Sunday's sequence of events had been all set in the minds of the Purdue Boilermakers long before they actually took the court. Here was how it was "supposed" to go: The team would cruise to an easy victory over an overmatched in-state rival. Then seniors would be recognized for all their contributions to the team before their adoring fans. Last but not least, the Boilers would make the trip to Columbus in a position to do no less than tie for a regular-season championship.
Evidently, Sharon Versyp and her Indiana Hoosiers hadn't received the script. The Hoosiers took advantage of every Purdue tendency to dictate the game's tempo and keep within striking distance. It was the play of a determined, “refuse to lose” senior who made the difference in the final minutes. Unfortunately for the Old Gold and Black, that senior was IU’s Cyndi Valentin.
Things started out well enough. The Boiler defense was absolutely on top of its game, while the team penetrated the Hoosier zone with ease. IU took its first time out at the 17:45 mark with the score 6-0 in the Boiler’s favor. Versyp was able to settle her charges, however, and when the Hoosiers returned to the floor the found their three point stroke. They quickly got back into the game behind a barrage of three pointers. A DeMuth lay-up with 11:47 left in the first gave the visitors their first lead, 10-13. Purdue was ice cold from the field, and between their poor shooting and porous defense they allowed the Hoosiers to pull away. The Crimson and Crème enjoyed their largest advantage of the game at the final media time out – 21-28. Purdue finally got on track in the last two minutes and quickly made up the deficit behind Katie Gearlds’ hot hand. A Wisdom-Hylton bucket with 35 ticks on the clock produced the half’s final points and the score going into the locker room was 32-28 in the Boiler’s favor.
Thing looked to be going the Boiler’s way when Erin Lawless scored on a quick baseline jumper to start the second. Then Purdue went back to being tentative and settling for jump shots while IU scratched and clawed their way back into the game. They regained the lead, 40-42, half way through the second. Purdue responded and pulled back to a tie at 45 all. The teams stayed neck and neck over the final seven minutes. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton hit two key buckets down the stretch, and with a minute left the score was 53-52 in the Boiler’s favor. IU committed several quick fouls in order to get into the bonus, and with 10 seconds remaining in regulation they finally reached the seven foul mark. The ball went into Katie Gearlds’ hands, and she hit both ends of a one and one. With ten seconds left and Purdue up 55-52 it appeared as if a victory was ensured. Cyndi Valentin had other ideas, however. She took the inbounds pass, raced up the court, and hit an uncontested three point shot to push the game into overtime.
IU drew first blood in the overtime, but Gearlds was able to answer and the score was tied with 3:35 remaining. It was then that Purdue lost its composure. On the next Boiler possession Sharika Webb was called for a moving screen and the ball went back to the Hoosiers. The Old Gold and Black then incurred two 30 second shot clock violations due to 2 last second desperation air balls. In between IU scored again to go out to a 2 point lead. Another timely Wisdom-Hylton bucket knotted things up yet again. With 36 seconds remaining, Valentin hit a runner in the lane to put the visitors ahead 59-61. Now it was Purdue’s turn to rack up some quick fouls in order to put IU on the line. Most of the fouling was done by Sharika Webb, and when she fouled Jennie DeMuth with 12 seconds remaining she was disqualified. DeMuth missed the front half of her one and one and Purdue snared the rebound. Katie Gearlds took the ball the length of the court and hit a short jumper to tie things up yet again with 4 second left. At this point Cherelle George believed Purdue was still down 1, and she immediately fouled Valentin. The Hoosier senior is one of the better free throw shooters in Division 1, and she calmly nailed her freebies to give IU a 63-61 lead. Purdue’s attempts to throw a Hail Mary pass and hit a last second shot fell short, and IU walked out of Mackey the winners, 63-61.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the game.
It was immediately obvious that all the Boiler's points came from 4 players and that the bench failed to score a single point. What's more disturbing, however, was the fact that the bench only attempted one shot, and that only 23 shots of 52 were attempted by players not named Gearlds or Traore. Those two players shot quite well, giving the Boilers a total of 44% shooting for the game (although only 21% from behind the arc).
