© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
A sports team's beat reporter always walks a fine line. On the one hand, they are employees of a newspaper and are paid to present objective facts and opinions not propaganda. On the other hand, the team they cover controls the access, and someone who is too blunt in their criticism may find their credentials pulled and requests for interviews denied. For that reason, hard hitting editorial opinion is invariably printed under the byline of a reporter who is not that team’s “regular.” Meanwhile, the beat reporter strives to remain objective even as they reprint even the most ridiculous quotes from players and coaches with a straight face or describe events from a decided “glass half full” perspective.
Such is the case with the Journal and Courier’s Mike Carmin. He is very much from the Paula Abdul school when it comes to optimism about the Boilers’ prospects. There is only one place in all the coverage devoted to the team where he lets slip what he really thinks about the squad’s chances. That place is at the end of the team to team comparison where he gives his “line” for the game. Realize that no matter what else was said in the paper about the team stepping up or constantly improving, at the end of the day Carmin thought Purdue would beat Butler by only 8 points. (For the record, he thinks Duke will cream them by 19). Carmin’s a smart guy who know his basketball, and 8 points is a very realistic margin when one considers how poorly the Old Gold and Black executed in their first outing. It was up to the Boilers to demonstrate that they really had improved and to prove him and the rest of the world wrong.
Things looked great when Purdue won the opening tip. They quickly went down the court and Kiki Freeman scored easily in transition. Then Brittany Bowen promptly nailed an uncontested three point shot to put Butler up by one while the crowd in Mackey gave a collective groan. The Boilers took the set back in stride, buckled down, and began to play as a confident team. The superior height and athletic talent of the home team dictated that they’d dominate if they played even close to their abilities. The Boilers steadily but surely extended a lead in the first half. As the lead increased so did the team’s confidence, and they finished the first stanza looking like a much better unit than they started. Three point shooting remained a concern, as the Boilers failed to connect on any of their seven attempts, but overall there was a huge improvement. The score was 30-20 going into the locker room.
The second half looked more like a controlled scrimmage than an actual contest. Purdue quickly zipped out to a 24 point lead. Once up by a comfortable margin, they looked to be working on offensive sets and player combinations rather than worrying about the Bulldogs. A series of broken plays resulted in a long Bulldog run, at one point the visitors scored enough unanswered point to close to within 10, 46-36. It was then that Kalika France decided that enough was enough, she assertively grabbed a rebound, took it down the length of the court, and dished it to Kiki Freeman for an easy bucket. The score differential was large enough to allow every dressed player on the Purdue bench to see action, and the final margin was 16, exactly twice Carmin’s estimate. The game score was 69-53.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
The best news for the Boilers was that the lid finally came off the basket for Danielle Campbell and Natasha Bogdanova. When Danielle finally got one to drop at the 15:43 mark of the first half there was an audible sigh of relief from the Mackey faithful. Thanks to Natasha’s re-found stroke, three point shooting finally became a positive as well. Overall the team shot 46% for the game, including a respectable 36% from down town.
To date, the Boilers have had a difficult time defending three point shooters. This appears to be partially due to a decision to pack the paint, and partially due lack of defensive rotation. Relying on the opponent’s intrinsic difficulty in hitting three pointers to prevent being completely burned by outside shooting is the huge Achilles’ heel of the match-up zone. The Old Gold and Black can switch to man to man if they need to disrupt perimeter shooting. Of course, this leaves them open to strong post players and tires out the starters. Against a team like Butler, however, it was all good. The Bulldogs were held to 27% shooting on the night.
The Boilers had a significant height advantage, and this translated to a decided rebounding edge. They pulled down 43 caroms to 37 for the visitor. The Boilers were led by Danielle Campbell who nabbed 11.
Free Throw Shooting:
After a rather rocky outing last game, the Boiler’s free throw shooting took a decided step forward on Saturday. As a team they nailed 10 of their 13 charity tosses for 77%. That is the type of number that will help the team win close games, so one hopes they can maintain this degree of output. Kiki Freeman and Kalika France were perfect from the stripe.
The Boilers committed 18 turnovers on the game, and it appeared as if 17 of them occurred in the attempt run one particular offensive set. The play – a variation on a triangle offense move – involved having a person at the elbow of the paint attempt a bounce pass to someone cutting to the low block. It didn’t matter who was the passer or the pass-ee – it never worked. Despite that fact, the Boilers persisted in attempting it throughout the entire game. With the exception of that play, Versyp’s charges did quite well.
Danielle Campbell finally threw off her jitters to play a fantastic game. Before it was over she had recorded Purdue’s second triple double. Once Danielle sunk her first basket, she regained her confidence and was able to hit from the free throw line in. She took advantage of her speed and size to grab rebounds. She also broke Purdue’s single game record with 11 blocked shots. She was aided in this effort by the short Butler players who seemed committed to shooting the ball directly into her outstretched arms. Overall, Danielle had an excellent, complete game. The only criticism might be that she needs to shoot the ball more often. Danielle’s failure to be named Big 10 player of the week is truly a miscarriage of justice. Danielle finished with 12 points (4-7, 4-5 FT), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 11 blocked shots to 2 turnovers.
