The Horizon League had a little bit of everything on Saturday. Norris Cole became the second player in the last 15 years to score at least 40 points and grab at least 20 rebounds in Cleveland State's victory over Youngstown State, Loyola and Milwaukee each got comfortable victories and Valparaiso and Butler continued to assert their positions at the top of the standings.
Cole though was the big story. The Vikings needed every one of his 41 points, 20 boards and 9 assists as they started slowly and didn't pull away from the Penguins until late in their 86-76 victory. Cole's performance is, understandably, grabbing a number of headlines
. Cole is one of ten Cousy Award finalists and he'd certainly be worthy of the award if he won it.
In Chicago the two games looked very similar but resulted in different results for the home teams. Loyola and Milwaukee both sprinted out to early leads against Green Bay and UIC respectively and then held on for victories.
The balance that the Ramblers had been missing during their recent 4-game losing streak returned in their 79-62 victory as Ben Averkamp had a double-double with 18 points and 10 boards, Terrance Hill scored 16 and Geoff McCammon led the team with 22. The Ramblers also got strong performances from Andy Polka, who had 8 points and 8 boards, and Chim Kadima, who scored 7 points. Kadima looked much more comfortable than he did against Milwaukee on Thursday.
The win wasn't perfect for Jim Whitesell's squad. They turned the ball over 13 times and had 12 assists, but 20 offensive rebounds more than made up for it. The Ramblers grabbed a board on 57 percent of their misses. It was a team effort as Averkamp grabbed 7 offensive boards and 6 other players grabbed 2 apiece.
Green Bay has an even split of 2 home games and 2 road games remaining in conference play and that's a good thing for the Phoenix who are now 1-6 on the road in conference. That one win, perplexingly enough, was at Valparaiso.
Over at the Pavilion, the Panthers put together another impressive effort and improved to 10-5 in conference with a 70-59 victory over the Flames. Paul Carter had a rough game. He fouled out thanks to two illegal screens and finished with 6 points. Robo Kreps, who scored 24 points, was the only Flame in double-figures as the team tried too often to go one-on-one on offense. Anthony Hill dominated inside and scored 32 points. More impressive though was Kaylon Williams' 14 assist, 12 board, 1 point effort. He really seems to be the guy that propels the Panthers. Milwaukee has now won 6 consecutive games and go to Valparaiso on Wednesday.
That game will be very important as the Crusaders are still the Horizon League leaders after surviving against Wright State 58-56 on Saturday. The Raiders had two chances to make plays down the stretch but a Vaughn Duggins turnover and N'Gai Evans' failure to get a shot off before time expired cost Wright State down the stretch. Valparaiso is now 11-3 in conference. Duggins scored a game-high 21 points in the loss, but for Wright State a 3-game winning streak has quickly turned into a 2-game losing streak after a poor weekend in Indiana, and with Cleveland State up next it could get worse before it gets better.
Finally, Butler took care of business at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Detroit, 66-51. The Bulldogs look to have the inside track for the #2 seed in the conference tournament, which comes with the double-bye. Shelvin Mack had an excellent game with a career-high 32 points. At 10-5 the Bulldogs are tied with Milwaukee at 1-game behind Cleveland State in the race for that second seed.