|Purdue Fort Wayne||9||9||–|
It’s hard to fault just about anything Cleveland State is doing right now. During the past week, the Vikings rolled through a pair of MAC opponents on the road, Central Michigan and Akron, with the latter matchup notable for the fact that the Zips defeated Youngstown State, Robert Morris, and Northern Kentucky in consecutive games earlier this season. CSU is 65th in NET as of this writing and though their schedule isn’t the most arduous out there beyond their two early major-conference games, the Vikings have won the last six games of their current nine-game winning streak by an average of 28 points, with no single contest closer than 17. Brittni Moore has emerged as a bona fide star alongside Destiny Leo, as the UT Martin transfer scored a career-high 26 points against CMU before following up with 16 (and four steals) against Akron.
Green Bay enjoyed a fairly quiet week, interrupted only by a victory against North Dakota State on Saturday that saw the Phoenix crack open a close game in the second half. I mentioned Sydney Levy’s bounceback season last week – and she authoritatively kept it going with four triples among her 18 points against the Bison – but just as encouraging for Kevin Borseth is the re-emergence of Jasmine Kondrakiewicz. The versatile frontcourt player tied Levy for the game’s scoring lead (while also tying her career high in the process) and pulled down six rebounds. Green Bay’s strength has always been in its depth, and after a long stretch mostly dominated by the likes of Hailey Oskey (who missed the NDSU game) and Maddy Schreiber, it seems like the program has found it again. Just in time too: the Phoenix’s showdown with UW-Madison looms on Wednesday.
It hasn’t come against the best competition, but Youngstown State has quietly righted itself after a 1-3 start, blowing out West Virginia Tech and Canisius this week to climb to 6-3 overall. Lilly Ritz, as usual, was a force in both games, particularly against WV Tech. In just 6:35 of game time against the Golden Bears, she scored 20 points and grabbed five rebounds – the smallest amount of time any player has been on the floor while scoring 20 or more points in a game in at least 20 years. Ritz then added 26 and seven versus another school with a golden animal mascot to round out a pretty compelling player of the week case. Given the upcoming schedules involved, when YSU hosts Cleveland State on December 29th in arguably the largest game of the early conference season, it’s fairly likely that the teams will be on seven and 11-game winning streaks, respectively.
After disappointingly close home losses to Akron and Youngstown State had Northern Kentucky on a three-game skid, the Norse abruptly turned things around to take down Robert Morris, Eastern Kentucky and Miami University. NKU’s win against the RedHawks on Sunday was the best of the trio, given the Norse’s surge in the second half: Miami led 48-41 midway through the third quarter, and it was 72-60 NKU about 12 game minutes later. Lindsey Duvall is Lindsey Duvall of course, but Camryn Whitaker finally has a few legitimate secondary options in development like Kailee Davis (a game-high 20 points against Miami, 46 total over the last three games), along with three-point specialist Kennedy Igo and reliable garbage collector Emmy Souder.
While I feel pretty good about the first four and the last three teams in these rankings – with some allowance for reasonable disagreement in a couple spots – I really have no idea what I’m doing between fifth and eighth. IUPUI tops that pack this week, thanks largely to their 64-55 victory over Milwaukee last Monday, a game that wasn’t really in a ton of doubt after halftime. Jazmyn Turner, easily one of the league’s top newcomers this year, clocked 18 points against the Panthers, though she and the Jags stumbled three days later against Turner’s former Ball State team. There’s not a realistic case to place IUPUI among the league’s upper echelon right now, but given their close loss to Green Bay just before the Milwaukee game, they’re more than qualified to lead the next tier.
Robert Morris has lost three straight games after a 6-1 start, but since their opponents were Northern Kentucky, West Virginia and, on Sunday, No. 23 Oklahoma, it’s hard to deduct too many points from the Colonials. Given the recent level of competition, it’s hard not to be impressed with the season Phoenix Gedeon continues to put together. The sophomore from Montreal collected 15 points and five rebounds against the Sooners, following 11 and five against WVU while battling foul trouble – team-best scoring totals in both cases. While Gedeon tends to be a bit of a volume shooter (she’s 21st in the nation in two-pointers attempted per game), there’s no arguing the production. She and RMU will attempt to get on track Friday against St. Bonaventure before dipping back into Horizon League play.
