#HLWBB Power Rankings — Week 13

Photo: IUPUI Athletics
1Cleveland State2+1
2Green Bay1-1
3Purdue Fort Wayne4+1
4Wright State6+2
6Detroit Mercy3-3
7Northern Kentucky8+1
10Youngstown State9-1
11Robert Morris11

It’s not as if Cleveland State’s sudden three-point heater in their 86-63 win over Green Bay on Saturday came out of nowhere – after all, the deep ball is the Vikings’ favored plan of attack against the Phoenix, and when CSU has managed to win games in the series, it’s generally been because they hit a good number of those attempts. Mickayla Perdue certainly accomplished that on Saturday, connecting on seven of the Vikings’ 15 threes against GB for most of her career-high-matching 30 points. Cleveland State’s final seven conference games won’t be easy – Wright State visits on Wednesday, while Oakland, Milwaukee and an improved Northern Kentucky are also on the docket – but the Vikings have the program’s first Horizon League regular season title squarely in their sights.

Of course, Green Bay can still say the same thing despite that loss to the Vikings, not a small consolation all things considered. Also, at this point, it looks more likely than not that the Phoenix would win a tiebreaker with CSU for the HL’s top seed. That’s not a terribly consequential distinction, as both teams are able to claim a title in the event of a tie atop the standings; it mostly has to do with jersey colors in Indianapolis and the conference’s WBIT autobid. Regardless, between all of that, and what doesn’t seem like a high likelihood of the Vikings managing to repeat Saturday’s performance in March, Green Bay is hardly in awful shape right now. Natalie McNeal was phenomenal against CSU with 30 points on 14-for-22 shooting, mostly from the middle of the floor, along with nine rebounds.

After dropping a probably-closer-than-the-score midweek home game to Cleveland State, a shorthanded Purdue Fort Wayne (Destinee Marshall, Renna Schwieterman and Ryin Ott were absent, the latter suffering an injury against CSU) was pushed by IUPUI in their homecoming game on Saturday. The visitors led 26-21 until a 15-0 Mastodons run over the back half of the second quarter, highlighted by a trio of Klea Kaci threes, put Maria Marchesano’s team in control. PFW never trailed again from there, though they had to fend off a game Jaguars squad that hung around and still had a chance to win in the final minute. Amellia Bromenschenkel led the way with 16 points and six rebounds, while Sydney Graber scored a career-high 11, a total also compiled by Audra Emmerson.

Without a doubt, Wright State’s successful homestand against the HL’s Michigan teams, including an 80-68 win versus Oakland on Wednesday, followed by a 59-53 victory over Detroit Mercy on Friday, was one of the Raiders’ more impressive weeks this season. WSU had been surprisingly unproven against the better teams in the conference prior to that, with a split against Milwaukee standing as their only victory against a top-seven squad. Now, all of a sudden, Wright State is a respectable 3-2 against the Panthers, Purdue Fort Wayne, Oakland and Detroit Mercy, a mark that trails only the Mastodons’ 4-1 among that informal upper-middle-class round robin group. Alexis Hutchison was her usual self in both games, highlighted by 21 points, ten rebounds and six assists against OU. Kacee Baumhower also had an outstanding game against the Grizzlies with 18 points and six boards.

Though Milwaukee punted a game that most good teams should probably win at this point – at Youngstown State on Saturday – it’s probably an aberration in a run that’s seen the Panthers win six of their last eight overall to crawl squarely into the middle of the first-round-bye conversation, alongside Purdue Fort Wayne, Wright State and Detroit Mercy. Grace Crowley was literally perfect against the Penguins, as she became the first player in UWM program history to shoot ten times from the floor without missing, a streak that produced a career-high 21 points. Kendall Nead scored 18 points against YSU and fired home 12, with seven rebounds and four assists, in the Panthers’ win at Robert Morris on Wednesday. Kyle Rechlicz’s team hosts IUPUI and Northern Kentucky this week, essential games for a team in the crowded part of the standings.

Detroit Mercy upset Cleveland State on January 27th – then promptly fell on their faces last week, dropping road games against Northern Kentucky and Wright State. The NKU result is particularly concerning because while the Norse have improved in recent weeks, they’re still 6-15 overall and probably shouldn’t be clubbing teams with realistic thoughts of a Cinderella tournament run by 19 points. On the other hand, it’s probably reasonable to write that outcome off as a learning experience for a program that had just pulled off its biggest win in several years. Myonna Hooper returned to the Titans’ lineup last week after missing the CSU game, though she was quiet in both contests. Irene Murua, Emma Trawally Porta and Amaya Burch were not, with the latter two players each picking up a double-double in the WSU game.

