© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Well, you’ve got start somewhere. On Monday, the Purdue Boilermakers began their 2007-2008 season against the Valparaiso Crusaders. Everyone knew that the young Boilers were going to be green in the early going, but in the first 10 minutes of play the Old Gold and Black managed to fall well short of even the most modest expectations. From the opening tip till the 14 minute mark, the home team played like it was the first game anyone had played EVER, not first of the season. Meanwhile, Valpo couldn’t miss, and nailed 3 straight triples right off the block. Seven minutes in the score was 7-14 in the Crusader’s favor and the fans were starting to grumble. From that point on the Boilers started to improve. It didn’t happen all at once or for more than 3 to 4 minutes at a time, but the team began to pull together and put together some strings of solid play. Purdue took its first lead at the 7:24 mark on a Sam Woods jumper. Instead of going on to establish a large lead, however, the Boilers relaxed and Valpo hung tough. Behind 80% three point shooting the Crusaders came back and then some, and went into the locker room up by 5, 30-35.
Purdue came out of the locker room with renewed energy and focus. They got the ball inside to the post players, who attacked the basket and were promptly rewarded with free throws. In 90 seconds the Old Gold and Black made up the half time deficit and went ahead by 4. Then the Boilers again lost their focus and the opportunistic Crusaders rapidly made them pay. This pattern was repeated throughout the second half as the teams traded the lead for most of the period. Collars started getting tight when the visitors went up by 4 with 4 minutes left in the game. Back court FahKara Malone and Kalika France took advantage of their superior speed to nab some key steals which were converted into points. The Boilers tied things up 62 all with 1:23 to go. The teams traded turnovers and time outs till the 42 second mark. The Boilers ran a play out of the time out designed to get the ball to Sam Woods in the paint. When the entry pass was made, however, the ball went through her hands, bounced off some Valpo players and right to Kiki Freeman. The red shirt junior put in the easy lay-up to put the home squad up by 2 with nineteen seconds left. Valpo missed their next shot attempt, and Purdue got the rebound. The visitors then fouled FahKara Malone. She made one of her two freebies to extend the lead to 3 with nine seconds left. Kalika France then sealed the deal by stealing the ball on the Crusader’s final possession. The final score was 65-62.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boilers had a difficult time finding the basket, and many open shots failed to find the net. Perhaps it was nerves or anxiety, but the team only connected on 18 of 52 attempts for a total of 35%. For much of the game the players looked unfamiliar with the offensive sets, and this resulted in a large amount of time spent standing and watching the action rather than participating in it.
The Boilers began the game in a zone defense which could charitably be called passive. In most instances the Crusader player who was nailing her three point shot was all alone – something that went a long way towards explaining their 65% efficiency. When Versyp’s charges switched to a man to man the team was able to exert more pressure and partially disrupt the visitors.
At the end of the game the Boilers and Crusaders had pulled down 34 boards apiece. Rebounding has been a major point of emphasis since the first practice, and there have been reports that the team is quite a bit improved from last year. That wasn’t translated into better positioning under the boards or intelligent attempts to nab loose balls on Monday, however. A bright spot was decided improvement on the offensive end. Sam Woods led the team with 7 caroms.
Although it appeared as if the Boilers were particularly ineffective at the charity stripe, the final stat.s reveal that they hit 27 or 39 attempts for 70%. A semi-respectable figure. The huge discrepancy between the number of free throws between the two teams spoke to difference in aggression between the 2 squads. The Boilers repeatedly attacked the rim and were successful at drawing fouls while the Valpo players were content to shoot from a distance. Kiki Freeman was perfect from behind the stripe.
The Boilers had 9 assists for the game, which sounds like a poor number until one considers that the team only had 18 made buckets. For most of the game it appeared as if the team had the right idea but was out of synch and thus had trouble with execution. The play improved over the course of the night, and it’s evident that they will continue to improve with experience.
This could easily be Danielle Campbell’s most frustrating game as a Boiler. She was trying very hard. Time after time she’d post up strong and get the ball low in the paint, but she just couldn’t find the basket. Perhaps it was the extra pressure of being the designated number one scoring option or just bad luck, but the team can not afford for Danielle to stumble against stronger teams. The junior finished with 3 points all on free throws as she failed to connect on all 8 of her shot attempts. She also pulled down 5 rebounds, dished out a team-high 5 assists, and blocked 2 shots to 5 turnovers.
