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One of the more amusing things that has occurred this season has been listening the players and coaches associated with the Indiana and Purdue basketball programs deny that Sunday’s match-up meant anything to anyone. It was just another game, no more important than upcoming battles with Northwestern or Wisconsin. Each and every one of those deniers was lying through their teeth. This was a game which IU assistant Vera Jones might have described in her past life as a color commentator as one with more plots than the Arlington Cemetery, more intrigue than an episode of the OC. It starts with a heated in-state rivalry. Add in the fact that last year both regular season games between the two teams went to overtime, with the visiting team winning on the other’s court. Finally, there’s the little matter of Purdue’s head coach Sharon Versyp spending last year as the Hoosier’s helm before bolting because her dream job opened up in West Lafayette. Versyp’s only stated regret? Not being the one to tell the long-suffering Hoosier players about her departure. The loss of Versyp brought Felisha Legette-Jack to Bloomington. Legette-Jack left her own team of jilted players at Hofstra as she took over a power conference program. The upward mobility of good young coaches is a fact of life in collegiate sports, and the players understand that better than anyone. Legette-Jack has kept IU fighting hard, and they have made the most of their talent to the tune of a 13-5 record heading into Sunday’s game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey.
The game started with emotions running high, and the Hoosiers were obviously fired up and ready to play. The Boilers were the ones hitting their shots, however, and two Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton jumpers bracketed a pair of Gearlds’ triples to start off. With three minutes elapsed the score as 10- 4 in the home team’s favor. The Hoosiers weren’t about to lie down however, and were able to tie the game up at ten. This pattern was repeated several times through the first half, a mini-run by the Boilers would extend the lead, and then the Hoosiers would make some buckets and reel them back in. The Hoosiers kept the Boilers in their sites, as they stayed within single digits for the duration of the period. The Old Gold and Black went into the locker room ahead by 9, 33- 24.
The Hoosiers immediately began chipping into the lead at the start of the second half. With 17 minutes remaining the Crème and Crimson had closed to within 4, 37-33. It was at that point that FahKara Malone scored 5 quick points – an open three pointer and an exciting steal and lay-up. On the following offensive possession, Jodi Howell corralled a loose ball and took it to the hoop for a bunny. She was hip-checked by an aggressive Hoosier mid-air, and was able to score the bucket while turning a summersault. When she nailed her “and one”, the Boilers were up by 10, 45 – 35, and both the team and the crowd was fired up. The Boilers quickly blew up the lead, and led by 16 at the half way point in the stanza. To their credit, the Hoosiers never stopped scrapping, and did manage to bring the differential into single digits later in the game. The Boilers were too much for the over-matched visitors, however, and they were never seriously threatened again. The final score was 73-51 Purdue.
Comment on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boilers shot 37% for the game, including 30% from down town. Although this isn’t a horrible percentage, it is quite a bit less than the team is typically shooting this year. Although the ball didn’t go through the hoop as often as the team would have liked, the Boilers did play a controlled game in which they ran plays and remained disciplined.
Purdue’s bread and butter have been its play on the defensive end this year, and on Sunday they held the Hoosiers to 30% efficiency from the field. Of course, what really makes the difference is the number of instances shots are not taken because the ball has been stolen first. The opposition was charged with 17 turnovers of which 11 were credited as Purdue steals.
It’s popular to say that rebounding is all about desire, but succeeding also has a lot to do with boxing out and positioning. This has been the missing piece for the Boilers over the past several games. Not so on Sunday, it was clear the rebounding has received a great deal of attention in practices as the Old Gold and Black were greatly improved, particularly in weak side positioning. Here's hoping that their dominance on the boards continues and that future games result in edge such as Sunday’s advantage. Danielle Campbell led all players with 14 caroms.
The game was truly won on the free throw line for the Boilers as they connected on 14 more charity tosses than the Hoosiers. The discrepancy was primarily due to the fact that the Boilers were the more aggressive team that was willing to attach the basket. Katie Gearlds and Danielle Campbell were perfect from the stripe.
The grey cloud inside the silver lining was the large amount of turnovers – forced and unforced – committed by the home team. The Boilers committed 19 miscues over the course of the game. It serves as a reminder that Malone is still a freshman – an incredibly talented freshman who is playing well above her years – but a freshman nonetheless.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton barely missed her third straight double double with 9 points and 9 rebounds on the day. It was a credit to her play that she got that close as she attracted fouls at a prodigious rate. Infractions limited the junior to 22 minutes before she fouled out completely. Lindsay’s shooting efficiency remains remarkable, as she scored her 9 points on 4 made baskets in 9 attempts. Lindsay also recorded 2 assists, 2 blocked shots, and a steal to 1 turnover.
Erin Lawless had a tough afternoon. Several times she was sent sprawling by hard screens, and she had 6’8” Sarah McKay draped over her most of the day. Perhaps this was why she had more trouble connecting on her shots than was typical. Erin was rewarded for being hacked by multiple trips to the free throw line, and she earned all but 5 of her 14 points from the stripe. Erin kept her positive attitude and never forced things, however. In all, Erin recorded a total of 14 points (2-11, 1-2 3 pt.er, 9-10 FT), 8 rebounds, and a steal to 4 turnovers.
