#HLMBB Games Preview – January 25th – January 28th

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Photo courtesy of Northern Kentucky Athletics

With the conference slate at its halfway point, there are plenty of ways the Horizon League standings could change after this week. Then again, given how volatile things have always been in the conference, would you expect nothing less? All games ET and on ESPN+, unless noted.

Thursday, January 25th

Wright State at Cleveland State, 7pm: When these two teams last met at the Nutter Center, the Raiders, with its plethora of offensive weapons, had no problem cruising past the Vikings by 12 points, despite having to hold off a couple of CSU surges. With the return bout at the Wolstein Center, you have to wonder if the Vikings have some air of invincibility there, as they shook off an 11-point deficit against Purdue Fort Wayne to take their 18th straight win at home. Wright State will have to contend with that and Cleveland State’s stifling defense, which the Raiders may have less success with than they did at home.

Purdue Fort Wayne at Northern Kentucky, 7pm (ESPNU): The Mastodons probably didn’t think that they’d be in the midst of a five-game losing streak heading into a nationally-televised game with the Norse. And yet, here they are, with the latest two defeats being an inexplicable loss at home against IUPUI and a late-game road collapse against Cleveland State. In this contest, Truist Arena is as tough a place to place as they come, and NKU will be eager to lean into its homecourt advantage.

Oakland at Green Bay, 7pm: The first tilt between these two teams at the O’rena was a barnburner, with the Golden Grizzlies coming out on top. Now, with first place in the standings on the line, it’s expected that this game will be just as exciting, only this time with the Phoenix hosting. The Green Bay renaissance runs through its star, Noah Reynolds, and a host of players that include Elijah Jones, Preston Ruedinger, Foster Wonders and Marcus Hall. There remains a question mark in the Phoenix rotation, as it’s unclear when David Douglas, Jr. will return. Oakland has remained at full strength, something that’s been an issue in recent years, with Trey Townsend at the helm.

Detroit Mercy at Milwaukee, 8pm: The Panthers, likely frustrated by losing to both Wright State and Northern Kentucky, are looking for someone to take it out on. That’s likely the winless Titans. The last game between these two featured a hot-shooting Erik Pratt. Add in BJ Freeman, who was still easing his way back into the Milwaukee rotation after an injury, and Kentrell Pullian, and Detroit Mercy is in for all kinds of trouble.

Saturday, January 27th

Detroit Mercy at Green Bay, 1pm: The new-look Phoenix easily dispatched of the Titans at Calihan Hall and now face Detroit Mercy in the cozy confines of the Resch Center. While the Titan roster has been, to put it nicely, a chaotic mess so far this season, Green Bay, as mentioned, has been reliably stable. Detroit Mercy probably doesn’t have an answer for Noah Reynolds, and it’s also going to have a problem contending with a frontcourt comprised of Elijah Jones, Marcus Hall and Rich Byrhe.

Oakland at Milwaukee, 4pm: The Panthers, in the last game, were a Kentrell Pullian three-pointer away from sending the game into OT. Instead, it was the Grizz and their clutch late-game free throw shooting that swung the contest in their direction. This contest should be no less exciting, especially with Milwaukee taking its turn as the host. Oakland will have to once again find a way to contain Pullian, Erik Pratt and BJ Freeman, while the Panthers will have challenges of their own, facing Trey Townsend and Chris Conway up front, making cleaning the glass, a long-standing issue for Milwaukee, a daunting task.

Sunday, January 28th

Wright State at IUPUI, noon: The December meeting between these two teams was about what you would have expected between a team that scores in bunches (the Raiders) and one that clearly doesn’t (the Jaguars). Not much has changed in the dynamics between the teams, although IUPUI did succeed in stunning Purdue Fort Wayne on the road. Wright State remains one of the top offensive teams not only in the conference but in the country, and the Jaguars are going to have a tough time containing that, much like they did in the first contest.

Robert Morris at Cleveland State, 1pm: The Colonials will be well-rested and riding a three-game winning streak into Cleveland. The last few games between these two teams have been exciting, especially last year’s Horizon League Tournament contest where the Vikings had to come back and beat RMU in overtime. This could be one of those contests that make or break either team’s season and potentially, Cleveland State’s home winning streak.

Northern Kentucky at Youngstown State, 1:30pm: Fewer games have sparked as much intrigue as do the ones between the Norse and the Penguins. With the exception of the Horizon League Tournament semifinals, in which NKU won by double digits, each of these tilts have resembled a heavyweight bout that goes the full 15 rounds. That’s exactly what we saw at Truist Arena with Brandon Rush’s miss from beyond the arc preserving the Norse win. This game will, in all likelihood, live up to the hype once again, with YSU’s Beeghly providing the stage for this on-court drama.

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