One of the few grey clouds inside the silver lining that is the Purdue Boilermaker’s 17-2 season is their disturbing tendency to play down to the level of their less talented opponents. When the team steps on the court, they can either be the Dr. Jekyll who beat Minnesota on the road, or the Mr. Hyde who was down by double digits to Valpo on a neutral court. The Old Gold and Black followed the script during this past week, first soundly thrashing the ranked MSU Spartans, then sleep walking to an 8 point win over the 5-15 Northwestern Wildcats in Mackey Arena on Sunday.
The game began like many would predict as the Boilers scored easily on offense while keeping Northwestern off balance with tough defense. At the 13 minute mark the Boilers were ahead, 11-4, and an easy victory appeared assured. Then the Boilers’ focus began to wander. The Wildcats played in a zone most of the afternoon. In response, the Boilers looked like they had developed complete amnesia after the Michigan State game. The Boilers repeatedly turned the ball over when attempting entry passes to the low post, and the empty possessions began to catch up to the home team. The Cats never stopped hustling; securing the loose balls and rebounds. The Cats worked themselves back into the game towards the end of the half. After being behind by 9 with less than 3 minuets in the half, the Wildcats used a 9-2 run to cut the margin to 2 points going into the locker room, 29-27.
Any hopes that the Boilers were beginning the second half with a new-found resolve were dashed when game-high scorer A. J. Glasauer beat everyone off the dribble and put in an uncontested lay-up to tie things up at 29. Katie Gearlds responded with penetration move of her own to put the Boilers in front by 2. Northwestern took advantage of Erin Lawless’ lost sneaker to score a 5 on 4 hoop to tie things up yet again. At this point the Boilers finally seemed to feel like ‘enough was enough’ and got down to business. Northwestern was energized themselves, however, and proved to be difficult to shake. Half way through the second they remained only 6 back, 48-42. At the 8:38 mark Cherelle George was given a technical foul because an official misinterpreted her attempt to save a Purdue possession as throwing the ball at a player. This action energized the team and the crowd. They stretched the score from 51-44 when the T was assessed to 67-51 at the final media time out. The Boilers then took their foot off the gas, and wrapped up the game with the same lackluster play that had defined the first half. The Purple and White put up 12 more points to Purdue’s 4 leading to the final score of 71-63
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
The Boiler’s shooting percentage for the game was actually very good – 47% overall, 62% from behind the arc. The Old Gold and Black’s problems arose in getting shots off at all, as more often than not the ball had been choked away earlier in the offensive set.
Northwestern has the honor of being the first Big 10 team in 9 tries to score more than 60 points against the Boilers. Credit the Wildcat’s aggressive attacking, up tempo style and the Boiler’s disinterest in rotating or providing much in the way of defensive effort.
After being out rebounded in the first half, the Boilers’ increased their efforts on the boards in the second and finished the game with 33 rebounds to 27 for the Cats. Katie Gearlds led the way with 7 boards.
Free Throw Shooting:
The 70% effort from the line resulted in 18 points due to the enormous number of fouls whistled on the afternoon. Aya Traore, Erin Lawless, and Katie Gearlds were perfect from the line.
The Boilers committed 21 turnovers, 6 more then their season average. The majority of these turnovers appeared to be due to lackluster attempts by the guards to make entry passes and lackluster attempts by the posts to catch them. All of which added up to a frustrating mess for all concerned.
It is during games such as Sunday’s that Aya Traore’s maturity is particularly appreciated. Unlike her teammates, Aya never takes a day off or a play off. She just brings it every time she steps onto the court. She carried the team through the first half before she was given some help from her friends in the second. Aya finished with a total of 18 points (5-10, 0-1 3 pt.er, 8-8 FT), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, and a blocked shot to 5 turnovers.
