Despite early reports that the Big 10 conference is experiencing a down year, its collective teams have enjoyed a very successful pre-conference season. As a league, the B10’s record in pre-conference play was 95 -39, and they were the last major conference to have every team over .500
The Michigan Wolverines were horrid last year, going 0 for the Big 10 as part of a 6 -23 season. They entered the game Thursday against the Purdue Boilermakers in Mackey arena with a 7-6 record, and the Michigan faithful are surely hoping that the Wolverines’ fortunes might be starting to take a turn for the better. Five minutes after the opening tip, however, it was clear that Cheryl Burnett’s charges – improved or not – are still a very weak team. To be fair, they try hard and are doing their best to run plays, defend, rebound, and pass. All this is undone by Michigan’s struggles when trying to get their shots to go in the net. Unfortunately for the Maize and Blue, getting the ball to go through the hoop is a key part of the game.
The question facing the Purdue Boilermakers was whether they could play an overmatched opponent with intensity. In past years, the Old Gold and Black have taken a few games to get into the swing of things after any type of vacation break. Not this time. The Boilers came out the gate like a well oiled machine. The home team never trailed as leapt out to a 5-0 lead and then took off from there. Midway through the first half the Boilers were up by 17, 26-9. Purdue lost their focus a bit, allowing the Wolverines to cut into the lead towards the end of the half. By the time the teams went into the locker room, however, the margin was back to 17, 37-20.
The Boilers took up in the second half where they left off. By this point, the match didn’t seem so much like a Big 10 contest as an exhibition game for the Boilers. Versyp had the opportunity to give every player extended minutes, to work on aspects of the game that could use a little polishing, and to generally tune-up for future, more competitive contests. When the game was over Purdue had won by 44 points, 79-35. What is most remarkable about the final margin was that the Boilers outscored the Wolverines in the first half.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boilers were extremely poised and patient on offense. This resulted in a high frequency of good looks, and, not surprisingly, 49% shooting efficiency. The Old Gold and Black did an excellent job mixing things up – distributing shot attempts up and down the roster as well as scoring from the low block to behind the arc in a balanced fashion.
The Wolverines have had a hard time scoring all season, but they were completely undone by the Boiler’s shot blocking prowess. Versyp’s charges knocked away 7 shot attempts in the first half. Michigan responded by attempting to hit from the outside, resulting in a pitiful 2-18 (11%) showing from downtown. In all, the visitors shot a chilly 24%. In addition, they committed 22 turnovers of which 13 were credited as Purdue steals.
The sole bright spot for the hapless Wolverines was their 42 boards to Purdue’s 41. Even the usually all business Versyp had trouble being too worried, however, as she merely stated that it was good that the team had something to work on. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton led all players with 12 rebounds.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers connected on 20-31 free throw attempts for 64%. Lindsay was perfect from the stripe connecting on both of her attempts. In a truly noteworthy record of futility, the Wolverines hit only 1 of their 8 charity tosses for a 12% mark.
The Boilers committing 15 turnovers, a rather disturbing number against a team that applied fairly anemic pressure. The decision making otherwise was very good, however, and the team was able to run it offense efficiently for most of the night.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton appeared to be having the time of her life. She was a one woman wrecking crew on defense, slapping balls away, making steals, andgenerally getting into the opposing player’s heads. In an excellent all around game, the junior scored 8 points (3-9, 2-2 FT), 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 blocked shots, and 3 steals to 3 turnovers.
Erin Lawless took a beating under the basket; she was hacked on many of her shot attempts. In the second half she was on the receiving end of one of the poorer calls of the year. Erin had fallen down under the basket while other players continued to attempt to grab the ball above her. A Michigan player finally grabbed the ball and tripped over Erin as she lay on the court. This was deemed a blocking foul by Sally Bell. In the best “don’t get mad, get even” tradition, the Berwyn native drained a triple on the next offensive possession. Erin finished with 18 points (5-8, 1-2 3 pt.er, 7-10 FT), 6 rebounds, and a steal to 3 turnovers.