Up to this point in her career, Natasha Bogdanova has struggled to figure out how she fits with the team. This may be because she is a natural wing player in the body of a post. Her time at Purdue has been spent dutifully trying to play the low post with decidedly mixed results. During the second half of the game, “Bogs” started hitting her three point shots and she appeared to finally accept her inner perimeter player. Ironically, once she came to the realization that she’s more effective away from the basket, her close shots fell as well. After going scoreless in the first, the Russian poured in 16 second half points. Natasha’s emergence as an outside threat didn’t come a minute too soon for the Boilers, and one can only hope her higher level of play persists against sterner opponents. In all, Bogdanova scored 16 points (6-11, 3-5 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 3 steals.
Kiki Freeman had a very quiet 15 points. The best thing that can be said about her is that she plays like a starter on a top 25 team – someone who can be counted on to hit shots when plays are run for her. Kiki used her speed to beat Butler players down the court, and often was rewarded by transition scoring as a result. Kiki finished with 15 points (7-13, 0-1 3 pt.er, 1-1 FT), 6 rebounds, and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Kalika France has stated that she sees herself as a leader on the court, and she has put those words into action. When the Boilers need a stop or a crucial rebound or a shot taken at the end of the shot clock, it has been Kalika who has stepped up and delivered. When such things are not required, France has been content to play within herself. When the game was over Saturday, Kalika had recorded 4 points (1-3, 0-1 3 pt.er, 1-1 FT), 6 boards, and 3 assists to 4 turnovers.
FahKara Malone had the sort of solid game that the Mackey faithful have come to expect – she powers the defense with her intense on ball pressure, and runs the offense competently as well. This combination resulted in 6 assists to 1 turnover (an excellent ratio) as well as 5 steals. Two of FahKara’s buckets deserve special mention. On the first, Malone was in bounding the ball under the opponent’s basket. As she was looking for a Boiler to pass to, she noticed that a Butler player was standing square in the middle of the paint with her back to the ball. FahKara was able to bounce the ball off the Bulldog’s butt and make a lay-up. As someone who witnessed Mary Jo Noon’s back used in such a way on numerous occasions, it’s nice to see the shoe on the other foot. Malone’s best bucket by far, however, occurred when she had stolen the ball and was zooming in for an easy score. There were two Butler players back, however, getting into position. Rather than attempting to force the ball into the teeth of the opponents, she pulled up at the high elbow and nailed the short jumper. This represents a quantum leap forward in the sophomore’s decision making and judgment. Malone finished the night with 16 points (6-12, 2-6 3 pt.er, 2-3 FT), 4 rebounds, and the aforementioned 6 assists, 1 turnover, and 5 steals.
Sam Woods came back down to earth. No doubt this was a result of being scouted and guarded seriously by the Butler squad. Being high scorer in the previous game will do that for you. To her credit, Sam played within herself and didn’t force anything. As a result, she was able to make a positive impact. In all she scored 4 points (2-3, 0-1 3 pt.er), 1 rebound, and 2 turnovers.
Lauren Mioton was given the green light and then some. She appeared to be actively looking for her shot, and got off 6 attempts in her 9 minutes of play. Unfortunately, only 1 fell for 2 points. Good positioning allowed her to pull down 2 rebounds and she was assessed a turnover as well.
Michelle Clark saw less than a minute of action in the first half – she was put in and then almost as quickly pulled out. As soon as she came off the court, Versyp was in her face for a very animated, if one-sided, discussion. Just to show that there are no hard feelings, Clark was put in for a more extended stay in the second. In that short period two things were evident –that Michelle has a true point guard mentality and that she is an exceptional passer. Although she failed to score on 2 attempts, Michelle pulled down a rebound and dished out an assist to 2 turnovers.
Brittany Dildine and Laura Garriga played the final 4 and 2 minutes respectively. Brittany looked fairly comfortable on the court. She ran the plays to perfection, and did everything but finish in a beautiful basket cut. She also dished out an assist and committed a turnover. Laura did not attempt a shot, but did pull down a rebound.
This year it’s all about bringing the young players along – pushing them to improve as quickly as possible without overwhelming them or smashing their confidence. This is a position that Versyp is extremely comfortable with, and despite the team’s struggles appears to be enjoying her time on the sideline.
The Purdue fans aren’t happy if they don’t get to scream over a few missed calls, and the officiating crew didn’t let them down. Overall, however, they did a very nice job.
The announce crowd of 8990 were rewarded for braving the soggy weather. They witnessed a good game and were able to regain a large measure of confidence and optimism about the team’s prospects this year.
Although improvement is still the largest room in the Boilers’ house, during the Butler game they at least looked like a team that belongs in the Big 10. That is a tremendous step up from their initial game against Valpo. The likelihood that they’ll be able to take down Duke, Stanford, or Connecticut (all scheduled or potential opponents in their upcoming tourney) still appears remote, but the team is coming along as hoped and will no doubt present a challenge to better teams as the season progresses.
Game Ball: Danielle Campbell