|Purdue Fort Wayne
It says a lot about Green Bay right now that the Phoenix can play a Big East team on the road, and it’s kind of surprising when they lose. But that was the case on Tuesday, as they dropped a 68-64 decision at DePaul to fall to one of the more impressive 5-3 records anyone will ever see. Natalie McNeal and Maddy Schreiber each scored 16 points in that game, with the former continuing a noticeable uptick in her use and production from last season, her first after transferring from Saint Louis. Despite the loss, the Phoenix remains 32nd in the NET (as of Sunday) and, at least at this point, seems well in line for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, should they need it.
Now that Destiny Leo is officially lost for the rest of the season, Cleveland State will need to figure out a way forward without last season’s Horizon League Player of the Year. The good news in Northeast Ohio is that the Vikings still have plenty of backcourt horsepower in the forms of Colbi Maples and Mickayla Perdue. Perdue, the player that can most accurately be considered Leo’s replacement, has surged of late, with 19 and 25 points last week in wins over Niagara and Akron – the two best point totals in the former Glenville State star’s Division I career. Though CSU’s dropoff without Leo has been minimal so far, it remains to be seen whether the Vikings still have the ceiling to match their lofty preseason goals. That question may be answered soon, not necessarily against Iowa on Saturday, but in the four games that follow, including a trip to Green Bay on December 30th.
Purdue Fort Wayne finally lost to a team outside of the Big Ten on Saturday after falling behind against Saint Thomas during the second quarter, then rallying to go ahead early in the fourth quarter on a Shayla Sellers three, only to fade from there. For all of the positive attention the Mastodons have received over the last nine months or so, it’s kind of easy to forget that it’s still largely a program learning how to win – after all, the Dons were 14-19 last season before finding a spark during the Horizon League tournament, leading to an offseason of bold projections – but the safe money says that the STU game was an aberration. On the positive side of things, Ryin Ott has been a force of nature of late, scoring 65 points over her last four games while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. If the oft-injured guard is back to stay as a frontline option for a team that already has a bunch of them, PFW will be that much more dangerous.
Wright State powered past Eastern Illinois on Saturday, and while nobody will confuse the Panthers for a juggernaut (the same can be said for a lot of the Raiders’ opponents, to be completely honest) it was just the latest data point showing that WSU deserves to be considered among the top half of the conference right with a 6-3 overall record and good showings in their first two conference games. If there’s a canary in the coal mine here, it’s that Wright State remains one of the nation’s worst rebounding teams and, for all of their positive offensive metrics, they don’t get to the free throw line very well or score as many points as should probably be expected. Nevertheless, Alexis Hutchison, who scored a season-high 32 points against EIU, is now second in the HL in scoring with 19.4 points per game, behind only Leo, who will be disqualified from consideration by the end of the season.
Though Detroit Mercy stumbled on Sunday at Northern Illinois, the Titans remain arguably the best story in the conference at 7-4 overall, a mark unfathomable only five weeks ago. Before the NIU defeat, UDM did collect a nice win on Wednesday, as Irene Murua’s 17 points and eight rebounds helped her team hang on late for a 62-59 victory over Western Michigan. With that result, Detroit Mercy can now claim bragging rights over WMU, Eastern Michigan and Oakland this season, essentially giving them as good of a case as anyone to being the top mid-major program in the state of Michigan this year (1-6 Central Michigan likely doesn’t have much of an argument). The Titans close non-conference play with extremely winnable games against Bellarmine and Florida A&M, before what should be a bit of a “show me” week for Kate Achter’s crew against Northern Kentucky and IUPUI.
It wasn’t a fantastic week for Milwaukee, as the Panthers struggled their way to fairly clunky losses against St. Thomas and Loyola Chicago, just days removed from a stretch of five wins in six games. They fell behind 11-2 early against the Tommies and were essentially chasing that margin for most of the game, before an 8-0 run late in the game led to a dramatic finish. On Saturday against Loyola, the drought came at the opposite end of the contest, as turnover-plagued UWM – they committed 27 of them, negating a solid shooting effort – scored just one point over nearly eight minutes of the third and fourth quarters, turning a four-point lead into a 12-point deficit. Kendall Nead, despite the results (and her five turnovers against the Ramblers), was brilliant across both games with 42 total points and 12 rebounds, including 12 in roughly four minutes of the third quarter against STU.
