, where they defeated the Golden Flashes by a score of 75-55, as the Vikings shot a unprecedented .739% from the field in the opening half in victory. A few games later, Cleveland State took a 19-3 record into a road game against Northern Iowa, where they defeated the Panthers 80-65 to pick up their 20th win of the season.

 With a 24-3 over all record, and a conference best 13-1 record in AMCU-8 play, the Vikings were ready to make a run through the conference tournament, taking place in Springfield Missouri. First up for the Vikings were Northern Illinois, who gave Cleveland State all they could handle and more as the Vikings battled hard for a 73-68 victory. Next up for Cleveland State was a semifinal date with the Flames of Illinois-Chicago, who put up little fight as the Vikings routed the Flames 100-84 en route to a AMCU-8 championship game appearance against Eastern Illinois. Eastern Illinois, like Northern Iowa, gave Cleveland State all they could handle as the Vikings held on for a 70-66 victory, and a automatic birth to the NCAA Tournament.

 With dancing shoes in hand, Cleveland State took a 14-seed into a game against the Hoosiers of Indiana. The third-seeded Hoosiers, coached by Bobby Knight, would fall victim to “Run & Stun” style the Vikings played, as Cleveland State would stun the Hoosiers by a score of 83-79. With the victory, the Vikings became the first 14-seed to win a tournament game in the NCAA Tournament, and set up a second round game with St. Joseph’s.

 St. Josephs, like the Hoosiers, could not keep up with Vikings style of play that doomed the Hoosiers as Cleveland State held on for a 75-69 victory and earned a trip to the Sweet 16.  That would be the sweetest the Viking season would be, however.

 The historical ’85-86 season came to a close, as the Vikings fell 71-70 to the David Robinson led Navy. Cleveland, Ohio might be known as a pro sports town, but for one magical winter in the mid-eighties….College Hoops was King.

Brian Whan, CST Fan Feature 

Youngstown native who finds himself waitng for a Cleveland championship.  Brian loves all things sports but college basketball might be his biggest passion, especially mid-major hoops.
Brian has been featured on 1240 WBBW on the Youngstown Sports Live radio show during the college basketball season to discuss his bracketology that appeared on the bracket matrix.

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