|Purdue Fort Wayne||6||7||+1|
Cleveland State delivered what probably should be considered the strongest resume line from any Horizon League team so far this season, a 90-83 overtime win at Big East foe DePaul on Tuesday. The Vikings fell behind 15-2 early, then 53-44 midway through third quarter before rallying to force the extra period on Carmen Villalobos’ last-second three pointer. Destiny Leo paced CSU with 22 points, while Brittni Moore (15 points), Barbara Zieniewska (14 points, 12 rebounds), Deja Williams (14 points, eight assists), and strong team defense down the stretch also clocked difference-making efforts. The Blue Demons bounced back from what had become a 1-2 start on Sunday night with a decisive result against a Miami team that was picked to finish sixth in the ACC, adding credibility to the Vikings’ win. After CSU’s game at Niagara on Saturday was canceled thanks to western New York getting snow higher than Aminata Ly dropped on it over the weekend, the Vikings will next be in action at their home MTE – the Hampton Inn Cleveland Downtown Viking Invitational – this week, hosting Georgia State, Bellarmine, and St. Bonaventure.
Like Cleveland State, Green Bay will also spend Feast Week participating in an MTE, though the Phoenix were wise enough to get out of the Great Lakes region and head to St. Petersburg, FL where they’ll take on Florida and Northeastern. Accordingly, UWGB kept things light this past week, surviving a missed Kyla McMakin three pointer to hang on for a 73-70 win at Saint Louis in their only game. The Billikens, it should be said, are off to a brutal start to the year. However, if nothing else, the result still stands as one of those optically-good wins given SLU’s Atlantic 10 membership. The Phoenix boasted five double-digit scorers in the contest, led by Cassie Schiltz’s 14 points, while Hailey Oskey added 13 with nine rebounds.
Even though Northern Kentucky battered Tennessee Tech on Sunday to improve to 3-1, the Norse are still able to say that they’ve played more overtime periods than games this season, five versus four. That anomaly stayed alive for a bit longer thanks to a nip-and-tuck 82-78 double-overtime win at Dayton on Thursday. Lindsey Duvall (30 points, nine rebounds) was her usual self against the Flyers, but perhaps just as notably, Kailee Davis (26 points, 4-for-8 from three) continued her ascent into a possible front-line scorer for a Norse team that needs to find a few options past Duvall. Ivy Turner missed the UD game but returned with a strong effort against Tennessee Tech, another welcome sight for Camryn Whitaker and company.
Frankly, it wasn’t a fantastic week for Youngstown State. The Penguins dropped a winnable power conference game at Penn State on Tuesday, not a disaster all in all, but they followed that up by pooching a game at Akron on Friday. YSU held an early 20-3 lead on the Zips, but were done in by an absolutely miserable shooting effort: 19-for-61 overall, just 1-for-20 from three, as the Guins scored a grand total of 12 points between the 1:34 mark of the first quarter and Lilly Ritz’s layup with 4:48 remaining in the game. Those nights happen, but for now, the reigning co-champions are a surprising 1-2. Ritz was YSU’s lone bright spot against Akron, as she scored 23 while grabbing nine rebounds.
This season has already shaped up a bit like last year in that there is a pretty consistent upper echelon, but after a certain point (fifth place then, fourth now), it’s mostly down to a throw of the dice. But for the time being, unless you think too hard about strength of schedule, it’s hard to fault much with Robert Morris right now. The Colonials battered Division II school Wheeling (coincidentally, Ritz’s former home) on Monday to climb to 4-0. RMU flexed its balance muscle in the game with nobody on the floor for more than 24 minutes, and seven different players scoring between eight points and Danielle Vuletich’s game-high 15. It’s definitely too early to call this more than a team doing what it’s supposed to do, but for now, they’re the only unbeaten left in the league. A trip to Akron on Wednesday will tell a bit more.