Thanks to Xavier’s personnel issues that led to the postponement of a game scheduled for Thursday, Oakland only played once last week. The Golden Grizzlies made it count though, delivering a come-from-behind 79-76 result against Central Michigan on Saturday at the O’rena. OU looked to be down and out for most of the afternoon, as they trailed the Chippewas by double digits for roughly 30 minutes, a deficit that peaked at 20 midway through the third quarter. However, a 17-2 run early in the fourth flipped the tilt on its ear, and the home team made the necessary plays down the stretch. Michigan State transfer Maddy Skorupski enjoyed her best game at Oakland so far, connecting on four threes and scoring 19 points overall, along with four steals.
Youngstown State finally put together a couple of positive outcomes in a row, including a one-point win over Akron on Wednesday, followed by an absolute manhandling (I wanted to say “womanhandling,” but that seems forced) of St. Francis on Saturday. Against the Zips, Emily Saunders won a clean decision over UA star Reagan Bass, helping limit the four-time MAC player of the week to 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting, a decidedly worse output than Bass has managed in three other games against HL teams this season. That’s sort of a recurring theme with the Guins: their success comes and goes largely on how well their opponent can match up with Saunders, look no further than the Tennessee transfer’s near-unstoppable 11-for-15 line against an undersized Red Storm team. Dena Jarrells has also played well of late, a welcome sight for a team that desperately needs as many offensive options as it can find.
Northern Kentucky has performed more or less as expected, dropping a decisive contest at Illinois before returning home to defeat Division II side Kentucky State. Though the 74-70 score against the Thorobreds might raise an eyebrow or two, KSU entered the contest 6-1 and only lost to Kentucky (the Kentucky, UK, Big Blue, since the school names in the commonwealth tend to lead to a lot of confusion) by 17 in a scrimmage. Regardless, given NKU’s personnel issues (which are hopefully on the verge of correction), style points, formulas, and related issues kind of fly out the window and it simply becomes a case of the Norse grabbing the wins they can. Khamari Mitchell-Steen, Carter McCray, Macey Blevins and Kalissa Lacy made that happen through a group effort, as all four scored either 16 or 17 points in the victory.
Robert Morris only played once during last week – by design, unlike Oakland – and ate an expected blowout loss at Texas A&M. It would be foolish to take too much away from that trip, just as it’s foolish to take a whole lot from any mid-major team getting wrecked by any power conference team, but if nothing else, RMU did manage to hold the Aggies to a not-awful 67 points. Nothing else went particularly well for the Colonials between Danielle Vuletich’s foul trouble, Simone Morris’ 2-for-11 from the floor, and Naomi Barnwell’s five turnovers, but they’ll try to get back on track in RMU’s final two non-conference games, versus College of Charleston and Fairmount State.
IUPUI finally snapped its seven-game losing streak on Wednesday with an 81-75 victory at Evansville, though that result comes with the caveat that the Aces are 1-7 against a fairly unimpressive schedule – and needed triple overtime in their one win, against lowly Chicago State. Still, it was a much-needed return to the positive side of the ledger for the Jaguars who, like Northern Kentucky, are just trying to tread water through injuries. Katie Davidson has continued to be the best player in the Horizon League that nobody is talking about, as she scored 26 points against UE to boost her season scoring average to 17.7 per game. In large part, those numbers are because Davidson gets to the free throw line at an elite rate; her six free throw attempts per game are 45th nationally out of 3000-plus players.
Player of the Week
Mickayla Perdue (Cleveland State)
It’s more than a little bit crazy to think about how Perdue needed an NCAA waiver to compete for the Vikings this season after her second transfer between four-year schools, and didn’t receive that clearance until very late in the offseason. If Destiny Leo was healthy, Perdue being ruled ineligible to play would have been an inconvenience for Chris Kielsmeier, but probably not an all-out disaster. However, without Leo, that waiver is just about saving CSU’s season right now.
Also considered: Alexis Hutchison (Wright State), Katie Davidson (IUPUI), Kendall Nead (Milwaukee), Ryin Ott (Purdue Fort Wayne), Maddy Skorupski (Oakland), Emily Saunders (Youngstown State)
November 28: Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)
December 5: Maddy Schreiber (Green Bay)