#HLWBB Power Rankings — Week 6


There were ten games scheduled across Horizon League women’s basketball last week. Of those, six were completed as planned, while two others were added to replace canceled games. In all, seven teams played at least one game (UIC played two), while five sat idle.

Welcome to late-December scheduling, with the 32nd wave of COVID thrown in for funsies.

Cleveland State11
Youngstown State22
Northern Kentucky44
Green Bay65-1
Robert Morris88
Purdue Fort Wayne99
Wright State1012+2
Detroit Mercy1211-1

Cleveland State has had quite a ride over the last two weeks with a COVID pause on their end and another on Hofstra’s end that wiped out a scheduled game Saturday (more on that tomorrow). However, things ended on a positive note when the Vikings managed to pull in NAIA opponent Ohio Christian on short notice and thump the Trailblazers 104-51 to remain among a dwindling group of unbeaten teams nationally (the list is seven schools long as of this writing). Discounting forfeits, CSU has now won 10 straight games dating back to last season, one shy of the school record. While Destiny Leo sat out against OCU, the Vikings proved that they have plenty of firepower without her.

Following their first loss of the season, Youngstown State bounced back in a big way on Friday night at the Beeghly Center, rolling Division II squad Davis & Elkins 71-27. It was a solid get-right affair that allowed John Barnes to empty his bench, leading to the first bucket of Haley Thierry’s career during the final minutes. Earlier in the contest, Lilly Ritz was dominant with 14 points and eight boards in only 16:22 of work while YSU’s defense, led by Mady Aulbach’s efforts on Senators leading scorer Dream Cherry, held D&E to the second lowest point total by an opponent in school history. A YSU-CSU showdown looms on New Year’s Day, though each team has two more games before that happens.

IUPUI had its only game of the week, a highly-winnable matchup against Eastern Michigan, taken out by COVID issues on the Eagles side of things. The Jaguars were unable to find a replacement game, so they’ll head into their final non-conference matchup – against the likes of Caitlin Clark and Iowa on Tuesday – nearly two weeks removed from game action.

Northern Kentucky was one of the five HLWBB teams that didn’t play a game this past week, but one of only two that did so by design (Purdue Fort Wayne was the other). Both schools will rectify that situation quickly, with Lindsey Duvall and company heading down to Wofford on Monday to close their out-of-conference account for the regular season.

I’m putting Milwaukee ahead of Green Bay this week because although the Panthers lost to Northwestern on Tuesday, I was impressed with their defense and ability to make the game ugly against a quality team. It almost worked too: Milwaukee held their Big Ten opponent to 18 points in the first half and led the game most of the way until late in the third quarter. Megan Walstad proved that she’s a force of nature regardless of the other sideline and the venue with 20 points and 13 rebounds and, with some more consistent shooting from elsewhere, the Panthers still have what it takes to make a big move up over the second half.

Chicago State’s entry into COVID protocol canceled Green Bay’s only planned game for the week, which is probably a good thing for the Phoenix’s NET. Like most of the teams that were idle last week, UWGB jumps back into things quickly with a tilt against Central Michigan on Monday.

I’m not even sure what’s left to say about Oakland at this point. The Grizzlies were initially scheduled to have the week off before playing in an MTE in Las Vegas on Monday and Tuesday. However Campbell, one of OU’s scheduled opponents, had to pull out of the event due to COVID. That led to Oakland and Bowling Green (another team in Vegas set to play Campbell) connecting for a game on Sunday, creating the awkward reality of two schools roughly two hours from each other by car hooking up a couple thousand miles west. BGSU won the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic opener 72-60, a game where Kahlaijah Dean was once again human electricity (28 points on 10-for-17 shooting). However, she received very little offensive help, while the Grizzlies struggled to turn the Falcons over and generate essential quick points. OU was also hit with the loss of head coach Jeff Tungate, who had to undergo emergency spinal surgery last week and will be on leave at least until February.

Robert Morris joined Cleveland State and Wright State on the list of Horizon League teams with COVID outbreaks this month, forcing the cancellation of the Colonials’ final two non-conference games. The timing is a bit unfortunate, in part because one of those games was a home rematch with St. Bonaventure and the idea of playing an out-of-league opponent twice in one season was kind of fun to me. It also means that RMU will have to go into their Horizon League opener against CSU on December 30th cold from a COVID pause and Christmas, and 18 days removed from their last game action.

As mentioned, Purdue Fort Wayne was one of the two HLWBB teams with a week off on purpose, along with NKU. The major news for the Mastodons last week was an update on the status of star freshman Ryin Ott, who fractured her wrist on December 9th against Southeast Missouri State and will be out for at least a few weeks. PFW closes its non-conference slate against Indiana State on Monday.

Wright State finally emerged from its COVID pause and returned to game action on Wednesday, beating the brakes off Division II squad Lake Erie by a 91-60 count, for Kari Hoffman’s first win as the Raiders’ head coach. It would be extremely shaky logic to extrapolate much of anything from a DII game, but WSU has to be encouraged by the fact that they shot 14-for-25 from three, led by Channing Chappell’s 4-for-6 effort, while Jada Roberson, Destyne Jackson, and KK White each connected three times. The Raiders only used eight players, including newcomer Jordan Stanley, but five of them scored in double figures.

I really want to believe in UIC, because there’s a lot that I like about the Flames, but sometimes you just have to throw your hands up and cite the results. Those results included two absolute shovelings last week, at the hands of Indiana State (76-50) and Saint Louis (75-47) to drop the league’s Chicago entry (for now, cue ominous music) to 2-7 overall. The two wins, by the way, came by four points each against the teams ranked 301st and 341st in NET, Valparaiso and Detroit Mercy, the latter in overtime. Like I said, there are certainly bright spots to the Flames, Jaida McCloud is one of the more underappreciated players in the entire league, Keona Schenck is a ridiculously pure shooter, and freshman Ky Dempsey-Toney has started to come into her own. But ball don’t lie, as they say.

Detroit Mercy’s only game of the week was the latest in a long line of close contests where the Titans just weren’t able to finish the job. On Saturday against North Dakota, UDM trailed 40-23 at the half, then roared back to very briefly take the lead on an Imani McNeal three with 7:48 to go in the fourth quarter, before eventually falling by ten. Sydney Searcy – who absolutely should be considered for the league’s Player of the Week award – was largely responsible for the comeback effort with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting (4-for-6 from three), but it wasn’t enough to stop the Titans from falling to 0-10 overall. The good news? A trip to Valparaiso and their aforementioned sub-300 NET ranking awaits on Tuesday, representing a very serious chance to break into the win column.

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Cleveland State MBA student and marketing manager by day, #HLWBB by night (and sometimes by day too, don't tell my boss). Follow me on Twitter for regular news and updates from CSU and around the league when there isn't a post covering it, and I'll see you at your favorite Horizon League arena soon.

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