After being “en fuego” from behind the arc at East Lansing, Jodi Howell struggled from the field against Indiana. Howell changed her focus, and began lurking under the basket. This enabled her to grab rebounds from the weak side and clean up the garbage for easy put backs. Her basket and foul in the second half changed the entire tenor of the game. At the end of the afternoon Jodi had recorded 7 points (2-5, 0-3 3 pt.er, 3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal to 3 turnovers.
Before tip off Katie Gearlds received a game ball and a big hug from “Coach V” for breaking the Purdue record for three point field goals made. The ceremony might have inspired her, as Katie’s shooting touch was in full force on Sunday. As has been the case in most games this year, it appeared as if she could score at will whenever she touched the ball. Fox Sports Commentator Susie McConnell Serio remarked that Katie has the tools to enjoy a successful professional career. As a WNBA player and coach, Susie ought to know. One hopes the post-season award voters are also taking note of Katie’s abilities and impressive lines such as the one she recorded on Sunday. Katie finished with 20 points (7-14, 2-6 3 pt.er, 4-4 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal to 2 turnovers.
It seems as if Fahkara requires about one half’s worth of basketball in order to become comfortable with any given new situation. It took her that long to adjust to playing in exhibition games, then playing real games, then playing on the road, and against better opponents. This time it was against Purdue’s largest rival, and, has happened so many times this season, Malone was uncharacteristically jittery in the first stanza and amazing in the second. The freshman currently leads the Big 10 in steals, and it is conceivable that she will win B10 defensive player of the year 4 years running. This would job her teammate, LWH, but it often appears that the honor automatically goes to the player with the highest steal total. FahKara’s assists were down, but she more than made up by looking to score herself. Many of her point come from the easy lay-ups she makes after she’s picked someone clean in the open court. In one notable instance, Malone grabbed the ball from an IU player as she was in the middle of attempting to dribble behind her back. In a very good outing Malone recorded 15 points (6-11, 2-5 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals to 5 turnovers.
Danielle Campbell played 25 minutes due to Lindsay’s foul troubles, and the sophomore made the most of the time. She had one of her best outings as a Boiler. Unlike earlier this year, Danielle was strong with the ball and was able to hold her own against IU’s physical post players. She used her speed and timing to snare 14 rebounds, and both her field goals occurred when she grabbed O boards, used her footwork to get balanced without lowering the ball, and then going right back up for the stick back. Last but not least, she is an excellent free throw shooter, and nailed all her freebies. In all, Danielle had 8 points (2-6, 4-4 FT), 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 4 blocked shots to 2 turnovers.
Kiki Freeman continues to fulfill her role to a T – playing tough D and looking to do the little things during her time on the court. Kiki’s shot wasn’t falling, but in all other facets of the game she played quite well. It is to Kiki’s credit that the team is as effectively on both ends of the court with her in the game as when it is only starters. Kiki finished with no points (0-4), but recorded 4 rebounds and a turnover.
Lauren Mioton saw prolonged action in the first half when Malone went out of the game with 2 fouls. As in past contests, Lauren doesn’t do anything flashy, but she doesn’t hurt the team either. She failed to connect on her lone shot attempt and committed a turnover.
Newcomer Kalika France was on the court for 5 minutes, and gave the Mackey faithful a glimpse of what she can bring to the team. She is extremely fast and a very heady player. In her short time on the court she nabbed 2 steals.
Laura Garriga was on the court for the final 7 seconds of the game. As one might expect, she failed to dent the box score in that time.
Due to the vagaries of the Big 10 schedule this year, Purdue will face IU in a week’s time. One has to wonder if this rapid turnaround affects coaching strategy in any way. It seemed as if the starters remained on the court in “attack” mode until the final minute despite the large lead, and one has to wonder if one reason for this was to make sure IU got no glimmer of hope that they could compete. This had to have been an emotional day for Versyp, and she was able to maintain her professionalism throughout the afternoon.
As an aside: Felisha Legette-Jack may be no Versyp, bu,t luckily for IU fans, she’s no Kathi Bennett either. She has the team playing well, and should help the Hoosiers.
Overall, the level of officiating this year has been very good. Sunday was the exception that proves the rule. The zebras were constantly inconsistent –first whistling touch fouls and phantom make-ups, then five minutes later allowing the players to mug each other under the basket.
The announced crowd of 9278 was the largest of the year by a wide margin. There were a smattering of IU fans, but the majority wore Old Gold and Black. They were treated to an exciting game.
With the win the Boilers improve to 16-3 including 5-0 in the conference. Their next three games are against Northwestern twice and IU at Bloomington. One would think they should remain unbeaten in the league through this stretch of the conference. All indicators point to Ohio State’s game at Purdue later in the month as the contest that will decide the regular season Big 10 champion.
Game Ball: Danielle Campbell