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The second half of the Horizon League slate is about the kick off, and there seems to be a clear line between the top five teams and the record of the conference. However, don’t let that fool you. As has been the case throughout the years, a couple of teams have gotten hot down the stretch to surprise the ready of the league. And this week’s games are as good as any time for these teams to play spoilers.
Wednesday. January 25th
IUPUI at Purdue Fort Wayne, 7pm ET (ESPN+): The Mastodons won the first contest between the two teams this season, 70-55, and even though the Jaguars only made one three-point, they got to within five halfway through the second half before Purdue Fort Wayne triumphed. Since then, the Mastodons took it on the chin at Northern Kentucky, while IUPUI nearly pulled off a win against Oakland and gave Detroit Mercy all it had. If Purdue Fort Wayne isn’t careful, the Jags might take a bite of their long-time rivals, so to speak.
Thursday, January 26th
Green Bay at Northern Kentucky, 7pm ET (ESPN+): The Phoenix are really in a bad way, getting absolutely destroyed during its four-game home stand, particularly in the second half. It’s probably not surprising that Will Ryan has been dismissed as head coach. Still, they travel to one of their recent tormentors, the Norse, who are close to winding down their time at home before finishing the season on the road. Unless Green Bay can finally put together two solid halves of basketball, the Phoenix are in serious trouble at Truist Arena.
Milwaukee at Wright State, 7pm ET (ESPN+): The Panthers, who share the top spot in the HL with Northern Kentucky, will be out for revenge against the Raiders, as it was Wright State who beat Milwaukee at home and denied the Panthers sole possession of first place. However, home has not been kind to the Raiders recently, dropping a pair of games to Purdue Fort Wayne and Cleveland State. BJ Freeman, who has emerged as Milwaukee’s go-to guy, will look to expound on the performances that netted him Horizon League co-Player of the Week.
Friday, January 27th
Detroit Mercy at Robert Morris, 7pm ET (ESPN+): The Colonials’ Wisconsin trip was a mixed bag, giving Milwaukee everything it had before falling, while absolutely dominating Green Bay in the second half. The Titans, in need of a other options besides Antoine Davis and Gerald Liddell, who did not seem 100% during the loss to Oakland, may have found them in Damezi Anderson, who’s scored more than 20 points in the last two contests, and AJ Oliver. Robert Morris, as always, will look to Kahliel Spear and Enoch Cheeks to guide them.
Oakland at Youngstown State, 7pm ET (ESPN2): In the first contest between these two teams, the Penguins went into the Orena and outplayed the Golden Grizzlies, who had been hot until that time. For this tilt that will be on national TV, Youngstown State will look to bounce back after ceding a share of the conference lead by losing to Milwaukee. For Oakland, the last two wins were quite shaky, and the Grizz will need all their weapons, not just Jalen Moore, to step up in order to come out of the Beeghly Center with a win.
Purdue Fort Wayne at Cleveland State, 7pm ET (ESPN+): Defense was the name of the game in the first battle between these two teams, and because of that, the Vikings got the better of the Mastodons, neutralizing their trademark three-point offense and crashing the boards. Expect no less defensive intensity from Cleveland State within the cozy confines of the Wolstein Center, which Purdue Fort Wayne, who has struggled in spots this season, needs to work around.
Saturday, January 28th
Milwaukee at Northern Kentucky, 4pm ET (ESPN+): Truist Arena has been the site for multiple nail-biters, and you have to think what could be yet another battle for first place in the conference would be no different. The Panthers got the better of the Norse in Milwaukee, but Northern Kentucky seems to have a little extra something when it comes to playing at home. Call it luck, call it homecourt advantage, but whatever it is, the Norse have cashed in several times. Northern Kentucky has to hope there’s still some money in the bank.
Green Bay at Wright State, 7pm ET (ESPN+): 99 points. That’s how much the Raiders scored in the first game against the Phoenix. As it has been for nearly the entire season, Green Bay’s second half showing against Wright State proved its ultimate undoing. While perhaps the Raiders aspire to get that last point to score triple digits in this contest, they will probably be happy with a win, period, given their sub-par showing so far.
Sunday, January 29th
Oakland at Robert Morris, 1pm ET (ESPN+): Their first game wasn’t decided until the last minute and a half, in which the Golden Grizzlies pulled out the 69-65 win. With the second game shifting to the UPMC Event Center, the Colonials will look to use their homecourt edge to swing the pendulum the other way in their favor.
Detroit Mercy at Youngstown State, 2pm ET (ESPN+): When last they faced each other, the Penguins had to stave off a 1-2 punch of Antoine Davis and Gerald Liddell to claim victory at Calihan Hall. With this contest at Beeghly, while Youngstown State will try to find away to keep Davis under 30, their focus may shift from an ailing Liddell to Damezi Anderson and AJ Oliver, who have made big-time contributions recently.
IUPUI at Cleveland State, 3pm ET (ESPN+): While the Jaguars have played better of late, the lack of a true point guard haunted them against the Vikings, who picked IUPUI’s pockets nine times in a dominant 25-point win in Indianapolis. While some key players should be back in the lineup for the Jags, Cleveland State will settle in for come home cooking and, most likely, even more harassment of IUPUI’s ball handlers.