#HLWBB Power Rankings — Week 11

Photo: Wright State Athletics
1Cleveland State2+1
2Green Bay1-1
3Wright State3
4Purdue Fort Wayne4
6Detroit Mercy6
8Youngstown State8
10Northern Kentucky11+1
11Robert Morris10-1

Amidst a chaotic week of Horizon League basketball (see below), Cleveland State kept chugging along with victories over Wright State and IUPUI, neither of which were in significant doubt. Colbi Maples and Mickayla Perdue have continued to be chaos agents in the Vikings’ backcourt, consistently forcing turnovers and feeding each other for quick points, while Sara Guerreiro and Carmen Villalobos are two of the more underrated players in the conference. At 8-1, CSU is now tied for first place with Green Bay, and it’s looking more and more likely that a win in the February 3rd meeting between the teams will produce the first regular season conference title in program history. There are nine other HL teams that will do their best to make that statement look foolish in hindsight, but over the last three years, the Vikings have done a remarkable job of winning the games that they’re supposed to win.

It might be unduly harsh to drop Green Bay to second after the Phoenix were upset at Oakland on Saturday, especially given the way they had been mowing down everyone else (including Cleveland State, of course) until then, but the margin between the conference’s top two is extremely tight, and something like a loss to a Golden Grizzlies team that remains under .500 is probably enough to flip things around. Obviously, the Phoenix still controls its own destiny when it comes to securing a second straight regular season title given their visit to the Wolstein Center next month, and there’s really no reason to think any more of Saturday than “that happens sometimes.” Prior to stumbling at OU, Green Bay clobbered Detroit Mercy on Thursday behind their usual balanced and efficient attack, coupled with a defense that forced the Titans into 22 turnovers, nine by point guard Myonna Hooper.

Wright State has demonstrated an ability to compete pretty well with the HL’s top two, as their game against Cleveland State last Wednesday followed a nearly identical script to their meeting with Green Bay on January 7th. In each contest, the Raiders were down big at halftime before they chipped away throughout the third and fourth quarters and made things a bit uncomfortable on their guests, but WSU was ultimately unable to overcome the early deficits and lost by 12 and 11. Leading scorer Alexis Hutchison rightly draws a lot of attention, as does Kacee Baumhower, but Layne Ferrell and Rachel Loobie might be the more underrated reasons for WSU’s improvement this year. Loobie was particularly impressive in the Raiders’ rivalry win over Northern Kentucky on Saturday, as she went 10-for-11 from the floor on the way to a career-high 24 points.

Purdue Fort Wayne went through a bit of an ugly stretch beginning on New Year’s Day that included a 2-4 record and a loss to a struggling Youngstown State team, as well as to a Detroit Mercy squad fighting in the same area of the standings as the Dons. However, Audra Emmerson’s 18 points led the way in a nice bounceback effort on Saturday, as PFW absolutely lit up Robert Morris, 64-36. Emmerson, as usual, was Audramatic from three (okay, it was 4-for-8, but that’s still really good), though she and her teammates didn’t need a ton of offense on an afternoon where they held the Colonials to 24.5 percent from the floor. The victory keeps the Mastodons solidly in position for a first-round bye, though ascendant teams like Oakland and Milwaukee will do their best to make PFW travel.

What made Oakland’s stunner against Green Bay so outstanding was the Grizzlies’ resilience. After all, it’s common to see an underdog jump out of a surprising lead, but typically, as soon as they’re caught, the roof caves in. On Saturday, Oakland was caught twice, including a seven-point third-quarter lead that was gone 90 seconds later, and a nine-point lead later in the frame that evaporated within about four minutes, but they were able to stabilize the game both times. Even more impressively, OU then found itself down five with only 41 seconds remaining. However, Maren Westin and Natalie McNeal missed six straight free throws (if you have to read that twice, I get it, nobody expects Green Bay to blow one in that manner) to keep the door cracked, then Kennedie Montue and Brooke Quarles-Daniels kicked it all the way open with seven straight points. The final two came on a Quarles-Daniels buzzer beater, capping a 27-point, seven-rebound effort. If only Oakland hadn’t lost to Milwaukee two days earlier.

After three straight losses (two against Cleveland State and Green Bay, though the other was an ugly blowout against Oakland), Detroit Mercy delivered a really nice win over Milwaukee on Saturday. The slobberknocker of a 54-52 result was decided by a transitional Hooper jumper from the free throw line with just 1.3 seconds left, immediately after Milwaukee’s Kamy Peppler hit three foul shots to tie the game up. The result moved the Titans to 5-4 in the conference and, just as importantly, helped UDM hold off the Panthers for fifth place in the standings. The level of trust anyone wants to place in a Detroit Mercy program that – let’s not mince words – has sucked for a long time is probably still a fair question, but the bottom line is that the Titans keep winning most of their important games, including on Saturday, and against Purdue Fort Wayne back on January 7th.

