All is Wright in the league
Wright State’s sweep of Milwaukee combined with Cleveland State’s nationally televised Friday night loss to Detroit Mercy has resulted in a tie at the top of the Horizon League standings.
Detroit Mercy’s win plus a loss by Northern Kentucky resulted in last week’s observation that the Norse might be emerging as a solid third place team proving premature. NKU wasn’t even in third place in the league’s official standings, then lost to previously seventh place Green Bay.
As this is a (hopefully) one-of-a-kind season, we don’t have access to the official league standings. If I were to guess, we’ll find out in a few hours that splits by NKU and Oakland kept the Golden Grizzlies ahead of the Norse in the league’s metrics. The Wright State/Cleveland State flip should be reflected in the league’s standings, and obviously 2-0 weekends from Youngstown State and IUPUI should help them move up.
|Purdue Fort Wayne||5-13|
While it wasn’t at the forefront of the weekend’s action, IUPUI-UIC featured an insane pair of performances from the Jaguars’ 2020 All-League pick Marcus Burk. Burk averaged a ridiculous 35 points per game against the Flames, and arguably an even more impressive 78.2 effective field goal percentage on 39 shots.
Freshman of the Week figures to be an interesting debate on the men’s side. If it were up to me, Noah Waterman would get it. While he averaged just 12 points per game, he added six rebounds per night and had an effective field goal percentage of 75. His five-for-seven night from beyond the arc on Friday led Detroit Mercy to the weekend’s biggest win over Cleveland State. Freshman of the Year favorite Marques Warrick averaged 17.5 points in a split against Green Bay and seems likely to be the league’s pick. If the league insists on someone from a team that went 2-0 over the weekend, Shemar Rathan-Mayes’ 14 points and four assists per game should have him in a good position.
Macee Williams has been in the background since IUPUI fell from first place, but the two-time defending Horizon League Player of the Year should still be in a good spot for a threepeat. This weekend, she averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds per game for the Jaguars in a sweep of Youngstown State.
Emani Jefferson led Wright State to a pair of wins over a dangerous Northern Kentucky team and is what I’d consider an easy pick for Horizon League Freshman of the Week. She averaged 17.5 points and 4 rebounds per game, with her perimeter scoring helping her to an effective field goal percentage of 105.6. Jasmine Kondrakiewicz had an excellent weekend with 14 points and nine rebounds per game, but did it against a UIC team that has just one league win.
Wright State vs. Milwaukee
Wright State cruised to a pair of wins against Milwaukee to make up ground on Cleveland State this weekend. On Friday, the teams played even until the finial six and half minutes of the first half. From there, the Raiders finished the half on a 15-2 run to take a 42-28 lead and maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of a 92-81 win. Saturday looked like it was going to be one of the blowouts Wright State has been accustomed to pulling off at least once every weekend in Horizon League play. The Raiders led 47-25 with just over four minutes to play in the first half, but Milwaukee chipped away and wound up losing by a smaller deficit 92-82.
Loudon Love put up another dominant weekend that should have him getting some consideration for Horizon League Player of the week. Love averaged 25 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Raiders. With an even better weekend this week than last, Love continued to establish himself as the favorite for another Horizon League Player of the Year award. Love is averaging 25 points and 10.8 rebounds per game for the Raiders in the last five games.
DeAndre Gholston had his best weekend of the year, which is saying something considering he’s Milwaukee’s leading scorer and rebounder this season. Gholston averaged 24.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game for Milwaukee. With his late surge and Te’Jon Lucas’ struggles, Gholston has emerged as an All-League candidate.
Cleveland State vs. Detroit Mercy
Detroit Mercy pulled off the most significant upset of the weekend on ESPNU on Friday. The Titans jumped out to a huge 39-19 lead thanks to hot shooting from seemingly everyone on the court. But the Vikings didn’t quit, eventually tying the game at 63 with 6:08 to play. From there, Waterman and Antoine Davis took over, combining for 22 points down the stretch to keep the Vikings from ever gaining the lead in an 89-83 win.
Davis continued his ascent to what now looks likely to be a First Team All-Horizon League selection. He averaged 29 points, six assists and six rebounds. In Friday’s win, he scored a season-high 35 points to lead the way for Detroit Mercy in the victory.
Torrey Patton had a career-high 33 points in Friday’s loss. Considering how this section has gone all season, that’s a really bizarre sentence to type. Patton’s success has always been a key indicator of CSU’s success, but his best game of the year was in a loss. He had a more typical 15 points and eight rebounds in Saturday’s win.
Northern Kentucky vs. Green Bay
NKU and Green Bay took part in one of the most competitive series not just of the weekend, but of Horizon League play. Our friends at Norse Report laid out just how close the series was:
On Friday, Green Bay jumped out to a first half lead that grew to as much as nine before NKU chipped away at it for 26 minutes. A Bryson Langdon layup with 37 seconds to play tied the game up, but he missed an and-1 opportunity and the game went to overtime. From there, Green Bay got the best of NKU in an 86-82 win. Given the intro, Saturday’s outcome should be pretty clear. In a near-complete reversal of Friday, it was the Norse pulling ahead by nine before things tightened up in the second half. A P.J. Pipes 3-pointer with 1:35 to play capped off an 8-0 Green Bay run and put the Phoenix ahead for the first time in the second half at 66-65, but NKU responded with the last six points of the game in a 71-66 win.
