The monotony has been broken
It happened! Somebody other than IUPUI took over at the top of the Power Rankings!
…because IUPUI was forced into a COVID-19 stoppa-
…wait, what? Milwaukee took over the top spot because they swept IUPUI?
Well, that’s enough to say that this weekend broke what has otherwise been a very straightforward Horizon League Women’s Basketball season. But that was far from the craziest result of the weekend. The Jaguars may have been undefeated in league play and the unanimous favorite to win the league in the Preseason Poll, but the Panthers entered the weekend 10-0 in Horizon League play. After the top five teams in the league had dominated all season, the bottom half of the league came through strong with three massive upsets.
Northern Kentucky remained out after failing to take the court and falling under the 50 percent threshold of Horizon League games played, but it sounds like the Norse will be back in action this weekend.
- Milwaukee Panthers (15-1, 12-0 in Horizon League play)
Milwaukee proved its defense was no joke over the weekend, stifling the odds-on favorite for Horizon League Player of the Year on its way to a weekend sweep of the unanimous league favorite IUPUI. While the Panthers have a pair of difficult weekends scheduled against Northern Kentucky and Wright State, the fact that the team was able to remain undefeated in league play and sweep an IUPUI team that hasn’t been able to play all of its games puts Milwaukee in a very strong position going forward.
Megan Walstad earned her third Horizon League Player of the Week award after averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds against a frontcourt featuring the favorite to win her third straight Horizon League Player of the Year award in Macee Williams. Beyond her strong counting stats, there’s no denying her importance within a Milwaukee defense that continued to stifle opponents to secure wins.
- IUPUI Jaguars (8-3, 6-2 in Horizon League play)
While getting swept technically knocked IUPUI to fourth in a traditional set of standings – third among teams in this week’s Power Rankings – the Jaguars seem destined to be favored against Wright State and Northern Kentucky in any future matchups. This is essentially where I would’ve seen Wright State men’s basketball if the Raiders didn’t cough up a couple games to lesser foes and instead got swept by Cleveland State in close contests.
The biggest reason IUPUI finished last weekend 0-2 was Milwaukee’s defense on Macee Williams. Williams averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds per game – better numbers than some players who starred for teams that won this weekend – but her efficiency took a massive dive. Williams entered the weekend averaging 19.4 points on 59.4 percent shooting from the field and left the weekend averaging 18.5 points on 51.0 percent shooting from the field thanks to a weekend where she hit just 10 of her 39 attempts.
- Green Bay Phoenix (8-5, 7-3 in Horizon League play)
The next shocking result of the weekend was Green Bay splitting with Cleveland State. Ever since a pair of narrow losses to Milwaukee to open the season, Green Bay has seemed to be just a step behind the Panthers when comparing common Horizon League opponents. While Milwaukee had some difficulty putting away CSU two weekends ago, a 60-48 loss to the Vikings is more than a couple steps behind a tough win. Fortunately for the Phoenix, they weren’t the biggest victim of an unexpected upset.
- Wright State Raiders (9-5, 9-3 in Horizon League play)
Despite playing all of its Horizon League games and coming away with an excellent league record heading into the weekend, Wright State’s schedule made it difficult to get a good read on the team. Cancellations caused the Raiders to play Robert Morris two weeks in a row. One week after sweeping RMU, Wright State was swept by the Colonials. I’ve felt that these two teams in particular had league records heavily influenced by this year’s imbalanced schedules at the midway point of the year, and the last two weeks seem to support that. Nonetheless, after the results last weekend this is arguably the biggest shock of the weekend.
Tyler Frierson scored double figures in both games this weekend. She averaged 13 points and 9 rebounds per game. On the season, the 6-foot-4 center is fourth in the league with 8.6 rebounds per game. While her 8.6 points per game don’t jump off the page, they’re enough to leave the 2020 All-Defensive Team pick second on the team in scoring.
- Oakland Golden Grizzlies (8-7, 8-4 in Horizon League play)
With another pair of wins, Oakland remains in a strong position in the Power Rankings. The Golden Grizzlies are tied for the third longest win streak in Horizon League play, but because the team’s last four games were against two teams that are a combined 1-21 in Horizon League play that’s not the greatest accomplishment. This weekend Oakland disposed of Purdue Fort Wayne relatively easily, winning both games by double figures.