Jodi Howell is consistently playing fewer minutes than the other starters. This is no doubt being done in order to keep her effective and comfortable on the court despite her sore knees, and it appears to be working well. Jodi looked energetic and contributed during her 17 minutes of action. All 5 of Jodi’s attempts were from behind the arc, and she connected on 2 of them for 6 points.
Katie Gearlds is now the leading three point shooter in Purdue history as she broke Stephanie White’s record of 183 triples in the first half. By the end of the night the new record stood at 186. No doubt she’ll push the mark above 200 before her career is over. Katie keeps delivering All-American lines game after game, and Thursday night’s outing was no exception. She finished with a game high 22 points (8-14, 5-9 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, 2 steals, and 3 assists to 2 turnovers.
FahKara Malone kept her own streak alive, as she has recorded her Big 10 leading average 3 steals per game. The freshman took some hard hits several times during the game, but she bounced back after being given some time to catch her breath. No statistic indicates her growth as a point guard better than FahKara’s 7:1 assist to turnover ratio. In addition to her 7 dimes, Malone scored 11 points (3-5, 0-2 3 pt.er, 5-7 FT), 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
Lauren Mioton has just recently discovered that she can score when she shoots the ball, and she is starting to look for her shot. That’s good news for the Boilers as she’s been extremely accurate from the floor. Lauren did a very good job running the team when she was on the court. Like the player she replaces, Lauren improves every time out. In 18 minutes Lauren scored 7 points (3-4, 1-1 3 pt.er), an assist, a steal, and a turnover.
Kiki Freeman positively floats around the rim. She elevates so effortlessly she’s easy to underestimate. Kiki seems to have settled very comfortably into her role as the bench player who can come in and keep the team on the same high level both on the offensive and defensive end of the court. Freeman had one of her signature solid efforts as she recorded 2 points (1-3, 0-2 FT), 2 boards, an assist and a turnover.
Danielle Campbell did everything but score from the field. She held her own on the block – providing a very solid defensive presence and getting to the rim offensively. It’s just a matter of time before she is able finish her shots. Danielle’s best play may have been when she was grabbed to a rebound and was knocked to the ground as she threw up a shot attempt. The officials rewarded her attempt and she was sent to the line. Danielle is an excellent free throw shooter, as she was able to make all 5 of her points from the charity stripe. In addition to those 5 points (0-2, 5-8 FT), Danielle had 5 rebounds and a blocked shot to 3 turnovers.
Brittany Dildine got a large ovation when she entered the game. The ex-volleyball player exhibited some nice defense, trouble adjusting to her baggy shorts, and committed a foul in her 3 minutes of playing time.
Laura Garriga played for the final 4 minutes. She failed to connect on her lone shot attempt.
Kalika France was “in the building”, but remains in street clothes until her grades from Maryland are recorded.
Forty point blowouts don’t require in game adjustments or tricky play calling. Like her charges, Versyp had a relaxing night.
The officials appeared to allow numerous instances of carried balls, traveling, and double dribbles to go by without blowing a whistle. Every so often they’d find an odd call to make, perhaps in an effort to ensure that the crowd didn’t fall asleep during the blow-out, which lead me to…..
All 8450 in attendance went crazy when Erin was called for her lateral block. It was the loudest period of the night by a very large margin. The crowd was quite large for the time of year, and the lower bowl was pretty much full. Those in attendance were entertained by a band of West Lafayette High School students. They did an admirable job filling in for the vacationing collegiate pep band.
The Boilers get to ease into their Big 10 season this year as they will be playing two of the weaker teams in the conference first and second. They next take on the toothless Lady Lions of Penn State, a once proud program that has fallen on very hard times. The Boilers can use these games to evidence their maturity and focus as they prepare for the heavy hitters they will be meeting later in the year.