In case you haven’t heard- life isn’t fair. No matter how many story lines associated with sporting events are dressed up as the more deserving prevailing in the end (whether they are deserving because they work harder, overcame personal tragedy, or simply believe in themselves), in the vast majority of instances the team with the better athletes wins. Nobody knows this more than the Purdue University Women’s Basketball team. The only reason the players are on that team, after all, is because they were blessed with the right combination of chromosomes. Perhaps it wasn’t fair that the team that left it all on the court Thursday evening would end up down 24 to the team that did nothing to deserve the win save possess more height and talent. But, hey, that’s life.
The Purdue Boilermakers knew that they were going to win when they took on the Indiana Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons on Thursday, and they knew they’d win even if they only played with half their usual effort. So, for 30 minutes, that’s what they brought. The Boilers played rope-a-dope with the Mastodons during most of that time. While the Mastodons were playing their hearts out and making all sorts of shots, the Old Gold and Black played just hard enough to maintain a lead. As is so often the case when a team is dogging it, it was the defensive intensity that lagged far behind. With 7:07 remaining in the first half, the Boilers were up by 2 points, 23-21. Up to that point, IPFW had connected on 60% of their attempts from the floor. That’s a ridiculous percentage for any team to put up on the Old Gold and Black, particularly one whose RPI sits in the three figure range. After the 7 minute mark the Boilers gained some defensive intensity and finished the half on an 11- 4 run to make the half time score 34-25.
Kristy Curry must have had a great deal to say to the team at the intermission, as they emerged from the locker room with only 16 seconds left on the half time score board. Whatever it was she said, it’s fairly clear the Boilers failed to take it to heart. Purdue did score the first 6 points of the stanza, pulling out to a 40-27 lead. They then went back to sleep and IPFW used a 13-0 run to tie it up at 40 all with 14:34 remaining in the game. No doubt a picture of the Mackey scoreboard showing the 40-40 tie will have a prominent place in next year’s Mastodon media guide. As has been the Boiler’s pattern against other weak teams this year, the close score late in the game finally got their attention. The Old Gold and Black ramped themselves up to their customary energy level and flattened the visitors. Keyed by back to back Sharika Webb triples as well as Natasha Bogdanova’s first two makes from downtown, the Boilers finished the game on a 36-12 run. The final score was 76-52.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
The Boilers shot quite well from the floor and from behind the arc at 46% and 64% respectively. As has been the case in other instances where the team has played down to their opponent, the issues have been on the defensive end of the court.
For much of the game the Boilers were in a “tall trees” defense. In this formation, they stand motionless with their hands in the air and allow the other team to dribble around them on the way to the basket. When the Boilers finally got down to business, their defensive efforts were quite good. IPFW had 20 turnovers, 10 of which were credited as Purdue steals.
Rebounding may not be all about effort, but it’s certainly mostly about effort. When Purdue went through the motions they did not rebound particularly well, when they picked up the pace they got to most of the misses. Overall they pulled down 32 boards to 25 for the Mastodons. Aya and Lindsay led the way for the Boilers with 6 each.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers shot extremely well from the line. The first miss occurred at the 6:02 mark of the second half, and overall they went 21-24 from the charity stripe. Lindsay, Katie, Sharika, and Danielle were all perfect on the evening.
For much of the game it was IPFW that dictated the tempo. They chose veeeeerrrry slooooowwww. Their deliberate pace was met by irritation by the Boilers and resulted in the team rushing in an effort to “make things happen.” The result of this was hurried offensive sets and turnovers when the team tried too hard to get out in transition. Despite this, Purdue only had 12 turnovers on the night to 17 assists. No matter how ugly a game looks as its being played out, 17 assists on 23 made baskets and a positive assist to turnover ratio for the team indicates that the squad was doing many things right.
Katie Gearlds gave everyone else ample time to step up and start hitting shots. When none of her teammates took advantage, she took over the game. In the second half Katie looked to score first, pass second. As the Mastodons don’t have the ability to defend her sufficiently, this meant Katie made lots of buckets. The only negative in Katie’s stellar line (20 points, [7-11, 4-5 3 pt.er, 2-2 FT], 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block and 1 steal and 0 turnovers) was the 33 minutes played. IPFW was supposed to be the game that allowed the junior to get some rest. Unfortunately, the Boilers needed all 33 of those minutes from Katie on Thursday.
