Wright State isn’t invincible, but still leads the pack
After the early season made it seem like the league’s best players might need their career performances to overlap with Wright State being on the schedule in order for the Raiders to lose league games, WSU took an unexpected loss and now the team isn’t even the last undefeated in Horizon League play. And while it could’ve been a lot more complicated if a few shots went differently in a couple contests, the league is every bit the mess we all thought it would be before the season.
This last paragraph before the rankings seems to get more confusing every week. Going forward, the teams left out will be any team that cause COVID-19 protocols to kick in (so Milwaukee should’ve been in the rankings last week) and any team that has played less than half of its league games. This week that means no Detroit Mercy, IUPUI, Robert Morris or UIC.
- Wright State Raiders (7-2 overall, 5-1 in Horizon League play)
Despite an 81-71 loss to Oakland on Saturday, Wright State remains the clear team to beat in the Horizon League. The team’s overall resume is by far the strongest, and a 90-51 win in the weekend’s other game suggests that losses shouldn’t be a frequent occurrence for the Raiders.
Tanner Holden averaged 20 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for the Raiders, but his two performances demonstrated much of the difference in outcomes for the Raiders. On Friday, he scored 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting while playing just 27 minutes. He played virtually the entire game on Saturday – tallying 39 minutes – and while 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting isn’t a bad game by any stretch, it shows how much more difficult points were to come by in the loss.
- Cleveland State Vikings (6-3 overall, 6-0 in Horizon League play)
With UIC still out of commission and Cleveland State now above Wright State in the league standings, the Vikings remain in second place this week. CSU moved to 6-0 with a pair of wins over IUPUI. Friday’s matchup was a back-and-forth affair that ended with Cleveland State taking the lead for good with just under two minutes to play in a 65-62 win. Saturday’s game was much more straightforward, with the Vikings taking the lead for good just over a minute into the second half.
Torrey Patton remained a steady contributor for the Vikings, averaging 13 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over the weekend. Patton has now hit double-figures in every Horizon League game so far. With star Al Eichelberger still working his way back into the lineup, Patton’s reliable play has been a big part of why CSU is at the top of the league standings.
- Northern Kentucky Norse (5-4 overall, 3-1 in Horizon League play)
NKU was back in action against Purdue Fort Wayne over the weekend, and came away with a pair of hard-fought wins. The Norse trailed with six minutes to play on Friday before using a 9-0 run to take a commanding lead that the team refused to give up, prevailing 75-68. Saturday’s action was an even more impressive win, with NKU needing to overcome a 11-point second half deficit and hitting the game-winner in the final two seconds of play.
Marques Warrick collected another Horizon League Freshman of the Week award in what was easily his best week of play to date. The 6-foot-2 guard set and then tied a career high with 22 points in each of Northern Kentucky’s wins. He was pivitol in a late comeback against the Mastodons and made the game-winner with two seconds to play on Saturday. Warrick now has three of the six Horizon league Freshman of the Week awards in a season where the Norse have been forced out of action on multiple occasions. Even if this weekend was a fluke, he seems destined for Freshman of the Year as long as he stays healthy.
- Oakland Golden Grizzlies (3-10 overall, 3-3 in Horizon League play)
After several near-misses, Oakland finally earned a win over a team perceived as much stronger than it on Saturday. The win over Wright State is likely going to make Oakland a mainstay in the top half of the rankings for several weeks, but we can’t ignore Friday’s result. A 39-point loss tempers expectations for the first team to prove it can beat the Raiders.
Nobody embodied the difference between Oakland’s two performances better than Rashad Williams. On Saturday, Williams was Oakland’s second-leading scorer with 18 points while knocking down both half of his 3-pointers and half of his shots from the field. He was held scoreless after going 0-for-9 from the field in Friday’s blowout loss.
- Milwaukee Panthers (3-2 overall, 2-1 in Horizon League play)
Milwaukee was on the other end of a mid-weekend cancelation. While it’s entirely possible the team will be ruled out before the weekend and its scheduled matchups with a Detroit Mercy team that has already opted not to play a series it wasn’t comfortable with, for now the Panthers appear ready to play next weekend. In the Panthers’ lone contest this weekend, Milwaukee fell to a short-handed Robert Morris 67-64.
Te’Jon Lucas continued to struggle from the field for the Panthers, shooting 1-for-9 from the field in the two-point loss. While Lucas has still been able to find other ways to contribute – as he did with six assists compared to just two turnovers on Friday – the team’s ceiling is going to be much lower if the Preseason All-League pick doesn’t start making shots.
- Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons (2-5 overall, 1-5 in Horizon League play)
Despite being one of two teams with five league losses, Purdue Fort Wayne seems like a team that’s better than its record. The Mastodons three opponents are a combined 11-2 in Horizon League play, with the two eligible for this week’s rankings being place second and third. Despite the strong opponents, the Mastodons have only been taken out of the running in one game so far. If the team can figure out how to close out games, Purdue Fort Wayne has a chance to exceed preseason expectations despite falling into an early hole in the standings.
The NKU series might’ve had a wildly different outcome if Jarred Godfrey continued his run of 20-plus point performances in Horizon League play. After averaging over 23 points per game through his first two weekends in the league – which featured a pair of games against first place Cleveland State – Godfrey had just 14 points total in the two matchups with NKU.
- Youngstown State Penguins (6-4 overall, 2-4 in Horizon League play)
Youngstown State’s struggles continued this weekend, with a split against previously winless Green Bay. The Penguins overcame an early slow start on Friday en route to an 84-77 victory where the team led for most of the second half. Saturday was a back-and-forth battle until the final three minutes, when the Phoenix ran away with the victory. They also beat Carlow University of the NAIA 109-56 on Monday but unlike West Virginia Tech, Carlow was easily defeated with a lineup full of backups.
Naz Bohannon won Horizon League Player of the Week after averaging 27.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for the weekend. The catalyst to a weekend scoring average that was two and a half points higher than his previous career high scoring outing was a 33-point performance in Friday’s victory. Bohannon scored at will against Green Bay’s Terrance Thompson just a week after Thompson’s defense frustrated Loudon Love into several forced shots.
- Green Bay Phoenix (1-9 overall, 1-5 in Horizon League play)
Saturday’s victory marked the first of Will Ryan’s Division I head coaching career. Impressively, he did it with Josh Jefferson back on the sideline following a brief return on Friday.
PJ Pipes starred for the Phoenix all weekend, nearly reaching his career high with 21 points on Friday, then blowing his old scoring high of 22 out of the water with a 30-point outing on Saturday. Pipes scored nine points in the final minute and a half in the win. If Pipes can build off of this weekend to become a higher volume shooter going forward, the Phoenix could be a sneaky dangerous team when back at full strength.