#HLWBB Power Rankings — Week 9

Photo: Milwaukee Athletics
1Green Bay1
2Cleveland State2
3Wright State4+1
4Detroit Mercy5+1
5Purdue Fort Wayne3-2
7Youngstown State9+2
9Robert Morris8-1
11Northern Kentucky10-1

Green Bay left very few questions on their trip to Northern Kentucky and Wright State, collecting mostly-comfortable victories against the Norse and Raiders to extend their winning streak to seven games. The NKU game turned into a laugher during the second quarter when the Phoenix went on a 19-0 run, spanning the final nine minutes before halftime, to take a 28-point lead into the locker room. Bailey Butler was Bailey Butler in that game with 20 points, six assists and six steals, though in true GB fashion, six different players ended the game in double figures. Cassie Schiltz (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Natalie McNeal (15 points, eight rebounds) led the way two days later against WSU, as Green Bay built a 21-point lead at halftime before holding off the Raiders over the final 20 minutes.

Cleveland State only had one game this week, but they made it count with a 79-37 destruction of Youngstown State that was probably the Vikings most aesthetically pleasing game in quite some time, accounting for the fact that YSU isn’t a lower-division team or some Chicago State-level train wreck. Colbi Maples and Sara Guerreiro each scored 17 points to pace the effort, but the true story of the game was CSU’s defense. The Vikings produced 25 turnovers – 19 of them on steals – and held the Guins to 20.6 percent from the floor for the game, including two separate quarters where YSU managed just one field goal. The next three games for Chris Kielsmeier’s squad are tough ones: Detroit Mercy, Purdue Fort Wayne and Wright State, the next three teams in this post.

Despite losing to Green Bay on Sunday, Wright State continues to impress this season and may very well be a darkhorse title contender at this point. After facing a huge deficit against the Phoenix at the half, they held the visitors scoreless for six minutes of the third quarter to crawl back into the contest, then got as close as seven midway through the fourth quarter before falling by 12. GB managed to hold Alexis Hutchison in check with a 5-for-17 line from the floor, but Kacee Baumhower (19 points) and Rachel Loobie (16 points) picked up most of the slack. WSU still needs to figure out a workable solution for the middle of the floor – they were dominated on the glass, not only by Green Bay, but also by Milwaukee in a Raiders victory on Friday – but this is a team firing on just about every other cylinder right now.

After eating sort of an ugly come-from-ahead loss against IUPUI on Thursday, it probably would’ve been fair to question Detroit Mercy’s legitimacy, at least a little bit. After all, the Titans began Horizon League play 3-0, but against Youngstown State, Oakland and Northern Kentucky; they hadn’t been tested against the conference’s best. Throw in that loss to the Jags, and at least a couple flags likely went up. They went back down after UDM closed out Purdue Fort Wayne on Sunday, a back-and-forth matchup that saw Kate Achter’s team limit the Dons to just 6-for-31 from three-point range. Freshman Paris Gilmore established a new career high with 14 points, while Amaya Burch has seen an uptick in her minutes, which paid off with 27 points over the two games this week.

It’s not time to worry about Purdue Fort Wayne just yet, but the Mastodons have been a bit shaky over the last month or so – after a 7-2 start (with the losses to Michigan and Iowa), PFW has gone 3-4 since, with losses in the two games they’ve played against the upper half of the conference. Before the defeat at UDM, the Dons picked up a nice win over Robert Morris behind one of the better games of Destinee Marshall’s career. The former Radford Highlander put up 15 points (while hitting three of four from behind the arc), six assists and four steals as her team forced RMU into enough mistakes early to withstand a fourth-quarter comeback attempt. PFW has to travel to Cleveland State on Saturday, but wins in upcoming games against Oakland, Youngstown State and the Colonials should be enough to get things back in order.

It wasn’t easy, but Milwaukee battled to a much-needed win at Northern Kentucky on Sunday to finally get back on to the winning side of the ledger in conference play. There’s a massive catch to that statement though: the Panthers’ Horizon League schedule has already included Green Bay, Purdue Fort Wayne, Cleveland State and Wright State, not exactly ideal for a program looking to establish itself in the upper half of the standings. Kamy Peppler was saddled with foul trouble in the loss to WSU, a game close enough to explore what-if scenarios, then blew up against Northern Kentucky with 24 points and three steals, including a couple huge third-quarter threes to trigger a comeback effort. Jorey Buwalda was outstanding across both games, with 15 points and eight rebounds against the Raiders, then 18 and 11 against NKU, particularly impressive when the freshman only played 20 minutes in each game.