Aya Traore played another good game. Her speed continues to be deceptive as few players her height get up and down the court like she can. Aya did a good job preventing dribble penetration from IPFW’s speedy backcourt when she was switched onto those players. In all, Aya finished with 17 points (6-12, 0-2 3 pt.er, 5-6 FT) 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
After getting into foul trouble in the last several games, it is possible the Erin Lawless’ main point of emphasis against the Mastodons was to avoid whistles. Mission accomplished. Now she needs to balance playing with defensive intensity without piling on the infractions. On the night Erin totaled 8 points (2-5, 0-1 3 pt.er, 4-6 FT), 4 rebounds, a steal and an assist to 1 turnover.
Lindsay Widsom-Hylton had a tough first half. Her shots wouldn’t fall and she appeared to sustain a hip pointer. She redeemed herself a bit in the second stanza as she went aggressively to the hole and made more of a positive impact. Lindsay recorded 6 points (2-9, 2-2), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and 2 steals to 1 turnover.
Sharika Webb had an odd game. On the one hand, she played hard and looked to score and was able to finish. Webb’s free throw shooting has improved to the point where she can be counted on to make most of her attempts, and she’s becoming increasingly proficient at taking it to the hole on fast breaks. On the other hand, she appeared poorly equipped to dictate the tempo of the game and failed to dish out a single assist. Webby finished with 12 points (2-4, 2-3 3 pt.er, 6-6 FT), 2 rebounds, and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Cherelle George got a taste of her future. The Mastodons did their homework and saw that George is vulnerable to being trapped and pressured when she’s bringing the ball up the court. If IPFW can do it, you better believe that every other team Purdue plays from now on will do it as well. Cherelle can expect to be hounded in the backcourt until she demonstrates the handle and decision making that will make other teams pay. Once she got the Boilers into the half court, Cherelle did a good job of running the point. Curry is putting George at the point and Webb at the shooting guard for an increasing number of minutes, and the two work well together in the backcourt. In all, Cherelle had 3 points (1-2, 1-1 3 pt.er), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal to 3 turnovers.
Natasha Bogdanova must wish that Purdue would play IPFW every time out. For the second year she’s had excellent games against the Ft. Wayne team. On Thursday, Natasha brought out her three point shooting ability – something she has been doing well in practice for some time. Bogs nailed both of her attempts. The success there perhaps gave her some much-needed confidence, as she played defense very well and was able to score on a baseline drive as well. Natasha finished with 8 points (3-5, 2-2 3 pt.er), 2 rebounds, and a turnover.
Danielle Campbell played 14 minutes off the bench. She picked up 4 fouls in that time, as she’s still learning the finer points of post defense. Defending without fouling is one of the most difficult skills for any college player to master, so it’s not surprising that Danielle is still on the steep portion of her learning curve. Other than the infractions she played quite well and ended up with 2 points (0-0, 2-2 FT), 2 rebounds, and a turnover.
Carol Duncan, Kiki Freeman, and Lauren Mioton played for 5, 9, and 7 minutes respectively. It was thought before the game began that this contest would be an opportunity for the bench to step up and grab some minutes through the strength of their time on the court. Unfortunately, none of them did so. Lauren did hand out an assist to go along with a turnover while Kiki failed to score on 2 attempts but did deliver an assist as well.
Kristy Curry has tried it all when it comes to getting her team to play up to their potential against lesser opponents. On Thursday her attitude seemed to be; “Y’all got yourselves into this pickle, y’all can get yourselves out.” She didn’t call any momentum stopper time outs, or visibly get in anyone’s grill. She placed the responsibility for good play right were it belonged- on the players shoulders. The approach appears to have worked, as the Boilers were able to regroup, right the ship, and win going away.
Note to officials: When a player wearing blue touches the ball right before it goes out of bounds, the ball should be inbounded by a player wearing white.
With the exception of some bizarre out-of-bounds determinations the officials did a fine job.
As was the case with the recent Northwestern game, the crowd of 6906 wasn’t very happy with what they saw on the court despite the win. They became particularly distressed when the Mastodons tied things up in the second half.
The bottom line is this: A win’s a win. Purdue finishes its out-of-conference schedule with an overall mark of 19-3. Last year at this time folks were beginning to weight the Boiler’s chances of making the NCAA tournament. This year the biggest question is whether they’ll enter as a 2 or a 3 seed.
Things are heating up as the teams enter the home stretch of the conference race. Purdue and Ohio State are tied at the top of the standings with 1 loss each. Both the Boilers and the Buckeyes face some stern tests, however, and the championship is still very much up for grabs. The Boilers will next face a Minnesota team that is facing a must-win situation after falling at MSU.
The player who gave everything she had every second she was on the court: