#HLWBB Power Rankings — Week 6

Cleveland State11
Green Bay22
Youngstown State33
Northern Kentucky44
Robert Morris66
Purdue Fort Wayne99
Wright State1011+1
Detroit Mercy1110-1

Contributing to a pattern prevalent across the conference during what was finals week for most Horizon League schools – there were just ten total games involving HLWBB teams – Cleveland State didn’t play at all over the last seven days. The Vikings will break that streak tonight of course, when they take on Lindenwood in the first game of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, before closing the event with Campbell on Tuesday. With wins in both games, CSU would finish a tough non-conference schedule 9-1 before heading back into league play with a brutal weekend at Youngstown State and Robert Morris just before the new year.

Without a doubt, Green Bay was the best-looking team in the league over the past week. On Wednesday, the Phoenix used a Maddy Schreiber heater (7-for-12 from the field for 19 points) to pull away in the second half and take down state-system rival Wisconsin by a 70-60 count. It should be said that as optically nice as beating a Big Ten team is, the Badgers are putrid and Green Bay has actually dominated the recent series, but nevertheless, the victory stands as HLWBB’s second power conference takedown this season after CSU’s upset at DePaul last month. The Phoenix followed that up with an extremely impressive road win at defending Missouri Valley Conference champion Illinois State, controlling the NET top 100 Redbirds for most of the way behind Jasmine Kondrakiewicz and Sydney Levy. Oh, by the way, they’re doing all of this without Hailey Oskey right now. Look out.

Youngstown State won their sixth straight game on Saturday, body bagging St. Francis (PA), 81-41. Paige Shy knocked down her 100th career three pointer during the contest, but Malia Magestro, Lilly Ritz, and Dena Jarrells clocked most of the nice-looking stats before giving way to John Barnes’ bench-emptying efforts. It’s hard to know what to make of the Penguins’ recent run when their strength of schedule is 292nd in the nation, but the defending regular season champs bookend their first full month of conference play with a home game against Cleveland State and the dreaded Wisconsin trip, so we’ll certainly know more then.

Northern Kentucky joined Cleveland State in taking the entire week off, part of a ten-day gap between the Norse’s come-from-behind win against the Miami RedHawks last Sunday and a showdown for metropolitan area bragging rights with Cincinnati at Truist Arena on Wednesday. Camryn Whitaker’s squad is likely thankful for the break, not only because of finals, but also because of what lies ahead on the hardwood. After the game against the Bearcats (and Christmas), NKU resumes Horizon League play with Wright State, IUPUI, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. The Norse are outstanding at a lot of “little things” metrics like rebounding rate and free throw rate, so their current success seems very sustainable regardless of the opposition.

Though Bowling Green led IUPUI wire to wire on Thursday, a very competitive loss to a top-50 NET team that’s probably a MAC co-favorite right now is hardly an awful look. The Jags were again paced by Jazmyn Turner, who only played 16 minutes thanks to foul trouble, but made the most of it by connecting on all seven of her field goal attempts on the way to 17 points. Destiny Perkins added 15 points, while Rachel Kent scored ten with seven assists. Kate Bruce’s squad is 4-6 overall, but most of that has come against the 56th-toughest non-conference schedule, so it doesn’t seem farfetched that IUPUI could re-enter the Horizon League portion of the schedule with a surprise or two.

There was something different about the way Robert Morris blew the doors off of Saint Bonaventure to the tune of 63-39 on Friday. The Bonnies are not a good team, that much needs to be made clear, but nevertheless, top MAC programs like Bowling Green and Kent State didn’t open them up the same way the Colonials did. Cleveland State beat SBU by nearly an identical score, but the Vikings started a bit slow in their November 26th meeting. RMU, on the other hand, scored 19 of the game’s first 21 points and never looked back. Obviously, playing transitive property logic is flawed in numerous ways and it’s still extremely hard to see Phoenix Gedeon and company as a true contender, but they are a very good team – mostly thanks to an elite defense, one that ranks 37th in the nation in effective field goal percentage.