After what happened to Youngstown State in Cleveland, it’s easy to forget that the Penguins had started to build a little bit of momentum before that, with consecutive wins over IUPUI and Oakland. Those aren’t necessarily season-defining victories, but they nevertheless show that YSU is at least somewhere in the middle class. Where that ultimately is depends largely on whether the Guins can find a reliable source of offense – YSU has always been a three-point-heavy team, but this year, their percentage from deep has plummeted by six percent and is now among the bottom 30 teams nationally. Some of that is thanks to the graduation of Megan Callahan, but most of it is internal, leaving hope that things can correct themselves at some point before the Guins are buried in the standings.

Oakland has continued to take care of business, for the most part, against teams that they expect to beat, including Robert Morris most recently, though the Golden Grizzlies have yet to cash in any sort of notice-serving result. They missed a chance to do that against a struggling Youngstown State team on Wednesday, going cold at the wrong time in a seven-point road defeat. Against the Colonials on Sunday, Kennedie Montue stepped up with 14 points in a hometown(-ish) game, while Maddy Skorupski earned the first start of her career and delivered 11 points. Brooke Quarles-Daniels only had five in that one, but contributed ten rebounds, following up on a stellar 15 and 11 against YSU.

Just as things seemed to be veering in the right direction for Robert Morris, they swerved back the other way with defeats against Purdue Fort Wayne and Oakland last week, ending a four-game streak where the Colonials won three in a row, then took Wright State to overtime. It didn’t help that RMU was without dynamic Naomi Barnwell in a six-point loss to the Golden Grizzlies on Sunday, not only for her 8.8 points per game, but also her solid rebounding ability in a contest OU dominated on the glass. Rebecca Dwomoh did her best to hold things down regardless, though holding things down was much more of a challenge in a PFW game that saw RMU commit 21 turnovers, 13 of them on Mastodons steals. The Colonials make their annual trip to Wisconsin this week, so things aren’t about to get any easier for them.

IUPUI collected its biggest win of the season, by far, on Thursday when the Jaguars rallied to take down Detroit Mercy in overtime. With just under three minutes to go, the Titans led by six and looked like they were going to close out an uncomfortable road result, but Jazmyn Turner (21 points, eight rebounds), Katie Davidson (30 points), and the Jags’ swarming defense tied the game up within 90 seconds, then largely controlled the extra period. The Jags are decidedly a different-looking group than when Rachel Kent was firing darts from the corner, but the way they controlled the interior on both ends of the floor during the second half and overtime against UDM is something that will keep them in a few other games down the road.

If there’s a positive for Northern Kentucky, now 2-12 overall and 0-5 in the Horizon League, it’s that Kailee Davis and Carter McCray have continued to play really, really well, even against the likes of Green Bay. The Phoenix are well-known for their ability to force teams to beat them with secondary players, but Davis and McCray nevertheless combined for 30 points on 11-for-17 shooting on Friday, though NKU only managed nine field goals from the remainder of the squad in a 30-point loss. Things went somewhat better two days later against Milwaukee, though NKU couldn’t hold a 52-44 lead late in the third quarter and entered the final ten minutes trailing, thanks to a Peppler buzzer beater. The Norse have a full week off before heading to IUPUI on Sunday, a game that’s followed up by a home meeting with Robert Morris, and they’ll never have a better chance to get on track.

Player of the Week

Katie Davidson (IUPUI)

Davidson’s 30 points against Detroit Mercy were the most scored by anyone in a conference game so far this year, and it was an extremely efficient total: she hit 12 of her 18 shot attempts, including 3 of 5 from three, an effective field goal percentage of 75 percent. Her takeover down the stretch facilitated a huge win for the Jaguars, one that they hope will springboard the team to bigger goals.

Also considered: Sara Guerreiro (Cleveland State), Colbi Maples (Cleveland State), Jorey Buwalda (Milwaukee), Bailey Butler (Green Bay), Destinee Marshall (Purdue Fort Wayne), Kailee Davis (Northern Kentucky), Brooke Quarles-Daniels (Oakland)

Past winners:

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)
January 2: Cassie Schiltz (Green Bay)

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