|Purdue Fort Wayne||10||6||-4|
In a week where the Horizon League often struggled in its five Thanksgiving MTEs and smattering of loose non-conference games, Cleveland State more or less held serve by sweeping their home MTE, the Hampton Inn Cleveland Downtown Viking Invitational (yes, I’m grateful to be done typing that for a year). While none of the vanquished teams – Georgia State, Bellarmine, and St. Bonaventure – will move the needle a ton, the Vikings were mostly impressive in taking care of teams they should beat and they did it with a team-wide effort that wasn’t overly reliant on Destiny Leo.
Green Bay very nearly pulled off the Horizon League’s second power conference win of the season on Thanksgiving Day, leading Florida for most of the afternoon at the St. Pete’s Showcase before fading down the stretch thanks to some turnovers and the Gators’ ability to draw fouls. The Phoenix bounced back the next day against a tough Northeastern team, though, using a bombardment of three-pointers (13-for-30 from behind the arc, accounting for 39 of the team’s 56 points) to take down the Huskies. Sydney Levy (4-for-8) and Jasmine Kondrakiewicz (3-for-3) led the long-range effort.
Northern Kentucky was one of the HL teams that elected to keep things quiet during Feast Week (after you’ve gone to Greece, what’s Myrtle Beach really doing for you I suppose), with the Norse losing their only game of the week to Bowling Green on Wednesday. The Falcons are a great team that should contend in the MAC this year, so a contest that had one or two possessions of separation most of the way is not a bad look at all for NKU. Lindsey Duvall fired in a pretty standard 16, but perhaps more notably, Ivy Turner scored 15 and seemed to be back to her usual self after a slow start to the year.
It’s kind of hard to believe, but Youngstown State lost three of their final four games in 2021-22 (okay, nearly everyone ends their season with one of two losses in close succession) then started this season by dropping three of their first four games, including this past Tuesday at Western Michigan. Teams have been doubling and tripling Lilly Ritz, and nothing to this point has made that a bad idea, whether that’s the occasional back cut or the Penguins’ outside shooting, which has been mostly dreadful outside of Paige Shy. YSU appeared to right the ship a bit with a blowout of St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday led by Malia Magestro’s 24 points, but their Horizon League opener at NKU on Friday will tell a lot more.
Robert Morris’ unbeaten start finally came to an end against Akron on Wednesday, though the Colonials quickly rebounded to beat an improved Canisius team on Saturday to advance to 5-1 overall. RMU is still without Sol Castro, while bench players Janeira Scott and Jazmyne DeShields left the team last week, but none of that has mattered for one of the league’s best defensive teams that has been finding more than enough to get by on the other end. After Phoenix Gedeon’s breakout early in the season, sophomore center Danielle Vuletich has stepped to the fore recently, with 14 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes against Canisius. The Berlin Center, OH product has averaged an efficient 10.2 and 4.8 in November.
Former Oakland associate head coach Ke’Sha Blanton and her new team at Eastern Michigan got the best of IUPUI on Wednesday, winning 71-49. But despite an off night from the floor, the Jags still present as one of the better shooting teams in the conference. That statement is partly based on percentages, but it’s also based on the number of players Kate Bruce has who can straight fire it while Jazmyn Turner drives the lane. Notably, IUPUI was without Destiny Perkins in the EMU game, which certainly had a bit to do with the outcome.
Oakland’s week didn’t get off to a great start, as the Golden Grizzlies took their second straight Big Ten thrashing at the hands of Illinois – Aaliyah McQueen’s old team, though she didn’t play in the game – and dropping the opener of the TD Bank Classic in Burlington, VT to Siena. However, OU put together a nice effort on Sunday to close the week on a positive thanks to a victory over Stonehill that was closer than the 83-59 final score. Linda Van Schaik starred against the Skyhawks, firing home five three pointers on the way to 22 points while also recording four rebounds and five steals, as the Grizzlies’ tempo and aggressiveness gave Stonehill loads of trouble.
Milwaukee capped their trip to the Nevada Nugget Classic in Reno with a nice-looking overtime win over Boise State after dropping the opener to the hosting Wolfpack. There’s really no mystery to what the Panthers are, an outstanding half-court defensive team that often struggles – hard – to score points. They’re a great free throw shooting team that doesn’t get to the line a ton, and they’re one of the worst three-point-shooting teams in the country so far. Megan Walstad hasn’t had a great start to the year either, as she’s only at about half of her career averages for scoring and rebounds. On the flip side of things, almost all of their major contributors outside of Walstad and Emma Wittmershaus are freshmen or sophomores, including point guard Jada Donaldson, who was outstanding in the BSU game. The smart money says that UWM will get better as the year goes on.
Another week, another surprisingly-impressive result from Detroit Mercy despite a 65-63 loss to NIU on Tuesday. NIU, as you may recall (or maybe not), defeated DePaul on November 12th and is 6-1 this year, with the only loss coming against Notre Dame. It’s still premature to think about miracles from this season’s Titans, but a highly-competitive middle-of-the-pack finish doesn’t seem at all out of reach right now. Amaya Burch (23 points, 11 rebounds against the Huskies) has been a difference maker for Kate Achter and seems like an early favorite for the conference’s freshman of the year honors.
There’s not really a charitable way to put it, the Hostilo Community Classic in Savannah, GA was something of a disaster for Purdue Fort Wayne, and for anyone who paid $25 to watch the action through an occasionally-functioning doorbell camera. The Mastodons averaged 46 points per game against Norfolk State, Marshall, and UT Martin while shooting just 27.6 percent (47-for-170) over the three games. Yikes. There’s still something about PFW that tells me that they’re better than their 3-4 overall record, and the Dons truly haven’t fired on all cylinders yet. They’ll have a nice chance to show it with home games against Detroit Mercy and Oakland, two teams projected to finish near them in the Horizon League standings, this week.
There’s not a ton to say about Wright State, other than “why?” As in “why did this rebuilding and extremely young program put together an absolute meat grinder of a non-conference schedule including both Ohio State and Tennessee, along with high-end mid-majors like Eastern Illinois, Toledo, and Bowling Green?” The good news, I suppose, is that most of the gauntlet is over now that WSU has eaten its 105-52 defeat against the No. 4 Buckeyes on Wednesday. While the Raiders’ young players have looked good to this point, it was veteran transfers Izzy Bolender and Bryce Nixon carrying most of the weight against OSU.
Player of the Week
Destiny Leo (Cleveland State)
It wasn’t her most spectacular week by any stretch of the imagination, but when 16.7 points per game across three contests and a 3-0 team record comes off as routine, well… people just might be taking Leo for granted. Her six three pointers keyed CSU’s tightest win of their home MTE, the opener against Georgia State, while her three steals were a huge part of the 18-0 run that buried St. Bonaventure in the finale.
Also considered: Linda Van Schaik (Oakland), Amaya Burch (Detroit Mercy), Danielle Vuletich (Robert Morris), Lilly Ritz (Youngstown State), Malia Magestro (Youngstown State)
November 14: Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)
November 21: Lindsey Duvall (Northern Kentucky)