Butler Bulldogs (4-6): Butler has continued to struggle in the early stages of the 2011-12 college basketball season. However, don’t start writing Butler’s obituary just yet. Horizon League fans shouldn’t forget that Butler began last season slowly and bottomed out with a loss to Youngstown State before turning their season around and not losing again until the NCAA Tournament final against Connecticut. The Bulldogs dropped their Horizon League opener to Valparaiso in overtime by a score of 77-71. Four days later, the Bulldogs lost at home to the nationally ranked Xavier Musketeers by a score of 73-61. On Saturday, Butler lost a road game against Ball State by a score of 58-55 in a game in which a furious second-half comeback fell short. The Bulldogs will face Purdue on Saturday in a neutral-site game at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Cleveland State Vikings (10-1): Cleveland State has continued their strong start to the season with a series of close victories. The Vikings eked out a 45-43 victory over Wright State when senior D’Aundray Brown tipped in a shot at the buzzer. Two days later, Cleveland State hung tough in the second half and pulled out a 66-61 victory on the road over the Detroit Titans. The Vikings ended their long streak of road games with a matchup in Pittsburgh against Robert Morris. Although the Colonials significantly cut into the Vikings’ second-half lead, Cleveland State used solid free-throw shooting to clinch a 62-58 victory. The Vikings finally returned home last Saturday to face the Akron Zips. Despite once again losing a second-half lead, the Vikings escaped with a 69-66 victory on a Jeremy Montgomery 3-pointer in the final seconds. Cleveland State will spend this week taking final exams before taking their talents to South Florida for a road matchup next Monday.
Detroit Titans (5-7): The Titans began Horizon League play with a hard-fought 64-61 loss to the Youngstown State Penguins. Cleveland State kept the Titans winless in conference play with a 66-61 defeat two days later. The Titans rebounded with a nationally televised 69-63 win against St. John’s on the night when the basketball court at Calihan Hall was named “Dick Vitale Court”. Although he is now best known as one of the best-known commentators in sports, Vitale previously coached the Detroit Titans during the 1970’s. The Titans continued their winning ways against Western Michigan with a 92-81 triumph that marked the return of talented center Eli Holman. After being placed on a leave of absence at the start of the season following an offseason assault charge, Holman returned to action and scored 21 points, pulled down 7 boards, and blocked 4 shots in only 19 minutes of action. Poor shooting at the outset doomed the Titans in their next contest against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and the Titans lost 62-54. The Titans will spend the week concentrating on finals before returning to action against Mississippi State on Saturday.
Green Bay Phoenix (5-6): The Phoenix began Horizon League play with a 71-68 victory against the UIC Flames. Two days later, the Phoenix used tough defense to knock off the Loyola Ramblers by a score of 57-47. The Phoenix suffered a 70-42 defeat against the nationally-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in a game in which the Phoenix were only able to seriously challenge the Badgers during the opening 10 minutes. Facing another nationally-ranked opponent three days later, the Phoenix lost to the Marquette Golden Eagles by a score of 79-61 despite a career-best night from sophomore Alec Brown, who scored 22 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. The Phoenix rebounded from these resounding losses with a 69-61 victory over Division II Michigan Tech. After having over a week off to take final exams, the Phoenix will square off against Idaho at home on December 22nd.
Loyola Ramblers (2-7): The Ramblers began Horizon League conference play with a 59-41 loss to the talented Milwaukee Panthers. Two days later, the Ramblers lost to another Wisconsin team as they lost to the Green Bay Phoenix by a score of 57-47. Although the Ramblers narrowed Green Bay’s sizable second-half lead down to seven points with 52 seconds left in the game, the Ramblers could pull no closer as they dropped their second straight conference matchup. Despite a career-high 29 points from senior Walt Gibler, the Ramblers then lost to the DePaul Blue Demons four days later in a game in which the Ramblers trailed by as much as 33 points. The Ramblers finally secured their second win of the season three days later with a 57-55 victory over the Toledo Rockets when junior Ben Averkamp nailed a game-winning jump shot. The Ramblers’ victory is even more notable in light of the fact that they were without Gibler and Joe Crisman, two of their key players. Loyola will attempt to obtain their third win of the season at home against Chicago State on Saturday.