Kahlaijah Dean was dominant for the Golden Grizzlies. She averaged 18.5 points 9.5 rebounds and 9 assists per game. She led the team in all three categories in both victories. Dean leads Oakland in points and rebouds, and leads the entire Horizon League in assists. Given Oakland’s strong standing in the league right now, she’s positioned very well for postseason All-League honors.
- Youngstown State (5-3, 5-3 in Horizon League play)
Like Oakland, Youngstown State is riding one of the longer win streaks in Horizon League play. Also like Oakland, four of those games came against opponents near the bottom of the league standings. In a bizarre situation brought about by COVID-19 cancellations, the Penguins have won four consecutive games all against UIC. While an argument could be made that YSU deserves to be above Oakland because the game immediately preceding those four wins over the Flames was a win over OU, that was also Youngstown’s only non-UIC win. For the second weekend in a row, the Penguins easily disposed of the Flames for a pair of double-figure wins.
Nneka Obiazor reclaimed Youngstown State’s scoring lead after averaging 19.5 points per game over the weekend. Her 10.5 rebounds per game also helped her maintain the team’s rebounding lead. The freshman is averaging 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. If YSU can avoid anymore COVID-19 stoppages and Obiazor can keep playing at about this level she looks to be on her way to winning Horizon League Freshman of the Year, among other postseason accolades.
- Robert Morris Colonials (2-8, 2-8 in Horizon League play)
Due to COVID-19 protocols, Robert Morris was forced to play Wright State for a second straight weekend. Fortunately for the Colonials, this weekend went much better than last and RMU came away with a sweep. Last week I wondered if they might have to wait for the final weeks of the season to get some wins despite probably being a better team than their record indicated. This week they proved they were that team.
Sol Castro came through this weekend with an absolutely unexpected offensive outburst for a team that’s been desperate for scoring. Castro posted a career high 23 points on Friday and added 20 on Saturday on her way to being named HOrizon League Freshman of the Week. She posted an effective field goal percentage of 56.7 along the way. Because of all of the cancellations RMU has dealt with, this weekend boosted Castro’s scoring average by more than three points to 9.2 points per game.
- Cleveland State Vikings (3-7, 3-7 in Horizon League play)
Cleveland State pulled off what looks to be the biggest individual upset in the Horizon League all season with its win over Green Bay. With the exception of a weekend playing Purdue Fort Wayne, the Vikings are in a similar spot to Robert Morris in that the team has primarily played the top teams in the league. As a result, it’s difficult to get a good read on the Vikings. With that said, this weekend showed the potential upside of CSU as a team that could play spoiler in the Horizon League Tournament.
Freshman Destiny Leo averaged 14.5 points per game over the weekend, the first of her career with a pair of double-digit scoring performances. The 5-foot-10 guard is boosted her scoring average to 8.9 points per game. She’s shooting 37.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc on the season.
- UIC Flames (2-9, 1-7 in Horizon League play)
Unlike Robert Morris, UIC couldn’t take advantage of a second weekend against the same opponent to come away with a win. As has been the case for most of league play, the Flames didn’t roll over like some of the other teams near the bottom of league play. While Saturday’s 16-point loss isn’t pretty, the team did well to maintain pace after the margin stretched to about that big early in the second half.
Jaida McCloud averaged 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game off the bench for the Flames. McCloud started every game for the Flames until this weekend and remains the team’s leading scorer with 14.2 points per game. It seems the move might’ve been a good idea; McCloud’s 57.1 percent shooting for the weekend was the best she’s shot for a weekend in league play by a wide margin.
- Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons (0-14, 0-12 in Horizon League play)
Purdue Fort Wayne’s brutal introduction to the Horizon League continued as the Mastodons were once again swept. One small sliver of hope for the team going forward is that the last four games have had dramatically better results than the first eight. After being defeated by an average of 26.5 points through the first eight games of league play, Purdue Fort Wayne has lost its last four games by an average of 12 points. Friday’s 58-49 loss was the first time PFW lost by less than 10 in a Horizon League game.
Sierra Bell had another solid weekend, averaging 10.5 points and 7 rebounds per game for the Mastodons. Bell remains second on the team in both categories with 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, the latter obviously an impressive achievement for the 5-foot-7 guard.