The seeds of the match-up between Purdue University and IPFW were planted two years ago when the NCAA made the decision to model their women's post season tournament after the men's. In the future, the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament will be held at neutral sites. Eight sites will host eight teams and produce two squads apiece to advance to the regionals. To implement the plan, eight mid-size neutral venues must be identified per year. One of the closest of these candidate venues is the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. Purdue would like nothing more than to convince the selection committee that they could fill the facility with paying Gold and Black fans if Purdue was sent to the Coliseum. Purdue can’t demonstrate how well their fans travel, however, unless they play a game in Fort Wayne. This leads them, by default, to the IPFW Mastodons – the only Division I team to grace the Jewel of the Rust Belt. So the school that is hoping to join the Horizon Conference was scheduled to a home and home series. Everyone in West Lafayette knew that the Mastodons were overmatched, but even Curry appeared to be shocked when she observed first hand what passes for “controlled chaos” Mastodon style.
When Bruce Patterson’s team played Purdue on Sunday, he gave a 40 minute clinic on why most basketball teams, at least those that have any illusions of winning their games, do not use the “controlled chaos” approach. The Mastodons opened the game using a full court press on every possession – and continued to do so for the entire contest, sending platoon after platoon of fresh players onto the court. From the Boiler’s perspective, this amounted to a 40 minute press breaking/ 3 on 2 lay-up drill during which an official scorekeeper kept statistics.
Turns out, if statistics are recorded for this type of drill – a team will score over 100 points. They will do this by having 34 assists on 43 made baskets in 70 attempts and by outscoring their opponent by a 68 point margin.
The Mastodon’s offensive philosophy was as peculiar as their defensive one. Their one goal was to take over 90 shots. Mission accomplished. Unfortunately for IPFW, of 92 attempts only 15 found their way through the hoop. The game was never in doubt, and the only suspense for the Mackey faithful was if the Boilers would crack the century mark. The game did represent a chance for fans to see the freshmen featured as every player got lots of minutes.
The attitude of the Purdue players appeared to be – “If a team wants to hand us a win on a silver platter, guess it would be impolite not to take it.” The Boilers never pressed, and Curry substituted liberally. Even so, the final margin was 107-39.
Comments on specific aspects of the game
After the game Erin Lawless was quoted as saying that she didn’t think the Boilers ran a play all night. They just took what the Mastodons gave them – which in most instances were easy baskets at the end of the ineffectual press attempts. The only sore spot for the Boilers was 1-9 three-point shooting.
With their stated goal of getting over 90 shots be they good or bad, the visitors were largely self-defending. Despite IPFW’s miserable 16% success rate from the field, the Boiler’s defense was never tested. Purdue players were was taller, quicker, and usually in better position. Of note was the incredible 11 blocked shots on the afternoon.
A consequence of playing a team that throws up lots of poor shots is that there was ample opportunity to rebound. The Boilers grabbed an astounding 64 boards. Their 49 defensive rebounds beat out the Mastodon’s total of 45 by three. Emily Heikes led the way with 13 caroms.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers could stand to improve from the free throw line, and one hopes that once the season gets under way things will settle down in this department. On Sunday they connected on 20 of their 31 attempts for a total of 64%. Erin, Katie, Natasha, Lindsey, and Tye were perfect from the line.
A Purdue record 34 assists were recorded for the game including career highs of eight apiece for Katie Gearlds and Sharika Webb. By and large the team played well although as the point differential climbed the play did become a bit sloppy. One indication of the Boiler’s unselfish team play was the fact that 10 of the 13 players on the court recorded at least 1 assist.
Emily Heikes and Erin Lawless looked good to go. Both played well and with intensity while on the floor. They (and every other forward) were the beneficiary of numerous fast break opportunities.
Katie Gearlds’ shooting touch was off as she failed to connect on a single three point shot attempt. No doubt this will improve as her leg heals and she adjusts to her thumb bandage. As a playmaker and court leader, however, Katie is in mid-season form.
The Mastodon’s emphasis on pressing the ball was wonderful practice for Sharika Webb. She appeared increasingly comfortable during her 18 minutes of playing time. Sharika also recorded the team’s only trey on the afternoon.
Ashley Mays was credited with a team–high 4 steals, but struggled on the offensive end. Perhaps it is because she has not played as many minutes as the other starters, but Ashley has trouble finding her teammates with her passes and finishing when she goes to the hoop.
Every player got an opportunity to play, and by and large they redeemed themselves quite well. Brina Pollack and Natasha Bogdanova stood out as newcomers who made an impact. Brina looked comfortable bringing the ball up the court, found open players with some consistency, and recorded 4 assists.
Natasha played like a demon every second, and earned Big 10 player-of-the-week honors for her efforts. While her team-high 23 points grabbed the headlines, this observer’s favorite play was when she dived on the floor for a loose ball at the end of the game.
Aya Traore was third highest scorer with 15 points in 19 minutes. The open court style suited Aya, and she demonstrated her quickness and athleticism. Aya still has a little rust after being on the shelf for a year as her five turnovers would indicate.
Kristy Curry seemed as bemused as her players when asked to comment on the Mastodon’s style of play. She basically used the game as another exhibition as it allowed her to spread the minutes and mix and match player combinations.
The Boilers attempted 31 free throws to the Mastodon’s 8. This was not officiating bias so much as an indication of the visitor’s out of control style of play. In the second half, the officials appeared to want the game to end as quickly as possible, as they swallowed their whistles except to call the most obvious infractions.
The announced attendance was 8421 although there were far fewer in the stands. The crowd didn’t have a whole to cheer about as there was little suspense after the first minute of play. They cheered the loudest when Purdue hit 100 points and when recruit Amber Harris jumped up to the rim to dislodge a stuck ball. The band outdid itself with a variety of selections including a stirring rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. This promises to be a good year for those who enjoy the pep band.
The benefits of scheduling IPFW will be measured by the size of the crowd that appears in Fort Wayne next year. The Old Gold and Black were not challenged in any way, but the Boilers will gladly sacrifice a challenging pre-season opponent for the opportunity to play close to home in March. There is a second advantage that may come of the mismatch as well. If the word gets out that Purdue soundly beat the team that attempted to press its back court, it might make others think twice before employing the same strategy. The next game will undoubtedly prove to be much tougher as the Boilers travel to Texas to play a good Arkansas team in Corpus Christi.
Game Ball: Natasha Bogdanova