It’s still a little tough to figure out what Purdue Fort Wayne is at this point. But so far, the Mastodons have been extremely impressive, jumping out to a 3-1 record after an 86-52 beatdown of potential Horizon League member (joking…hopefully) Chicago State. Amellia Bromenschenkel continued her blazing-hot start to the season, firing home 21 points – her third 20+ outing of the year already – while hitting 3-for-6 from behind the arc, a number that actually hurt her 63.6 percent clip from three. Things ramp up quickly for PFW, as they head to the Hostilo Community Classic in Savannah, GA this week to play Norfolk State, Marshall, and UT Martin, but it also feels like the Dons have a bit more in the tank.
At this point, there’s little doubt that rumors of IUPUI’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, though the Jags’ ability to recapture their customary place at or near the top of the standings remains an open question. This past week, Kate Bruce’s squad rallied for a road win at Southern Illinois, then blitzed Ohio at home thanks to a scorching offensive effort (97 points, 46.6 percent from the floor). It’s impressive how multidimensional IUPUI has been so far, with standbys like Destiny Perkins and Rachel Kent doing what they’ve always done while Ali Berg, Jaci Jones, and Logan Lewis, all buried on last year’s depth chart, have emerged as shot makers and playmakers. Ball State transfer Jazmyn Turner has offset all of that nicely as a physical presence who can drive the ball.
Oakland crashed back to earth a bit last week, getting blasted by Michigan State 85-39 on Tuesday. It’s probably more than a bit flawed to split hairs while discussing slapdowns at the hands of power conference teams, and the Spartans look like an absolute wagon so far. But…for whatever it may be worth, Purdue Fort Wayne managed 53 points in their game against MSU, while giving up that same 85. On the more positive side of the ledger, the Golden Grizzlies’ opening win against Akron looks much more impressive following the Zips’ victory against Youngstown State (also of note: UA beat the Dayton team that took NKU to double overtime by 16). OU’s transfer additions have been very good so far, with Alexis Johnson, Linda Van Schaik, and Raquel Ferrer-Bernad combining for 22 points per game.
Milwaukee continued its uneven start to the season on Wednesday, with an ugly 44-43 loss at UIC. It should be said that the Flames are notably improved from the team that finished 11th in the Horizon League last year (they also won at IUPUI in their opener), but it still has to be a bit concerning how offensively challenged the Panthers are. Kyle Rechlicz’s team doesn’t need to be a dynamo given how well they play defense and shoot free throws, but it’s safe to say that they’ll probably need more than the 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds Megan Walstad has offered so far if they’re to finish in the top half of the conference. Redshirt sophomore Grace Crowley has been very good in an expanded role so far, shooting at a 64.3 percent clip on the way to 8.3 points per game.
As with most of these writeups, it’s far too early to go overboard on anyone’s results so far, but there’s really no doubt that Detroit Mercy is a much-improved team. The Titans, thanks to a weather-related cancellation of a game at Western Michigan scheduled for Saturday, haven’t played in over a week. Nevertheless UDM has already matched its 2021-22 win total and will receive a healthy test against the MAC this week, when they host Northern Illinois on Tuesday.
Wright State managed to pick up their first win of the season on Thursday by burying NAIA side Ohio Christian. However, things were a bit less rosy in their only Division I game of the week, a 102-72 loss to Bowling Green that was actually the closer of WSU’s pair of DI games so far. If there’s good news for Kari Hoffman, it’s that the Raiders have managed to work their large and talented freshman class into the lineup regularly and for the most part, the group has responded well. Makiya Miller is the Raiders’ leading scorer thanks to double-digit outings in all three WSU contests, while Taylor Johnson-Matthews, Catalina Ion, and Lauren Scott have also drawn notable minutes.
Player of the Week
Lindsey Duvall (Northern Kentucky)
It was a pretty soft week for awards consideration, given the league’s relatively light pre-Thanksgiving schedule pushed along by a couple of weather-related cancellations. However, Duvall’s big game against Dayton – her second 30+ point outing of the season – plus a clock-punching effort that NKU didn’t really need against Tennessee Tech was enough to get her over the line while most of the usual suspects only played once or had an unspectacular game mixed in.
Also considered: Destiny Perkins (IUPUI), Barbara Zieniewska (Cleveland State), Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)
November 14: Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)