Don’t look now, but here comes Northern Kentucky. The Norse began the Horizon League season 0-6, but have gone 4-2 since, including a home sweep of Detroit Mercy and Oakland last week. Why the turnaround? Take your pick from any number of reasons. Freshman Carter McCray is already a walking double-double. Khamari Mitchell-Steen, who went off for a career-high 29 points against the Titans, has added tremendous offensive production to her always-stout defense. Macey Blevins has been quite a find out of the transfer portal. Kailee Davis is healthy, but no longer has to do it all for Camryn Volz. And hey, don’t forget that Lindsey Duvall is back with the program as the director of basketball operations – any time you can get a competitor of Duvall’s caliber around a young team, that’s a massive win.

It’s getting pretty tough to figure Oakland out. There’s little doubt that they’re a solid team – tomato cans don’t beat Green Bay – but it’s not always easy to find evidence in the results beyond that effort against the Phoenix and a still-hard-to-explain blowout of rival Detroit Mercy on January 13th. Last week, the Golden Grizzlies dropped both legs of their trip to Wright State and Northern Kentucky. Those defeats took OU from a team with a chance at a winning conference record to one that’s 5-8 in the HL and tied with Youngstown State, two games behind the cluster of teams that would have been considered their peers in the recent past. Thanks to 13 points each from Linda van Schaik, Brooke Quarles-Daniels and Kennedie Montue, Oakland was within three of WSU midway through the fourth quarter, before fading down the stretch.

All in all, IUPUI had a pretty nice week, including their presenting a stiff challenge for a very good Purdue Fort Wayne team, that occurring despite something of an off night for Katie Davidson. Earlier in the week, however, Davidson was better, scoring 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting in a 69-63 Wednesday night victory over Youngstown State that looks pretty solid in hindsight. Additionally, Abby Wolterman has emerged as one of the conference’s better frontcourt players in her sophomore year. The six-footer from West Chester, OH has hit double digits in scoring in each of her last seven games (after having six such games in her career prior to the current streak), and she’s done it efficiently – her 55.2 percent rate from the floor is eighth in the HL. Wolterman also grabs 5.4 rebounds per game.

Tenth place feels like a harsh ranking for a Youngstown State team that has improved as the season has gone on, including the Penguins’ most recent result, an upset of Milwaukee on Saturday. Malia Magestro continued her recent hot streak in that victory, connecting on a season-high 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting, to lead the way in a game that also saw Dena Jarrells’ 1,000th career point. Thanks in part to Magestro’s uptick (including 57 points in her last three games), YSU has produced their two best offensive outings of the season over the last two weeks, and while 73 and 71 points won’t cause many double-takes, it’s plenty for a solid defensive squad. The Guins have a nice chance to gain a place in the standings when they visit Oakland this week.

What’s left to say about Robert Morris at this point? The Colonials still haven’t won in 2024, and saw their losing streak hit double digits with a defeat against Milwaukee last week. There is no shortage of places to look for gory stats when a team is 6-16 (2-11 Horizon League), but RMU’s 54.2 points per game, 337th best out of 360 Division I teams, is a decent place to start. Of course, they haven’t even hit their own putrid average over the last six games, totaling 40, 51, 36, 39, 46 and 43 points against Green Bay, Northern Kentucky, Purdue Fort Wayne, Detroit Mercy, Youngstown State and Milwaukee. Accordingly, it’s hard not to wonder about the future of the Buscaglia dynasty in Hoop Township – current coach Charlie or his father Sal has led the program for 20 years – as the Colonials continue to crater.

Player of the Week

Mickayla Perdue (Cleveland State)

Perdue had one of the best outings by any Horizon League player this year on Saturday, and she just so happened to do it in one of the biggest games of the HL season, Green Bay’s visit to the Wolstein Center. Those 20 points Perdue scored in a road game against Purdue Fort Wayne on Wednesday ending up as something of an afterthought underscores how good of a week she had.

Also considered: Carter McCray (Northern Kentucky), Macey Blevins (Northern Kentucky), Khamari Mitchell-Steen (Northern Kentucky), Alexis Hutchison (Wright State), Natalie McNeal (Green Bay), Grace Crowley (Milwaukee)

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)
January 23: Brooke Quarles-Daniels (Oakland)
January 30: Jasmine Kondrakiewicz (Green Bay)

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