Purdue primary problem was its failure to get out on three point shooters, in many instances the Purdue defender would be standing on the wrong side of an IU screen watching another long bomb find the target. In all the Hoosiers connected on 71% of their three point attempts, a ridiculous number. The Boilers' lack of perimeter defense could not be equalized by their work closer towards the basket, although the post players appeared to be defending fairly well.
Perhaps Curry was extremely worried about IU's abilities as a transition team. Perhaps it was just another symptom of the Boiler’s dysfunctional performance on the afternoon. Whatever the reason, when Purdue’s shots went up only 1 post player was under the basket while the rest of the team raced back into defensive position. The result of these 1 on 4 mismatches was that virtually every shot was one-and-done for the Boilers. IU pulled down 35 rebounds to Purdue's 29. The teams were even in the defensive rebounding department, but the Old Gold and Black's strategy only netted 5 "O" boards.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers were perfect from the stripe, hitting all 11 of their attempts. Not surprisingly, the only players who attempted free throws were Katie Gearlds and Aya Traore.
The Boilers have struggled with zone defenses at times, and on Sunday they played as if they had never seen a zone in their lives. This is odd considering that they play one themselves, and thus presumably understand the formation inside and out. In a zone players must be found quickly as they flash to seams in the defensive formation or skip passes must be used to put pressure on the defenders by requiring them to shift back and forth. Unfortunately, Purdue's attempts at entry passes were a beat too slow, the only player who could flash to the high block and score was Katie Gearlds, and their efforts to shift the zone were pretty much nonexistent. As a result the Boilers spent most of their time passing around the perimeter and pretty much ignored the post players when they did manage to establish position on the low block. The one bright side to Purdue's decision making was that the perimeter players did not repeatedly attempt to force the ball inside when the posts were well guarded. This kept the number of Boiler turnovers to a semi-respectable 16.
Aya Traore was given the Cyndi Valentin defensive assignment. Having one player (no matter how good) spend almost every minute of a 45 minute game defending a speedy little guard who never stops moving is not a recipe for offensive success. Having Aya chase Valentin effectively eliminated her offensive output, and the fifth-year senior was too exhausted by the end of the contest to keep in front of the determined Hoosier. Aya finished with 9 points (3-7, 0-2 3 pt.er, 3-3 FT), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a block, and a steal to 6 turnovers.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton had a fantastic game, perhaps her best ever. She found her points within the flow of the offense. She stepped up and took and hit big shots when they were needed, and she was instrumental in shutting down the Hoosier's inside game. In all Lindsay had 14 points (7-11), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 6 (6!!) blocked shots to 1 turnover.
In the words of color commentator Debbie Antonelli, Erin Lawless has "blow by" and if she'd just "put it on the deck" she'd be able to score "off the bounce." Translated into English this means that Erin may be better served taking slower post players off the dribble by attacking the basket rather than settling for jump shots. Catching the ball on the perimeter and either taking it to the hole or shooting a jump shot were Erin's only options on Sunday as the perimeter players had a very difficult time finding anyone posting up. Erin ended up with 6 points (3-8, 0-2 3 pt.er), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Katie Gearlds did her best Kelly Mazzante imitation on Sunday. She took 42% of the Boiler's attempted shots. What is more, it appeared as if the Boiler's offensive strategy was for Katie to score every Purdue point on the afternoon. Time and again the ball would get passed back to the junior after her teammates had played a round of hot potato watching the shot clock run down. While it's wonderful that Purdue has a player of Katie's caliber to bail them out (and she did almost win the game for the Boilers), the team needs to find a way for Katie to fit into an overall offensive scheme, not to be its beginning and end. Katie left it all on the court after 45 minutes of intense effort as she delivered 32 points (10-22, 4-12 3 pt.er, 8-8 FT), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and a blocked shot and 1 steal to 1 turnover.
