Purdue 88, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee 60
Although the 2003-2004 season is only 3 games old, the Purdue Boilermakers have already experienced a year's worth of emotional highs and lows. The elation of the opening K-State win was shot to earth a week later by the team's collapse against Duke. The fact the Boilers lost wasn't an issue (Duke was coming off 2 consecutive Final Four trips, their own tough loss, and was ranked #3 after all) so much as how they lost. The Boilers were flat and unfocused, and the ineffective play raised real questions about the team's competitiveness. It was the players' and coaches' assertion that they would rise to this new challenge and overcome the problems that were so glaringly apparent in Raleigh.
The first opportunity for Purdue to demonstrate this new found determination occurred when the Vegas Gold and Black took on the UW-Milwaukee Panthers Tuesday evening in Mackey Arena. Purdue took advantage of the fact that the Panthers were totally overmatched to worry more about their own game than anything the opponent might do. The Boilers concentrated on running their sets and cycling through their offensive and defensive formations with little regard for what the Panthers were doing. In the first half the emphasis appeared to be on scoring out of a half-court offense; making at least three passes on every offensive possession and then getting the ball inside for the shot. UW-M did their part, as they seemed to tire of playing defense after 20 seconds had gone off the shot clock and often stood back and watched when the final baseline cutter got open. As one might expect from such a game plan, Curry's charges did most of their damage in the paint, passing up numerous wide-open three-point looks. At the first media time out the score was 12-4 in the home team's favor. Numerous substitutions put the Boilers a bit out of their defense in the later part of the half, but the Panthers got nowhere near Purdue on the scoreboard. The home team was ahead by 21 points at the half - 49-28.
The Boilers opened things up in the second half, looking for transition opportunities and playing in a more free wheeling style. Purdue also ran various offensive plays with a varying degree of success, and threw in a mix of defensive looks as well. The home team had little trouble maintaining a large point cushion throughout the second half. The final score was 88-60.
Comments of Specific Aspects of the Game:
This year's edition of the Boilers is an excellent shooting team. This high efficiency is a combination of taking lay-ups and other high percentage shots with having talented shooters who can knock down any open look. The Boilers shot a white-hot 70% from the field in the first half, and ended the game with an overall 64% success mark. Purdue kept up their blistering pace behind the arc as well, connecting on 3 of their 7 attempts for 43%.
The Panthers committed 26 turnovers, 13 of which were credited as Boiler steals. Many of these were made when Purdue pressed and trapped the hapless Milwaukee players in the backcourt. The visitors were held to 36% shooting in the first half. In the second half Purdue's attention to tight defense began to lapse and the Panthers took advantage of some easy looks. For the game the Panthers shot 40%, 23% from behind the arc.
The Boilers were beat on the boards early in the game, but made up ground and finished with a slight advantage - 30-27. A point of concern was the 12 offensive boards the Panthers pulled down, and Purdue needs to continue on working at boxing out. Hicks, Wright, and Gearlds shared team-high honors with 5 boards each.
If you're a glass one-eighth full type, you'd notice that Purdue shot better from the free throw line than from behind the three-point arc. A glass seven-eighths empty type would note the terrible percentage for an unguarded shot. Like courtesy, poor free throw shooting is contagious. The team struggled from the line, connecting on only 13 of 27 attempts for 48%. Despite the dismal performance overall, Valek and Gearlds were perfect from the line.
Purdue recorded 24 assists and 19 turnovers on the evening. The vast majority of the turnovers occurred when the perimeter players forced passes into the posts while in the half court. Every eligible Boiler played, and the team did well in other aspects of decision making no matter who was on the floor at any given time.
Shereka Wright played within herself, taking what was given without ever looking to be forcing shots. She was so much faster than any defender that she could consistently beat them to the basket, and scored on many lay-ups as a result. Shereka struggled uncharacteristically from the free throw line, but in every other aspect had an excellent game. Shereka finished with 17 points (7-13, 0-1 3 pt.er, 3-7 FT), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 2 blocked shots to 0 turnovers.
Unlike the rest of the team, things didn't get any easier for Emily Heikes just because they were playing UW-Milwaukee. Emily’s assignment on the night was Maria Viall, the best player in the Horizon League. Emily had an inconsistent game - on some trips down the court she'd out-quick and out-battle her opponents and do well. On others she'd miss box outs and appeared to be out of position. Overall she recorded 6 points (3 - 5), 4 rebounds, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
Lindsey Hicks appeares to be extremely comfortable on the court. She is shooting in rhythm, and hit from everywhere inside the arc. Lindsey is also going to the boards with authority and getting out well when Purdue is pressing on defense. Lindsey had a total of 8 points (4-8, 0-1 3 pt.er), 5 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
After the Duke game Beth Jones was quoted as saying that the team failed to compete because it didn't get back up after being knocked down, and that in the future they'd continue to battle back. At the start of the game, Beth appeared to still be somewhere in North Carolina. She threw a series of poorly considered passes for turnovers and generally looked out of synch. Jones took her own quotes to heart, however, and in the second half she threw off her funk and played quite well. In all Beth recorded a total of 8 points (3-3, 1-1 3 pt.er, 1-3 FT), 1 rebound, 2 assists, and 2 steals to 5 turnovers.
