#HLWBB Power Rankings — Week 4

1Green Bay1
2Cleveland State2
3Purdue Fort Wayne3
4Wright State8+4
5Detroit Mercy5
7Northern Kentucky7
9Robert Morris11+2
10Youngstown State6-4

Though they only played one game during the opening week of Horizon League play, Green Bay continued to look the part with a dominating rivalry win at a Milwaukee team that had been playing some pretty good basketball. For their part, the Panthers did battle the heavy favorites tough in the first half and eventually closed to within five early in the third quarter, but the Phoenix then scored the next 16 points of the contest to salt away a 76-53 win. UWGB shot a staggering 56.1 percent from the floor and 53.3 percent from three in the game, led by Maddy Schreiber, who was 9-for-11 and 4-for-4 in those categories on the way to a game-high 23 points. Jasmine Kondrakiewicz added a season-high 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, while Cassie Schiltz knocked down three from behind the arc.

A least a couple people likely wrote off Cleveland State after Destiny Leo’s injury, but those people look pretty foolish right now after the Vikings won convincingly against Robert Morris and Northern Kentucky to begin Horizon League play 2-0. CSU only trailed for 52 seconds across the two games and built a 20-point lead in each one before slowing down in the second half. Beating a bottom-tier Colonials team and an NKU squad with eight healthy players likely won’t move many needles but, if nothing else, Colbi Maples – who has played at an all-conference level for the Vikings so far – and company showed that the Northeast Ohio sky isn’t falling. After the team’s final five non-conference games, they’ll make the dreaded Wisconsin trip over New Year’s, perhaps the HL’s ultimate proving ground.

Purdue Fort Wayne is off to the best start in the program’s Division I history at 6-2 overall, thanks to wins over Oakland and Wright State to open their conference schedule. The Mastodons were favored in both games, so the results aren’t mind-blowing on their face, but the truly impressive thing about PFW is the way that they’ve developed an almost Green Bay-like “it could be anyone today” ethos. The victory over the Golden Grizzlies was thanks to a barrage from a team that shot 55.1 percent from the floor, led by Audra Emmerson (5-for-10 from three, 16 points) and Ryin Ott (5-for-6 from three, 21 points). None of usual headliners Emmerson, Shayla Sellers or Amellia Bromenschenkel reached double digits against WSU (though Sellers managed her 1000th career point in the contest), but Ott and freshman Renna Schwieterman stepped up with prolific efforts.

It’s hard to not be impressed with Wright State, as – after some early doubts – it seems clear that the Raiders have taken another step this year. They dropped to 1-1 in the Horizon League with their loss to Purdue Fort Wayne on Sunday, but it’s notable that in the game, the threes weren’t falling. WSU was just 5-for-25 at what’s been their bread and butter (and only one of those makes came after the first quarter), yet they found a way to hang with a very good team on the road until the late going, despite that rough shooting number and their 19 turnovers. Two transfer additions, Alexis Hutchison and Layne Ferrell, have helped correct most of the Raiders’ deficiencies from last season, with Hutchison scoring 22 points (alongside six rebounds and five assists) in a win over IUPUI before adding 18 against the Dons.

Detroit Mercy probably doesn’t have a conference championship ceiling, but the Titans have nevertheless continued to look impressive in beginning HL play 2-0 (while improving to 6-3 overall). Youngstown State has struggled this season of course, but the Beeghly Center remains one of the toughest environments in the league, and UDM walked out of the place with a 59-50 win over the Penguins on Thursday behind Myonna Hooper’s steady play running the point (16 points, four rebounds, three assists) and a typically-efficient double-double from Irene Murua. UDM has become a very strong defense and rebounding squad, including limiting Oakland to a putrid 25.0 percent from the floor in a rivalry win over the Grizzlies on Sunday.

Milwaukee had to eat a tough loss to Green Bay on Thursday, but the Panthers bounced back nicely on Sunday for what was essentially a wire-to-wire win over IUPUI (UWM did trail at one point, but for less than a minute of the first quarter). Kendall Nead led the way with 16 points for a Panthers offense that looks to be much improved from the last couple seasons. It’s still early, but Kyle Rechlicz’s squad is 74th nationally in effective field goal percentage, 28th in free throw percentage and sixth in assisted shot rate. They’re moving the ball on an elite level and shooting it very well, numbers that held up even through that game against the Phoenix. Turnovers are still an issue, but it’s easy to see an upside for Milwaukee as they jump back into a manageable non-conference schedule before hosting a couple of nice tests in Purdue Fort Wayne and Cleveland State for their next HL games.