Milwaukee Panthers (8-2): Sparked by the return of talented senior forward Tony Meier, the Panthers began Horizon League conference play with a 59-41 triumph over the Loyola Ramblers that marked the return of talented guard Tony Meier. Two days later, the Panthers needed overtime in order to obtain their second straight victory in Horizon League conference play, a 73-71 victory over the UIC Flames. Playing their third game in six days, the Panthers used a barrage of 3-point shooting to knock off the DePaul Blue Demons by a score of 87-76. The Panthers suffered their first loss of the season to Northern Iowa by a score of 67-51. Three days later, the Panthers squared off against the nationally-ranked Wisconsin Badgers at home. Ja’Rob McCallum and Kyle Kelm, two Panther starters, missed the game due to injury. However, the Panthers fought hard and rallied in the second half behind Meier. Nevertheless, the Panthers fell short by a score of 60-54. The Panthers will return to action on the road on Saturday against Nebraska-Omaha.
UIC Flames (3-6): The Flames kicked off Horizon League conference play with a road matchup against the Green Bay Phoenix. Daniel Barnes was stripped of the ball by the Phoenix’s Kam Cerroni with five seconds left and the Phoenix escaped with a 71-68 victory over the visiting Flames. The Flames dropped another tough game two days later to the Milwaukee Panthers, losing by a score of 73-71 after Gary Talton missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Flames notched their third win of the season against Northern Illinois by a score of 62-55. Three days later, the Flames shot poorly and fell victim to the Oregon State Beavers by a score of 95-53. The Flames will return to action on Friday night against Central Michigan.
Valparaiso Crusaders (7-3): The Crusaders kicked off Horizon League conference play in dramatic fashion with a 77-71 overtime victory over the defending Horizon League Tournament champion Butler Bulldogs. Valparaiso could have won the game in regulation, but a potential game-winning 3-pointer from Matt Kenney came after the buzzer. Four days later, the Crusaders’ second-half rally against the IPFW Mastadons came up short as they lost by a score of 85-76. The Crusaders returned to their winning ways with a 82-79 triumph at home against the Bowling Green Falcons in a game that was hotly contested for much of the second half. Valparaiso will return to action on Saturday at home against Oakland University.
Wright State Raiders (4-7): One of the youngest teams in the Horizon League, Wright State has struggled in the early part of the 2011-12 college basketball season. The Raiders dropped their Horizon League opener in heartbreaking fashion to the Cleveland State Vikings by a score of 45-43. However, the Raiders rebounded in impressive style two days later with an impressive 63-62 victory over the visiting Youngstown State Penguins in a closely fought contest. Armond Battle’s free throw with 1.4 seconds remaining in the game gave the Raiders the lead, and the Penguins’ Damian Eargle missed a shot as time ran out that would have given the Penguins a road victory. However, the Raiders proceeded to lose on the road to Air Force by a score of 55-34. Returning home to Ohio, the Raiders squared off against neighboring Miami of Ohio and defeated the RedHawks by a score of 51-49. The Raiders faced another southern Ohio team on Wednesday as they battled the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats defeated the Raiders by a score of 78-58 in a game in which the Raiders only led once. Wright State will return to action on Saturday against Ohio University.
Youngstown State Penguins (6-3): Paced by a career-best 24 points from senior DuShawn Brooks, Youngstown State won its Horizon League conference opener with a 64-61 victory on the road over the Detroit Titans. The Penguins were then shocked on the road by the struggling Wright State Raiders by a score of 63-62. Three days later, the Penguins used a strong performance on defense to dominate Division III Fredonia State by a score of 69-35. The Penguins faced another New York team four days later when they traveled to Buffalo to face the Buffalo Bulls. Despite once again sinking a school-record 14 3-pointers, the Penguins lost to the Bulls by a score of 80-72. The Penguins will return to action on Saturday when they travel across Ohio to face the Toledo Rockets.