With such slim margins, Trevon Faulkner’s play was a key to the weekend. Faulkner struggled on Friday, scoring just 11 points on 3-for-13 shooting. He bounced back nicely with 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting and three makes from long distance on Saturday. While shooting efficiency is still a struggle, Faulkner’s all-around game is a crucial part of NKU’s record being four games above .500 with two games to play in the regular season.
Josh Jefferson returned to the starting lineup this week and put up 26.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for the Phoenix. Jefferson has been excellent off the bench since the second weekend of Horizon League play, but played great stepping into the lineup with P.J. Pipes sidelined on Friday and got to keep a starting spot on Saturday. It will be interesting to see whether a standout performance in a close loss will convince Will Ryan to keep him in the starting lineup.
Oakland vs. Robert Morris
The first place team in the league lost to an opponent that’d be .500 in Horizon League play if not for that victory and there’s a strong argument that it’s not the most surprising result of the weekend. Just hours after it was announced that the Horizon League’s second leading scorer and rebounder A.J. Bramah was ending his season and entering the transfer portal, RMU won a double-overtime thriller over Oakland. OU seemed to have command of the game from the first half, with the lead stretching as large as 10 points and the Golden Grizzlies never trailing for the rest of regulation. But a Dante Treacy 3-pointer with 59 seconds to play capped off a late RMU rally and forced overtime. Neither team went ahead by more than one possession in the first overtime, and Jon Williams tied the game with a pair of free throws with 34 seconds left in the extra session. RMU quickly got up by four in double overtime, and OU was unable to keep up as the Colonials won 88-82. Oakland seemed to learn its lesson on Saturday, taking a lead less than two minutes into the game, stretching it out to 30-15 and keeping the Colonials from ever pulling within a single possession in an 86-81 win.
Daniel Oladapo once again stuffed the stat sheet for Oakland, averaging 22 points and 13.5 rebounds for the Golden Grizzlies. The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging a double-double in Horizon League play with 14.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. On a team that’s full of volatile performers, Oladapo has been a second player who can regularly be relied on to produce. As a result, he seems to be well-positioned for postseason honors.
Kahliel Spear once again stepped up without A.J. Bramah in the lineup, averaging 12 points and 12 rebounds for RMU. Spear’s 16 point, 15 rebound game on Friday was undoubtedly crucial for the Colonials. Before Saturday, Spear was the only player other than Bramah to lead. theColonials in scoring or rebounding in league play. He’ll be key for the team next weekend against Detroit and looking forward to the 2021-22 season.
Youngstown State vs. Purdue Fort Wayne
Youngstown State continued to climb the Horizon League standings with a weekend sweep of Purdue Fort Wayne. The Penguins cruised to an 84-70 win on Friday, taking the lead at 14-12 with 11:47 to play in the first half and never looking back. Saturday was a much more competitive contest, with YSU battling back from a nine-point deficit with 8:12 to play in the first half. From there, YSU always seemed to have the upper hand despite it being a back-and-forth contest. Naz Bohannon hit a jumper with 2:04 to play to give YSU a 68-64 lead, and while the last two minutes weren’t perfect the Penguins didn’t have an empty possession the rest of the way in a 72-70 win.
Bohannon had another strong weekend for the Penguins. He averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game with an outstanding 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. With YSU’s late-season climb up the standings, Bohannon’s candidacy for postseason honors will only improve as long as he keeps posting these high-quality performances.
A return to form from Jarred Godfrey wasn’t enough to get the Mastodons a win this weekend. Godfrey averaged 20.5 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists per game for Purdue Fort Wayne. He even kept the turnovers low, averaging just 1.5 per game. But that along with an effective field goal percentage of 61.5 didn’t get Purdue Fort Wayne over the hump.
IUPUI vs. UIC
While Youngstown State’s schedule arguably made it easy to see a late-season surge coming, it’s unlikely many predicted the same from IUPUI. The Jaguars pulled off a weekend sweep of UIC and now have a chance to finish league play .500 and finish the regular season with a winning record. On Friday, the Jaguars raced out to an early lead and went into halftime up 10. The team didn’t let up, and extended its lead by another 10 points for an 89-69 win. The Flames did a better job of hanging around on Saturday, going into halftime down 43-38 but bouncing back from multiple IUPUI runs until the Jaguars went ahead 78-68 with 3:20 to play. From there, UIC never got closer than the final seven-point defecit as IUPUI won 88-81.
The weekend’s success wasn’t dependent on just Marcus Burk, but on all of IUPUI’s returning stars from last year. Elyjah Goss averaged 16 points and 11.5 rebounds per game for the weekend, pulling his season averages up to a double-double with 10.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. While Burk and Jaylen Minnett — who averaged 22.5 points per game on the weekend himself — might split votes and keep Goss from earning All-League honors even with a surprisingly strong season from IUPUI, there’s certainly a strong argument that he’s deserving of a spot.
Teyvion Kirk had one of his best weekends of the Horizon League season. He averaged 20 points, 5.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds for the Flames. While he wasn’t able to keep up the insanely high level of play that he started the season with — and the Flames have struggled significantly of late — he should still be positioned well for All-League honors after next weekend.