|Purdue Fort Wayne
It’s hard to make a more definitive statement than Green Bay did over New Year’s, as the Phoenix collected decisive home wins against Cleveland State and Purdue Fort Wayne – the teams that most would consider GB’s closest pursuers – to improve to 3-0 in conference play. Cassie Schiltz was the undisputed star of the two games, as she dumped a career-high 27 points on the Vikings on Saturday, nine of those on third-quarter threes in quick succession that built most of the afternoon’s separation. Two days later, Schiltz distributed a career-high nine assists to help Green Bay roll over the Mastodons in the second half. Maddy Schreiber also excelled over the two games, going 16-for-22 from the floor on the way to 35 points. Clearly, it’s the Phoenix first, and then the field, right now.
Though the final two quarters got away from them, Cleveland State did trade blows pretty effectively for 20 minutes of that game in the Kress Center, which at least offers some support to the idea that the Vikings might be able to flip their luck against Green Bay by the end of the season, as they did last year (and the two previous years, for that matter). CSU bounced back to defeat a tough Milwaukee team two days later, managing to keep the Panthers at arm’s length most of the way (thanks in part to holding Kendall Nead to just 2-for-17 from the floor), then getting a clutch three from Carmen Villalobos to seal the result after UWM rallied to within two in the final minute. Mickayla Perdue was outstanding for the Vikes in Wisconsin, as she went 18-for-18 from the free throw line over the two games on the way to 47 total points.
Like the Vikings, Purdue Fort Wayne spent their holiday on the always-dreaded trip to America’s Dairyland, and went home with essentially the same results: a win over Milwaukee and a loss to Green Bay. Both games were a little tighter than the scores might indicate, including the game against the Phoenix. After being held to just seven points over the first 14 minutes of the afternoon, PFW pulled to within 33-29 just ten game minutes later before GB went on 8-0 and 11-0 runs (or 22-6 in total, if you prefer) to turn the affair into a rout. On the bright side of things, the Dons continue to have the conference’s best freshman class, including Renna Schwieterman, who knocked down four three pointers in the loss. Veterans like Amellia Bromenschenkel, Destinee Marshall and Ryin Ott led the way past the Panthers on the strength of a late-game surge.
Wright State very nearly took on what probably could have been considered its first truly clunky loss of the season, but came from behind to beat Robert Morris in overtime on Sunday. The Raiders trailed for most of the game, though they never let RMU gain more than ten points of separation. The margin was eight with 6:20 remaining in the fourth quarter when WSU scored 15 of the game’s next 21 points, and the Raiders needed to rally again in the extra period, as they were five down with under two minutes remaining. Layne Ferrell was instrumental in both pushes on the way to a game-high 25 points, much needed output on an afternoon when Alexis Hutchison and Kacee Baumhower weren’t their usual selves. On Friday, Wright State cruised against Youngstown State behind Hutchison’s 26 points.
Things might be getting tight on the Detroit Mercy bandwagon at this point, since the Titans just keep winning; in fact, they’re now tied for first place with Green Bay at 3-0 in the HL. The latest victim for Kate Achter and company was Northern Kentucky on Monday, as UDM used a positively dominant effort by Emma Trawally Porta – 23 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks – to clock a comfortable win over the Norse. One of the better post battles in the league didn’t fully materialize, as the Titans got star NKU freshman Carter McCray in some early foul trouble, allowing Trawally Porta to go nuts, which in turn helped UDM build a 16-point lead by halftime. Always-reliable Irene Murua added 15 points and five rebounds in the victory. With games against Cleveland State and Purdue Fort Wayne coming up over the next week, Detroit Mercy has the chance to become a lot more than a nice story.
Milwaukee is 1-2 in Horizon League play and 7-8 overall, but neither record is a great reflection of where the Panthers are as a team right now. To that point, the pair of conference losses came against the (arguable) second and third best teams in the HL, and UWM had an excellent chance to win both games late. On Saturday against Purdue Fort Wayne, Milwaukee led 55-53 with 4:04 remaining before the Mastodons scored the final 12 points of the contest. Then, on New Year’s Day, they pulled to within two points of Cleveland State with 36 seconds to go. Fouling might not have been an awful idea against a Vikings team that struggled at the line that day (outside of Perdue), but the Panthers elected to play it straight and were burned by Villalobos’ three. Anna Lutz was spectacular in a losing cause, registering 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting, as well as ten rebounds.