After a 13-day break, Oakland returned to action on Saturday and downed Miami, 82-74. It was one of those victories that maybe doesn’t instantly turn a ton of heads, but Alexis Johnson (25 points, seven rebounds), Breanne Beatty (14 points, ten rebounds) and their teammates shot the ball extremely well – 44 percent from the field, 82 percent from the line – and battled through the typical ups and downs of an extremely tight 40 minutes for a nice road win. With consecutive games against Toledo, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Robert Morris, and Youngstown State looming after a tune-up against NAIA squad Madonna University, Jeff Tungate will undoubtedly be grateful for the test down the line.

Milwaukee’s only game of the week was a 75-59 loss at Minnesota and former CSU player Isabelle Gradwell. All things considered, it was a respectable effort from the Panthers against the Big Ten school – it was a two-point game late in the third quarter before the Gophers closed the frame on a 15-3 run to create most of the final margin. Kendall Nead scored a career-high 18 points in the game, as the Iowa native continues to develop into a consistent option for Kyle Rechlicz. Nead isn’t the type of player to cure things for the nation’s 352nd-ranked three-point shooting team, but anyone who can keep defenses honest is an improvement.

Purdue Fort Wayne suffered a sixth loss in their last seven games by dropping a 64-56 decision at Indiana State on Sunday, despite a great bounceback effort from Shayla Sellers (19 points) and a three-point lead at the end of the third quarter. The Dons, however, fell apart in a haze of whistles (four players fouled out) and missed shots (29.1 percent from the floor and 12.9 percent from three during the game) over the last ten minutes. It’s hard to shake the feeling that the PFW missed an opportunity to collect a couple wins against beatable opponents during their non-conference schedule, given that their next five games are against No. 15 Maryland, a road trip to Robert Morris and Youngstown State, then a travel partner weekend against IUPUI and Cleveland State.

I can’t claim that Wright State is on the verge of a miracle, this is clearly another rebuilding year for the Raiders, but they do seem to be improving by some not-invisible degree as their schedule has proceeded. WSU’s latest effort was a 76-66 defeat to Southern Indiana on Saturday, and while the Screaming Eagles are new to Division I this season, they’ve already shown to be a respectable lower-middle-of-the-pack DI outfit. Bryce Nixon potted 24 points against USI, thanks mostly to a 5-for-8 line from three, a career high for the well-traveled senior. Given their upcoming schedule, it’s probably going to be a while before WSU has a realistic chance at their first DI win, but if Kari Hoffman’s hand-picked veterans continue building their culture, there could be something tangible to show for it by the end of the year.

Detroit Mercy is a ridiculously weird read, because they pivot back and forth between doing something mildly impressive (a close loss the Northern Illinois early in the season, forcing overtime against a top-200 Georgia Southern team just over a week ago) to something else utterly disastrous. That’s often the mark of a young team under a first-year coach of course, but as ugly stats go, UDM losing three of their last six games by 47 – forty-seven – points or more is Jabba the Hutt. All of those losses were against very good teams to be fair, the latest was at Michigan State on Sunday, but margins like that are rare no matter who is on the other side. Amaya Burch scored ten points to lead her team against the Spartans.

Player of the Week

Sydney Levy (Green Bay)

Given the stellar week that Green Bay had (and their status as the only team in the conference to play twice), it seemed natural to choose the player of the week from the Phoenix roster. One problem: who? Maddy Schreiber and Jasmine Kondrakiewicz stood out against Wisconsin and Illinois State, respectively, but were fairly quiet in the opposite game. Likewise for Bailey Butler, who was a perfect 11-for-11 at the line against the Badgers, but only managed six points against ISU. That opens the door for Levy, the only UWGB player to hit double-digit scoring in both games, though this award is also something of a cumulative nod to the career-best season the fifth-year player is putting together.

Also considered: Alexis Johnson (Oakland), Kendall Nead (Milwaukee), Dena Jarrells (Youngstown State), Maddy Schreiber (Green Bay), Bryce Nixon (Wright State)

Past winners:

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)
December 12: Brittni Moore (Cleveland State)

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