More than any time in the past year, Erika Valek seemed intent on setting up the offense and feeding her teammates. For the first time in many games scoring was an afterthought, although Erika connected on pull-up jump shots when she did look for her points. In what has to be considered a subdued performance from the fiery point guard, Valek totaled 8 points (3-5, 2-2 FT), 6 assists and 1 steal to 1 turnover.
A logical guess would be that Indi Johnson had a very good week of practice leading up to Tuesday's game. She was the first player off the bench - entering the game at the 16 minute mark of the first half. While it was clear that she is still inexperienced defending in the paint, she used her size well and competed hard. Indi's best move may have been when she out sprinted her defenders to receive a baseball pass. In 12 minutes time Indi recorded 4 points (1-1, 2-4 FT), 1 rebound, 2 assists to 1 turnover.
Katie Gearlds lives by the adage: As she giveth the baseball pass for the easy transition lay-ups so shall she receive. Katie was on both ends of half court passes, and was equally successful as both the catcher and the catchee. Gearlds certainly doesn't play like a freshman, as court vision and poise remain her strongest assets. Katie also demonstrated her versatility, as she'd act the point guard at times while at others she posted up down low and scored over shorter defenders. In another box score stuffing line, Katie finished the night with 17 points (7-9, 2-3 3 pt.ers, 1-1 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, a blocked shot and a steal to one turnover.
Sharika Webb is quietly becoming a terrific back up point guard. She is benefited in this regard from the overall team speed, as she now has the players that can take advantage of her half court passes in transition. Webb has improved her ball handling over the summer, and is starting the year on a high note. In 16 minutes Sharika recorded 5 points (1-1, 3-5 FT), a rebound, 6 assists, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
Ashley Mays looks better every time out. She finally was successful making a penetration move to the basket, and is an extremely active defensive player. Ashley finished with 2 points (1-1), and an assist to 2 turnovers.
Sabrina Keys just needs a little more confidence to get into the swing of things. Her interior defense looks better every time out, and her 3 rebounds in 9 minutes playing time was the most efficient effort on the team.
Erin Lawless makes an impact whenever she's on the court. She has an uncanny knack of snaking in difficult shots near the baseline, and she gets her shot off so quickly she's extremely difficult to defend. Erin tends to get too aggressive defensively, and she was disqualified late in the second half. Once she's mastered the finer points of positioning, her rebounds will undoubtedly go up as her fouls decrease. Even at her present level of play, however, she is a formidable performer. In 15 minutes Erin recorded 11 points (5-7, 0-1 3 pt.er, 1-5 FT) 2 rebounds, and a blocked shot to 2 turnovers.
Carol Duncan has embraced her role as a tough and active defender. She threw herself into establishing position and mixing it up under the boards against Maria Viall. In addition to playing tough-minded defense, Carol scored 2 points (1-2), pulled down a rebound, and recorded an assist, a steal, and a turnover.
Hannah Anderson was brought in for the final 3 minutes of the contest. While her appearance on the court delighted many of the fans in attendance, she did not impact the box score.
The bar has been officially raised. Kristy Curry appeared to be much less tolerant of errors and sloppy play than she has been in the past. On Tuesday, a missed box out would immediately land the offending player a seat on the bench. Ditto sloppy play or poor pass selection. This is undoubtedly a reaction to the Boilers' level of play against Duke. As many more tough opponents loom in the future, it certainly makes sense to demand error-free ball no matter who the opponent.
The officials did a credible job.
The official attendance was 9020, although, from the appearance of Mackey arena, a fair number of students and season ticket holders stayed home. The game had more of a Purdue flavor than the State Farm Tip-Off, as the crowd was treated to the "Dance of the Tubas" before tip off, and to a steady stream of crowd contests during the time outs.
UW-Milwaukee is the first of three quick games the Boilers will play in the next week. On Friday and Saturday they match up against The University of South Florida and Wake Forest in Orlando. As was the case with UW-M, the Boilers should handle their next 2 opponents with little problem. While 3 victories will help get some of the bad taste of the Duke loss out of the mouths of the players and their fans, doubts about the team will remain until they take on another highly ranked opponent.
Game Ball: Katie Gearlds