Milwaukee missed a major opportunity to establish itself in the upper echelon of the Horizon League standings when they couldn’t finish against Detroit Mercy despite leading for most of the game, including within the final minute, until Hooper sealed the result shut. Still, it wasn’t all bad news for the Panthers during their trip to the mitten, as Anna Lutz’s spectacular evening helped UWM take care of a hot Oakland team on Thursday by a 67-51 score – at the time, the fourth straight win for Kyle Rechlicz’s squad. Lutz went 11-for-12 from the floor, including a couple threes, to wind up with 24 points, and the 6-1 redshirt sophomore also hauled in nine rebounds. The 24 points were a career best for Lutz, while her 91.6 percent clip from the floor is the second best in the Panthers’ Division I history (undoubtedly, with some sort of threshold for shot attempts in place).

On Friday, long-time Youngstown State head coach John Barnes announced that he was stepping down, a permanent extension of a leave of absence that began in October. First and foremost, the concern should be with Barnes and his family as, though the reason for his departure (rightly) remains undisclosed, it plainly must be serious. Within the program, there will be a lot of large questions to answer in a couple months, particularly related to now-interim coach John Nicolais, his staff, and a massive incoming freshman class. Nicolais presented one good argument for getting the job full time on Thursday, when the Guins upset Purdue Fort Wayne behind Paige Shy, Emily Saunders and Dena Jarrells, who bucketed 16 points each. YSU has quietly been playing some solid basketball lately outside of blowout losses to Green Bay and Cleveland State, whether that can continue through the uncertainty remains to be seen.

It might not be terribly obvious from the score, but IUPUI was pretty competitive in their only game last week, a 90-58 loss at Cleveland State – the Jags were within 13 points at the end of the third quarter before the evening fell off of a cliff in the final ten minutes. Katie Davidson proved (again) that she can score against anyone with 11 first quarter points on the way to a team-high 17, while Jazmyn Turner and Abby Wolterman also had solid games against one of the conference’s better frontcourts. Kate Bruce’s squad has always seemed a lot better than its 4-13 overall record, though they’ll have a hard time proving it while facing Green Bay and Oakland this week.

Don’t look now, but Northern Kentucky has slowly started to turn a corner. The Norse beat the brakes off of Robert Morris last Wednesday to finally earn their first conference win, before a respectable showing in defeat against Wright State on Saturday. Players like Kailee Davis, Khamari Mitchell-Steen and constant freshman of the week candidate Carter McCray are firmly on most radars at this point, but Macey Blevins may not be. Blevins, a transfer from Western Kentucky, has surged of late, including 22 points in defeat at IUPUI on January 14th, before following that effort up with 17 against the Colonials. At 1-7 in the conference, most standings-related goals (except, perhaps, a home game in the first round of the HL tournament) are pretty far out of reach at this point, but the Norse have the pieces to be playing their best at the right time of the year.

I generally try to look for something nice to say about everyone in these posts, but that’s getting hard to do for Robert Morris, a team that seemed like they had put things together in December – they took Wright State to overtime on New Year’s Eve, and probably should have won that game – but has since slumped into a seven-game losing streak beginning with that result. Losing is bad enough in and of itself, but RMU has gotten absolutely dog walked in their three most recent contests, including one against an NKU team that was winless in conference play entering the day. Alejandra Mastral has missed each of those blowouts, though it’s hard to imagine any one player making that significant of a difference for Charlie Buscaglia. If there’s good news, it’s that the Colonials still have a decent shot at hosting a first round game, though that will require grabbing a couple dubs at some point.

Player of the Week

Brooke Quarles-Daniels (Oakland)

BQD produced shockwaves across the conference on Saturday with her buzzer beater to take down Green Bay on Saturday, the final two points of her game-high 27 on 11-for-14 shooting. Simply put, it was the sort of transcendent big-game performance that will be a part of the sophomore’s legacy regardless of anything else the sophomore does with the rest of her basketball career.

Also considered: Colbi Maples (Cleveland State), Dena Jarrells (Youngstown State), Audra Emmerson (Purdue Fort Wayne)

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)
January 9: Katie Davidson (IUPUI)
January 16: Mickayla Perdue (Cleveland State)

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