|Purdue Fort Wayne||6||8||+1|
Youngstown State very nearly stumbled against a hot Northern Kentucky team on Saturday, struggling for long stretches of the second half before Paige Shy’s free throws with two seconds left pulled out a 52-51 win at the Beeghly Center. The decisive points completed a nice story arc for Shy, who scored the initial points of the contest on a three, but misfired in between those opening and closing moments. The Guins’ bigs were very good, as usual, with Emily Saunders posting 11 points and six rebounds in 14 minutes, her second-longest outing of the season. Lilly Ritz offered a fairly-efficient 12 points against the Norse, but was flat-out dominant on Thursday with 23 points and 19 rebounds against Wright State. It was her 12th double-double of the season and her 23rd as a Penguin, and her ninth Division I game of 15 or more rebounds. Ritz is 11th nationally with 11.1 boards per game, and her 7.6 made field goals per game are 12th.
In one of their most impressive results to date, Green Bay jumped out to a 25-5 first-quarter lead against IUPUI on Monday night and cruised behind Jenna Guyer (16 points in just 15 minutes), Sydney Levy (14 points, five rebounds) and Cassie Schiltz (12 points, six rebounds). It’s just the latest data point in a slow but steady upward trend for a team that – it seems like a billion years ago at this point – started the season 3-3, including a loss to Milwaukee and zero wins that were particularly impressive. Since then however, UWGB has won 14 of their 15 games, a run that only YSU has managed to dent. It probably goes a bit deeper than that given how infrequently the Phoenix have been seriously challenged, even by the likes of Cleveland State and Northern Kentucky, and now IUPUI as well (though the Jags were more competitive in The Jungle back in December). Nothing is likely to be earned easily at the top of the standings the rest of the way but Green Bay, as ever, will be right in the thick of things.
Cleveland State really needed a get-right weekend and mostly got one, save for some first-half offensive struggles at Oakland. However, after trailing at halftime, the Vikings started clicking on all cylinders to eventually down the Golden Grizzlies by 21. That effort came two days after a 42-point rout of Detroit Mercy, and the results together gave CSU a 4-0 season sweep of the HL’s Detroit-area teams by a combined margin of 142. Destiny Leo was named the conference Player of the Week for the third time this season (two-time winner Ritz is the only other multiple winner of the award in 2022-23) after putting up 31 and 23 points in the two wins, with the latter number coming despite not hitting a field goal against Oakland until midway through the third quarter (her 12-for-12 from the free throw line helped). This week, the Vikings return home to host Robert Morris and Youngstown State, the latter a prime opportunity for CSU to re-assert their top-of-the-league position.
Northern Kentucky came tantalizingly close to notching an HL-shaking win for the second straight week before falling in the final seconds at Youngstown State to snap a four-game winning streak. It’s still a little hard to see the Norse finding success beyond another strong regular season given their depth issues, but against YSU they at least proved that they could grit out a strong defensive effort to overcome fairly rough scoring days from Lindsey Duvall, Kailee Davis and Ivy Turner. NKU held the Guins to a miserable afternoon on the perimeter, with Megan Callahan, Malia Magestro, and Paige Shy managing only four field goals on 27 tries, though YSU’s post players still found things relatively soft inside. The buckets fell a bit better two days prior to that, against a Robert Morris team that is still fairly strong defensively despite their overall struggles, as Davis’ 19 points led the way to a win.
There’s little doubt that IUPUI remains the conference’s toughest read. Generally speaking, the Jaguars have competed pretty well with the top of the conference. They’ve won their only meetings with Youngstown State and Northern Kentucky (along with the next tier of Purdue Fort Wayne, Oakland, and Milwaukee), and also gave Green Bay a pretty nice run back in December. On the other hand, they also produce moments that give the vibe that they’re not quite ready for prime time. Cleveland State smashed the Jags by 33 points back on January 8th, and Green Bay beat their brakes off on Monday night by a 22-point margin that didn’t really seem that close, as the Phoenix held what’s usually a great shooting squad to 16-for-60 from the floor. Very good team? Absolutely. True conference title contender? Unlikely.
You may not have expected to see Purdue Fort Wayne this high, but the case is a sound one. The Mastodons have now won three games in a row, and four of their last five, after sweeping Oakland and Detroit Mercy over the weekend, following on recent wins over Milwaukee and Wright State (as well as a six-point loss at Northern Kentucky, hardly a bad look either). Amellia Bromenschenkel showed out with 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in PFW’s upset of a Golden Grizzlies team that had been playing some good basketball and is always tough at home, then added 16 two days later against UDM. The re-emergence of Audra Emmerson was also a major storyline for the Dons, as the sophomore from just outside of Indianapolis established a season high with 11 points at Oakland before smashing that mark with 18 at Calihan Hall.