Oakland emerged from the holiday break quite nicely, with an 89-79 win over Northern Kentucky powered by a player, Alexis Johnson, who has been pretty quiet this year. Johnson went for 21 points against the Norse, five of them during a pivotal stretch of the fourth quarter where the Grizzlies had to wrestle the game back after seeing a lead that had been consistently between seven and ten points for most of the contest disappear. Markyia McCormick, Miriam Ibezim and Brooke Quarles-Daniels were also very good for OU, with Quarles-Daniels’ free throw shooting down the stretch helping to lock the victory down. Acting head coach Deanna Richard seems to have a good amount of quality depth on her hands, as her team looks to make its way up the standings.
It’s hard to not be a bit bullish on Robert Morris right now, as the Colonials have consistently put forward solid efforts over the last three weeks. Their modest three-game winning streak was snapped against Wright State on Sunday, though the Colonials probably should have pulled off the upset after leading for most of the game, including a five-point advantage with less than two minutes to play in the overtime period. Simone Morris and Naomi Barnwell went off for 17 and 15 points, respectively, in that game (after Morris also had 18 in a win over IUPUI two days earlier), while Danielle Vuletich continued to be a walking double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds against the Raiders. If RMU can navigate their next four games, which includes road contests against Purdue Fort Wayne and Green Bay, with some measure of success, they may be in business.
Shay-Lee Kirby’s free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining delivered Youngstown State its first conference win, 58-56 over IUPUI on Sunday. The victory followed a defeat against an ascendant Wright State team, and it’s hard to avoid a glance ahead to see Oakland (which has always given the Penguins trouble), Cleveland State, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Purdue Fort Wayne on the schedule in the next two weeks, but for now, YSU is on the board and within a game of the middle of the HL standings. Another positive bit of news for the Guins is that Malia Magestro finally got going last week, particularly in the WSU game when she scored a season-best 22 points. The Hermitage, PA product is a proven all-conference performer who has often struggled so far this year, so her re-emergence could be a boon for a team looking to find some traction.
Northern Kentucky’s struggles continued in their loss to Detroit Mercy, which dropped the Norse to just 2-10 overall. Despite some early foul issues, it’s notable that McCray came back to finish the game with 14 points and 14 rebounds, the latest sign that Camryn Volz has a pretty serious weapon on her hands with the rookie. Another encouraging sign for NKU is the recent play of Kailee Davis. After missing the early part of the season due to injury, Davis is finally rounding into form, as she scored 16 points (on 7-for-15 shooting) against the Titans, following up a 17-point effort in a loss at Oakland two days earlier. The Norse are still a team trying to find its way forward with a substantially-different roster than the one of the last couple seasons, but they seem like a group that can put some wins together with some more night-to-night consistency.
Things are quickly turning disastrous for IUPUI, which dropped winnable games at Robert Morris and Youngstown State to fall to 0-4 in the Horizon Leage and 2-11 overall. The defeat against a struggling Penguins team was particularly excruciating, as the back-and-forth affair was decided in the final second by Kirby’s free throws. It’s notable that Kate Bruce didn’t have breakout star Katie Davidson available for either game, after IUPUI had only recently gotten Jazmyn Turner back. Kentucky Wesleyan transfer Tahlia Walton, another player who has missed time this season, scored 18 points against YSU and has managed double digits in five of her seven games, leaving open the idea that the Jags have more in the tank than they’ve shown so far.
Player of the Week
Cassie Schiltz (Green Bay)
Though there is more than one worthy candidate every week (a list that includes Schiltz’s teammate, Maddy Schreiber, this time around) it’s pretty difficult to come up with an argument against a player that starred for the conference favorites in wins against a pair of top contenders.
Also considered: Maddy Schreiber (Green Bay), Simone Morris (Robert Morris), Layne Ferrell (Wright State), Emma Trawally Porta (Detroit Mercy)
November 28: Amellia Bromenschenkel (Purdue Fort Wayne)
December 5: Maddy Schreiber (Green Bay)
December 12: Mickayla Perdue (Cleveland State)
December 19: Danielle Vuletich (Robert Morris)
December 26: Alexis Hutchison (Wright State)