Though Northern Kentucky is off to a 1-5 start, that’s mostly due to a massive wave of injuries, notably including preseason all-conference selection Kailee Davis, who went down in the team’s opener. However, somewhere underneath the fact that NKU has had eight healthy players for most of the early schedule, it’s easy to see a lot of the answers to offseason questions in terms of the roster’s capability in the post-Lindsey Duvall era. Allison Basye is an emerging star, while Carter McCray looked like the HL’s next great post player in the loss to Cleveland State on Saturday. Once the likes of Davis, Mya Meredith and Kennedy Igo are healthy, Camryn Volz’s roster might start surprising some people very quickly.

Outside of the teams dealing with a ton of injuries, Oakland is probably the toughest read in the conference right now because their schedule has been loaded with power conference teams (Michigan, Michigan State) and lower-division outfits (Cleary, Madonna). Really, along with a win at Akron to begin the season, the Golden Grizzlies’ opening HL games were among the first opportunities to see OU play near their level, and they came out of it with two fairly decisive losses to Purdue Fort Wayne and Detroit Mercy. Oakland definitely has pieces, including Markyia McCormick, who went off for 26 points against PFW, while Linda Van Schaik and Miriam Ibezim are two of the more underrated players in the conference. And, of course, there’s Brooke Quarles-Daniels, who remains the team’s leading rebounder against all logic. It just seems like a case of night-after-night consistency in the Detroit suburbs at the moment.

Though they went 1-1 during the week, perhaps no team (possibly outside of Cleveland State) did more to change preseason expectations than Robert Morris. Nobody’s going to confuse the Colonials with Wright State or Purdue Fort Wayne anytime soon, but Charlie Buscaglia has found a bit of repeatable offensive production in the slashing game of Naomi Barnwell, coupled with Simone Morris’ jumper, while Louella Allana does a pretty effective job running all of it from the point. That, combined with a stout defense – Danielle Vuletich was fantastic defending Emily Saunders in RMU’s win over Youngstown State on Sunday – should be enough to chip off a few more wins from their schedule than most expected. Along with the YSU victory, the Colonials also managed to push the Vikings a bit in the second half before dropping a 13-point decision.

It’s tough to say where Youngstown State is headed from here, because not only have the Guins started 0-2 in Horizon League play, they did it against a pair of teams that have typically finished near the bottom of the standings in recent years, Detroit Mercy and Robert Morris. There’s a pretty massive asterisk on that last statement given that the Titans appear to be on the way up, but regardless, YSU has won just once against a Division I team this year, and that result came over winless Xavier. That’s quite a far cry from what anyone expected from a veteran-caked team that’s won an HL title in the recent past, but YSU just can’t seem to find any sort of consistent offense right now. Saunders has been good, but they try to force the ball to her too often, the Penguins’ formerly-reliable three-point shot has mostly deserted them, and they’re not making enough of an effort to get to the basket.

It probably says at least a little bit about the strength of the Horizon League that the days when I automatically could slot the same two or three teams in the final places on these posts are long gone, though that means that I occasionally have to make decisions that I’m not entirely comfortable with, like sticking IUPUI here this week. As with NKU, the Jags have been absolutely crushed by injuries which (along with a tough schedule) explains a lot of their 1-7 start – at full strength, the Jags are definitely not the worst team in the league. But hey, that’s why we do these every week, things can always be corrected later. Logan Lewis earned her first career double-double in a loss to Wright State on Thursday, and Bellarmine transfer Jaela Johnson has come on of late with 45 points in her last four games after 19 in her first four.

Player of the Week

Maddy Schreiber (Green Bay)

The primary argument against Schreiber is that she only played one game during the week, while most others played two. And that’s an extremely fair point, one that I’ve sometimes considered decisive in the past. There’s certainly no issue with her game though, as she only missed two shots all evening while scoring 23 points to lead the Phoenix over Milwaukee on Thursday. Schreiber also pulled down seven rebounds in that contest, and her return this season has been a major reason why Green Bay looks nearly unbeatable right now.

Also considered: Colbi Maples (Cleveland State), Allison Basye (Northern Kentucky), Alexis Hutchison (Wright State), Layne Ferrell (Wright State), Irene Murua (Detroit Mercy)

Past winners:

November 28: Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)

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