The Boiler Nation entered the game hoping that Erin Lawless would finally get back on track. Everything looked great at first – she nabbed an entry pass and connected on an easy shot for Purdue’s first points. Alas, she quickly picked up two quick fouls. When she sat down her concentration and confidence went right out the window. Erin went back to forcing things and struggling to get into an offensive flow. On the afternoon Erin finished with 4 points (1-6, 2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton attempted 12 shots on the afternoon, an indication that she has become one of the team’s main offensive options. The fact she connected on 8 of them for 16 points indicates that she’ll remain a top option for a very long time. Lindsay’s peripheral vision is extraordinary. She reached down to snag a steal when the ball appeared to be behind her and totally out of her line of site. The only disappointing part of Lindsay’s game Sunday was her 0-3 performance from the free throw line. Wisdom-Hylton pulled down 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals to 3 turnovers.
Katie Gearlds got down to business in the second half. When she decided to put the ball in the basket no Wildcat could stop her. The only reflection in the box score that her head wasn’t totally in the game was the 4 turnovers committed. In all, Katie scored 17 points (6-12, 3-5 3pt.er, 2-2 FT), 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals to the aforementioned 4 turnovers.
Sharika Webb was singled out by Curry as one of the players who set the poor tone on the afternoon. While she didn’t appear to be playing any worse than most of her peers, as the starting point guard – and a senior no less- it is incumbent on her to help Purdue maintain a high level of play no matter the opponent. Sharika finished the day with 1 point (0-1, 1-2 FT), 4 assists, and 3 steals to 2 turnovers.
Cherelle George’s shooting touch stuck around from Thursday as she was able to contribute offensively. George is a fiery player, and perhaps that is why the official misinterpreted her actions and assessed a technical foul. From George’s perspective, she was bringing the ball up the court when she lost her footing and was going to go out of bounds. In an effort to retain a Purdue possession, she bounced the ball off a Northwestern player. The official saw it this way: He blew his whistle when Cherelle was pushed out of bounds. Instead of stopping, she threw the ball at the Northwestern player. No amount of explanation changed his mind. To Cherelle’s credit, the JUCO transfer took the situation in stride and retained a positive attitude. George finished with 9 points (2-3, 2-2 3 pt.er, 3-4 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and a turnover.
Natasha Bogdanova had a much better outing than against Michigan State. She had no more success finishing her point blank lay-up than in past games, and missed some defensive assignments, but at least she appeared relaxed and played within the offensive scheme. Bogs failed to score on her lone attempt, but did pull down a rebound, and had a steal and an assist to 2 turnovers.
Danielle Campbell is a natural rebounder, the ball just seems to stick to her hands when she competes for a board. Unlike many post players, Danielle never floats out to the wing. Instead, she stays home on the low block and works for position. Campbell finished with 4 points (1-4, 2-5 FT), and 6 rebounds.
Lauren Mioton, Kiki Freeman, and Carol Duncan played for 1, 3, and 6 minutes respectively. In that time Kiki was able to score once in 2 attempts.
It’s not often that the losing head coach is much happier than the winning one, but that was the case on Sunday. Beth Combs was thrilled that her Wildcats hung with the Boilers and put up 63 points against the Big 10 leaders. Curry, on the other hand, sounded extremely fed up with her team’s inconsistency. It may never be revealed what transpired in the Boiler half time – but when the team came out before the second half they all wore the grim expressions of a group that had been extremely well chewed. Perhaps she was most upset that she could not watch her daughter’s debut as a dancer at half time.
Poor, bad, and worst. Overall, the level of officiating has been much improved this season when compared to past years. Sunday’s game was the exception that proves the rule.
The reported attendance was 8031. It’s not likely that a single one of them was completely happy with Purdue’s performance, although the vast majority were certainly pleased with the win. The crowd directed much of its energies towards booing the officials. In this instance, every cat call was well deserved.
The bright side is that, this year at least, when Purdue wins small against lower ranked opponents it has not been predictive of them losing big to highly ranked foes at a later date. The Boilers have already managed lackluster victories against Valparaiso, Wisconsin, and Michigan only to defeat the likes of Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Minnesota their very next game.
With the win Purdue climbs to 17-2, including 9-0 in the Big 10. When one considers that last year the club managed a grand total of 17 wins to 13 losses, it feels almost petty to quibble over the quality of play. It is the best indication, however, that the Boilers remain a work in progress. Once the team takes its final step towards being an accomplished, mature squad they will come out and play “Boiler Ball” no matter who the opponent.
Game Ball: Aya Traore