With a little sample of league play behind us, Horizon League schools got back to non-league action. While there was a healthy helping of missed opportunity, there were also a number of promising results. Unlike some weeks last year, it felt like the league wasn’t always finding itself on the heartbreaking end of close results. As far as the rankings are concerned, the most difficult part of this week might’ve been getting useful information as many teams played a limited number of games against non-Division I opponents or — on the other end of the spectrum — against power conference foes that easily overmatched them. With all that said, here’s a look at how the teams stack up for me:
|Purdue Fort Wayne||5||–||–|
Youngstown State battled back from a slow start and nearly forced overtime against Ohio before a last-second layup doomed the Penguins 81-79 in the team’s lone Division I game of the week. Brandon Rush was the only player to get it going early for YSU, and managed to keep up the momentum to finish with a season-high 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting.
Cleveland State remains near the top of the league despite an 0-2 week because I have a hard time dinging a team too hard for a road loss to St. Bonaventure and a 9-point home loss to a Kent State team just a few days removed from putting a scare into Gonzaga. Spider Johnson led the Vikings in points and rebounds in both games, averaging 14 points and 7.5 rebounds for the week.
Detroit Mercy nearly came away with a pair of nice non-league road wins this week, beating Tulsa 76-72 on Wednesday before falling 82-80 to Charlotte on Saturday. Even with Tulsa rebuilding, beating an AAC team is never a bad thing. A loss to 8-2 Charlotte was probably a lot more frustrating than it would seem after the Titans absolutely clobbered the 49ers at home 70-49 in November. Predictably, Antoine Davis shined for UDM, averaging 29.5 points per game for the week.
Wright State looked like it was one of the stronger teams in the Horizon League heading into league play before dropping a pair of home games to Youngstown State and Robert Morris. Back in non-league play, the Raiders’ losing streak extended when it fell at Western Kentucky 64-60. But this loss shifted me somewhat back toward my pre-league thoughts on WSU, as the 8-1 Hilltoppers currently sit just outside the Top 100 on KenPom and a loss is a solid — albeit frustrating — result. Trey Calvin’s defense still has him coming off of the bench for the Raiders, but his offense was key to the game being competitive. Calvin put in 20 points on 10-for-21 shooting.
Purdue Fort Wayne bounced back from a home loss to Detroit Mercy with a pair of road non-league wins. The Mastodons absolutely dominated Southeast Missouri State 89-68 on Wednesday, then followed it up with a good looking 65-61 win at Missouri State on Saturday. Jarred Godfrey didn’t have his best shooting week, but his all-around game was exceptional and he did a good job of getting to the line. Godfrey averaged 18 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the week.
It’s hard to hold Wednesday’s 68-47 loss to Power Conference opponent Washington State too heavily against Northern Kentucky. And it’s fair to point out that the team did win its three games before that against more comparable opponents. But all three were at home and the victories were by single digits. I’m a firm believer that home court advantage carries significant weight in college basketball, so I’m probably a little harsher than many on underwhelming home wins and I’m dinging the Norse a tiny bit despite the 2-0 Horizon League start and a win over Tennessee Tech. This week, Trevon Faulkner shined the brightest for NKU with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
Robert Morris followed up its first Division I victory of the season — against Wright State two Saturdays ago — with its first Division I non-league win of the year against Central Michigan on Wednesday. The Colonials won 71-66 in Mount Pleasant before losing 69-60 to 9-1 Marshall on Saturday. The 2-2 record in itself is a massive improvement from what RMU had been doing prior to the last two weeks, and the fact that both of the losses were competitive warrants a nice jump up the rankings. Enoch Cheeks scored 17 points in both games, finishing the week with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 50.
Two Weeks ago, Milwaukee might’ve come in significantly higher on this list. Since then the Panthers have gone 3-1 with a pair of Horizon League victories, but the only result that should’ve been particularly competitive for a team with aspirations of finishing in the top half of the league was Tuesday’s 88-76 loss at Chattanooga that wasn’t nearly as close as its 11-point final deficit for most of the matchup. On Saturday, the Panthers held a 1-point lead heading into halftime against Division III North Park before figuring things out en route to a 92-63 win. Kentrell Pullian was the unquestioned star for Milwaukee against Division I competition for the week, scoring 24 points and hitting six of his 11 3-pointers while pulling down 9 rebounds against Chattanooga.
Oakland has been the league’s biggest disappointment in non-league play, and a trip to Syracuse didn’t give the team a fair chance to push back against that title. The Golden Grizzlies ran out of gas late in the first half against the Orange, going into the locker room down 45-24 and never managing to fight back in a 95-66 loss. Trey Townsend’s 29 points and 12 rebounds were the lone bright spot for OU in an otherwise disastrous night.
Green Bay made sure not to start this season’s Power Rankings in last place with a 68-62 win over IUPUI on Monday, and solidified that Top 10 status by starting a home win streak with a 70-64 win over Kansas City on Saturday. The victories sandwiched a 70-46 road loss to former league foe Loyola, but they’re still more than adequate to leave the Phoenix closer to climbing up the rankings than falling back. Cade Meyer has been on a tear for Green Bay lately, averaging 15.3 points per game this week and raising his shooting percentage above 50 percent on the season.
With its only game of the week being the Green Bay loss, IUPUI didn’t even get a chance to bounce back. Tonight’s game against Spalding University seems likely to provide a second win for the Jaguars in the team’s second matchup against a non-Division I opponent, though the team won’t have much of a chance to climb out of last so soon after a head-to-head loss to Green Bay. In the Jaguars’ lone game, freshman Vincent Brady showed promise with a 17-point performance on 7-for-15 shooting from the field.