Oakland, possibly to give the team some much-needed time off at the end of the semester and during finals, did not schedule a single game between their December 4th win at Purdue Fort Wayne and this coming Saturday, when the Golden Grizzlies host Miami. Whether intentional or not (it likely was, but I don’t know that for a fact), putting the student in “student-athlete” first deserves a one-spot improvement in these power rankings.
After a brief moment where they looked ready to turn a corner – upsetting Green Bay will give that impression – Milwaukee has crashed down a bit in the past week, dropping that conference game to IUPUI on Monday, followed by a winnable non-conference matchup at home against former teammate Macy McGlone and Eastern Illinois. The encouraging thing for the Panthers is that their guard play is starting to come around, particularly from Kendall Nead and Angie Cera. There’s a timeline where Kyle Rechlicz’s group has an efficient half-court offense not entirely dissimilar from the way Youngstown State plays, but it needs something to back people off of their twin towers a bit. Point guards Jada Donaldson and Kamy Peppler have both struggled at times, but their upside is evident and the rest of it seems like a matter of time.
In their only game of the week, Purdue Fort Wayne rallied to within one possession late in the third quarter at St. Thomas, but couldn’t put much together after that and fell 79-64. That result was the fifth loss in the Mastodons’ last six games, with only a win over Detroit Mercy to show for that stretch. Though she eventually re-entered the game while looking somewhere south of 100 percent, Shayla Sellers’ injury sustained just before halftime against the Tommies will be worth monitoring for a bit, including during PFW’s final two non-conference contests, at Indiana State and home against Maryland, when her sister Shyanne will be on the opposite bench (I’m guessing that an amputation would have to be involved for her to miss that one). On the other side of the ledger, Sellers short absence led to what might be a preview of the Klea Kaci show – the freshman went off for eight points in only seven minutes.
Detroit Mercy dropped an overtime game at home on Sunday against Georgia Southern when Amaya Burch missed a potential tying three in the extra period, following Myonna Hooper’s late triple that got the Titans there in the first place. Despite the defeat, it was a step back in the right direction for 2-7 UDM, which had suffered historic-level blowouts at Bowling Green and Cleveland State, and a sound defeat at Purdue Fort Wayne, followed by an embarrassingly-close win against Miami University Hamilton, a five-building branch campus of the Ohio school whose athletic teams are sanctioned by the primarily-small-juco-based USCAA. Ana Cabañas Llorens scored a career-high 18 points to lead the way against GSU.
Although Wright State is now 0-8 against Division I opponents (1-8 overall), there is some good news for the Raiders: their stay in Guarantee Game Purgatory is over following a 96-57 loss to Tennessee on Sunday, one highlight (?) of a non-conference schedule that currently ranks as the nation’s 12th most difficult. On a more serious note, the Raiders have a very strong outside shooting group that should keep them competitive in league play, as it did early on against the Lady Vols. Emily Chapman scored a game-high 18 points against UT, thanks largely to a 4-for-5 effort from three (part of WSU’s 10-for-21 line as a team), helping WSU stay within single digits until just before halftime.
Player of the Week
Brittni Moore (Cleveland State)
Lilly Ritz seems more likely to win the official league award given the bit of history attached to her performance, but I decided to side with strength of schedule and Moore, who was CSU’s best overall player in a pair of MAC road games (in fact, Akron, a top 100 team in both NET and RPI at the time of the meeting, was probably the most impressive victory by any Horizon League team in the past week). Moore and Destiny Leo were the Vikings’ leading difference makers against both the Zips and Central Michigan, as they have been for the whole season to this point.
Also considered: Lilly Ritz (Youngstown State), Sydney Levy (Green Bay), Destiny Leo (Cleveland State), Kailee Davis (Northern Kentucky), Angie Cera (Milwaukee), Phoenix Gedeon (Robert Morris)
November 14: Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)
November 21: Lindsey Duvall (Northern Kentucky)
November 28: Destiny Leo (Cleveland State)
December 5: Malia Magestro (Youngstown State)