It's a shame that Sharika Webb struggled so mightily on the day that was designated to honor the seniors. For whatever reason, Webb had a very lackluster outing. She elected to watch three point shooters rather than to fight to get out to them, could not connect on her shot, and ended up fouling out of the contest. Sharika has improved a great deal since the beginning of last year, but she still can not seem to dictate a game’s tempo. Sharika was tentative and failed to deliver passes in a timely manner. Although it's better that she hold onto the ball rather than attempt to pass and make a sure turnover, doing so played directly into the Hoosier's slow down strategy. Sharika failed to score on 3 shot attempts, but did pull down 3 rebounds, and deliver 4 assists and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Cherelle George learned a very hard lesson about the necessity of always keeping score and time in mind. She intentionally fouled Cyndi Valentin after Gearlds had tied the game 61-all because she thought that Purdue was still behind. The junior transfer was distraught when she recognized her error. Although the miscue hurt the Boilers in a big way, in truth she should not have been placed in this position. If the team had taken care of business, they would have won handily. Here's hoping that Cherelle learns from the incident and bounces back. Cherelle did not score in her lone attempt, but did pull down a rebound to 3 turnovers.
Natasha Bogdanova, Danielle Campbell, and Carol Duncan saw the court for 7, 2, and 3 minutes each. In that time they did enough to incur the wrath of the coaching staff and were promptly sat back down.
To her credit, head coach Kristy Curry stated immediately after the game that she had done a poor job and that her decisions cost Purdue the win. It's difficult to disagree with that assessment. By the end of the game the starters were utterly exhausted, and the bench players so jumpy they were totally ineffective. One has to wonder what would have happened if the coaches had put Kiki Freeman out as a defensive presence, or called Danielle Campbell's number on the low block. Alas, we'll never know.
The entire coaching staff appeared to be uncharacteristically emotional, and, like the players, appeared to lose their composure down the stretch. In one instance, Natasha Bogdanova wiped off a Traore trey due to a three second violation 2 minutes after she and Campbell had entered the game. Kelly Curry immediately pulled both players off the court in disgust. In another instance, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton was given the Valentin assignment. While Lindsay is a fantastic defensive player, anybody who had seen them play knew that Cyndi would blow by Lindsay in a heartbeat. For the Purdue brain trust to even consider this move indicates that they were getting desperate.
Like players, coaches learn from experience, and there's no doubt that they will be more prompt in making the necessary adjustments in future games. Part of that involves biting the bullet and allowing bench players to make some mistakes. While that's a difficult thing for a coach to do, Sunday's outcome illustrates that the alternative can be even worse.
No home cooking here. If anything the Boilers were on the short end of the officiating stick. The officials were extremely inconsistent, and all the players had trouble adjusting as the officials swung from periods of not calling anything to whistling every touch foul. For the record, however, Versyp did not call a time out in overtime when she did not have one left. This was a misunderstanding by the announcers, not an error by the officials.
A reported 8435 stuck around after the game to honor our four seniors: Carol Duncan, Aya Traore, Ashley Mays, and Sharika Webb. It's a shame that everyone was still smarting from the loss and could not enjoy the celebration. In the "keep everything in perspective" department -Aya walked out accompanied by the Currys and her high school coach. These coaches have been Aya’s family during the past several years as her parents remain in Africa. It was a vivid reminder of how much the Senegal native is giving up to pursue her dream of playing basketball and receiving an education in America.
This one really hurt. With the loss the Boilers fall to 21-4, including 12-2 in the Big 10. It puts the team in the extremely unenviable position of needing to secure a win in Columbus in order to share the Big 10 regular season championship crown with OSU. The Buckeyes have not lost since they fell to Purdue in Mackey, and they represent an enormous challenge. If Purdue fails to beat OSU, they will finish in second place in the regular season. This is quite an improvement on last year's 5th place finish and is 2 spots better than what was predicted by the media and coaches at the start of the year. It is a large disappointment, however, when one considers that with a little better play at the end of 2 overtime games they could be undefeated in the conference.
Game Ball: Cyndi Valentin