With the opening tip, Natasha Bogdanova reverted to her freshman tendency of acting impulsively. This resulted in 2 quick fouls – both incurred when she swiped at players in frustration after being boxed out and beaten to rebounds. When she returned in the second half she played under control and was a positive asset to the team. In all, “Bogs” finished with 5 points (1-3, 3-5 FT), 3 rebounds, and a steal.
Kiki Freeman began the game playing like a substitute. She kept things going, but didn’t look for her shot and appeared intimated on the court. As the game continued, however, Kiki became increasingly comfortable and made a large positive impact. She evidenced her versatility as she was able to get out on the press, post up shorter players, and snare key rebounds. Although Freeman’s last minute shot got the press, the most important bucket made occurred several minutes earlier. In that instance, a play was run for Kiki and she was able to curl around a screen and nail a 10 foot jump shot. It was the type of play one runs for players that are expected to make a large contribution to a team’s point total, and the fact she was able to pull it off bodes well for her future. In all, Kiki finished with 16 points (5-10, 0- 2 3 pt.er, 6-6 FT), 4 rebounds, and an assist to 4 turnovers.
Kalika France carries herself with an assurance and confidence that is a very welcome addition to the team. She appeared physically uncomfortable at times, but was able to put in 33 very effective minutes. Kalika evidenced her knack for filling passing lanes and stepping in front of lazy passes resulting in numerous steals. The most welcome play of the game occurred at the 7 minute mark in the second half. Kalika asked for the ball behind the arc and confidently nailed a three pointer. France finished with a total of 12 points (4-9, 2-3 3 pt.ers, 2-4 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, a career-high 5 steals, and 1 turnover.
FahKara Malone was hampered by stomach cramps, and had to leave the game at one point due to sickness. She was able to play through it and put in effective minutes. FahKara appeared to struggle with the spotty play of the team. Her final 5 minutes were her best, and one hopes this will carry over to future contests. FahKara finished with 12 points (3-9, 0-3 3 pt.er, 6-8 FT), 4 rebounds, an assist, and 4 steals to 1 turnover.
Sam Woods – who knew? Sam made an immediate impact when she entered the game as she was the only Boiler that was able to score with ease. She didn’t evidence any freshman nerves, and played an extremely intelligent game. Woods moves extremely well without the ball, and in many instances found herself all alone under the basket as a result. When the game was finished, Sam had recorded a game high 17 points (5-11, 7-12 FT), 7 rebounds, and a blocked shot.
Lauren Mioton provided 13 minutes of her signature solid, error free game. She failed to score on her 2 shot attempts, but did pull down two rebounds.
Brittany Dildine, Michelle Clark, and Laura Garriga did not play.
One gets the impression that the team failed to do most of what they practiced all month. To her credit, Versyp remained calm and upbeat through the game. This allowed her charges to settle down and gain some confidence.
The officials were invisible in a good way. As is typically the case in games played against slower, less athletic opponents the calls were easy to make and generally uncontroversial.
Even if the team was not, the band was in mid-season form. They sounded very good. The reported attendance was a soggy 8802. The crowd became somewhat restive when the team was down late, but was generally supportive.
This contest had a very familiar feel. For most of the game I couldn’t quite place why it seemed I had seen a game like this before. Then it dawned on me. The last time I witnessed a Purdue team play in such a disjointed and tentative fashion against a weaker opponent was in the first game played in the 1999-2000 against Dayton. As was the case against the Flyers, the Boilers were playing a game after the departure of two dominant seniors. That type of hole can not be filled without some growing pains. Back in 1999-2000, the team improved as they learned how to find the points and playmakers without their departed stars. (And they were able to win against Dayton with a last second shot by Katie Douglas). No doubt the 2007-2008 version of the Boilers will improve as well. The team will certainly lose several games this season, but they here’s hoping they never look as disjointed and tentative again.
Game Ball: Sam Woods