After playing pretty well for most of January, including four wins in five games at one point (with the loss coming in overtime to Youngstown State), Oakland has skidded a bit with three consecutive losses to close the month, including that surprise defeat to Purdue Fort Wayne. On Saturday, the Golden Grizzlies bounced back to some extent and did a nice job of bogging down Cleveland State during the first half, before losing their grip on things over the final 20 minutes under a wave of foul trouble. Through it all, Brooke Quarles-Daniels has continued to emerge as one of the Horizon League’s young stars. Quarles-Daniels was named the conference’s Freshman of the Week for the third time in a row (and the fifth time overall) on Monday, after averaging 16 points and seven rebounds over the two games. This year, the rookie point guard is OU’s leader in scoring, assists and steals, while running second in rebounding despite being listed at 5-6.
You could probably copy/paste a lot of Oakland’s writeup for Milwaukee, a team that similarly looked to be close to turning a corner before backsliding a bit over the last couple weeks. The Panthers haven’t beaten anyone above them in these power rankings since taking down Oakland on New Year’s Eve, with only victories against Wright State and Robert Morris to show for their last eight games – though in UWM’s defense, a Green Bay-IUPUI slate was probably the toughest pull of anyone in the league this past weekend. Emma Wittmershaus was positively dominant in defeat against the Jaguars, bucketing 11 field goals and 25 points to go with six rebounds. Wittmershaus had a bit tougher time of things against their northern archrivals in shooting 4-for-13 from the floor, but she was also the only Panther to crack double digits during a 40-point output as the Phoenix got revenge for the teams’ first meeting of the season, back on December 1st.
Wright State enjoyed an absolute catharsis at Robert Morris on Saturday, going on a 19-2 run early in the game and never looking back en route to shredding the Colonials 83-49. WSU used their usual three-point barrage (12, led by three each from Channing Chappell and Izzy Bolender) to get it done, but also a surprisingly robust defensive effort that held RMU to 31.1 percent from the floor despite the serviceable inside game that is more or less the Raiders’ Achilles heel. It was a deserved result for Kari Hoffman’s crew which, relatively speaking, has played some decent ball of late but without a ton of wins to show for that upward trend beyond the one they collected at Calihan Hall a couple weeks ago. It was also the program’s most decisive win against a Division I team since January 4, 2020.
The blowout loss at home to a Wright State team that had one DI win (the aforementioned on against UDM) entering the contest was just the latest blow for a Robert Morris team that continues to spiral out of control. RMU is just 2-10 in the Horizon League, with one of those two wins coming in their first meeting with the Raiders, a score that’s more or less been negated at this point. The Colonials rank near last place nationally in numerous offensive metrics (they have yet to break 70 points against a DI team and have been held below 50 six times), and have often been down to just seven or eight available players. On the bright side, Simone Morris has put together a nice final weekend to what had been a tough January, totaling 27 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks against WSU and Northern Kentucky.
As silly as it might sound to keep hyping a Detroit Mercy team that’s 3-18 overall and 1-11 in the Horizon League, it’s hard to see the Titans in person and not come away impressed with the early signs of a robust culture that Kate Achter is building. UDM works hard regardless of the score, the bench never loses energy, and they do a good job getting everyone involved in the game – no Titans player averages 30 minutes per game, but seven average 20 – compliments that might come off as patronizing, but just about anyone understands that things like that have to come before the favorable scoreboards most of the time. Though it ended up as a 42-point loss, the Titans hung with Cleveland State fairly well before giving up second-half runs of 15-0 and 13-0. Amaya Burch had one of the better games of her rookie season with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, while Irene Murua continues to serve as UDM’s steadying force, as she has for the last two years.
Player of the Week
Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)
It’s impossible to say that the conference’s pick, Destiny Leo, was the wrong call. It wasn’t. It pretty much never is, to be honest. But for me personally, I don’t value #numbers in games that a team was supposed to win decisively quite as much as Bromenschenkel’s extremely-well-rounded game and contributions to what was probably the second most surprising result in the HL last week (if you thought Wright State was ever going to win a league contest by 34, you’re lying).
Also considered: Destiny Leo (Cleveland State), Lilly Ritz (Youngstown State), Kailee Davis (Northern Kentucky), Brooke Quarles-Daniels (Oakland)
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)
December 19: Sydney Levy (Green Bay)
December 26: Rachel Kent (IUPUI)
January 2: Lindsey Duvall (Northern Kentucky)
January 9: Amele Ngwafang (Cleveland State)
January 16: Brooke Quarles-Daniels (Oakland)
January 23: Lilly Ritz (Youngstown State)