© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
I was a water bug growing up, and spent every available minute at the Ardmore YMCA pool. I worked my way up through the regular classes –Minnow all the way to Shark – and joined both the synchronized swimming and diving teams. Diving team practices consisted of the “Little Marlins” taking turns diving off the board while our tired coach, Mrs. Haskin, sat on the bleachers and shouted out suggestions and pointers. One day we were joined by the younger brother of one of the team members, and he was allowed to get in line and take his turn off the board. His effort didn’t look so much like a dive as it did like someone having a seizure in midair. After launching himself straight horizontal from the board, his arms and legs took turns thrusting out randomly. The piece de resistance was the water entry, which was a full on belly flop. I had never seen such a miserable excuse for a dive, and couldn’t imagine what Mrs. Haskin could even begin to tell the novice diver. Surely it would take several minutes to list all the problems that needed to be changed, but she only said, “Keep your knees straight next time.”
One get the impression Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp is following in Mrs. Haskin’s footsteps. The Boilers have looked just awful at times, yet she remained up beat and focuses on small steps and incremental improvement. During Sunday’s match up against SEMO, however, it appears as if Versyp is beginning to lose her patience. She was quicker to yank players who failed to execute and got in the face of anyone not playing up to expectations. The team is responding, but their progress has been excruciatingly slow. To make matters worse, FahKara Malone, the lone returning starter, has been injured and was listed day to day. Purdue should have been prohibitive favorites entering Sunday’s game against South East Missouri State, but when Malone walked onto the court in street clothes hopes for an easy W flew out the window.
The Boilers began the game doing their best imitation of a deer in the headlights. They committed 5 turnovers and 2 fouls before they attempted a shot, and generally looked at a complete loss. It was Kalika France who was the first to snap out of it. She asserted herself by grabbing rebounds and then pushing the ball up the court. This effectively sped up the game’s tempo and allowed the Boilers to find some measure of comfort by scoring in transition. Slowly, painfully, the points began to come. With ten minutes elapsed, Purdue had managed a 2 point lead, 10-6. Two quick triples by the Redhawks later and the Old Gold and Black were again trailing. Purdue was able to pull even and even go ahead by 3 at one point before repeated turnovers and poor shooting allowed the visitors to regain the lead. Purdue went into the locker room trailing by 4, 15-19. The most noteworthy statistic was that the team had recorded more turnovers (16) than points during the first 20 minutes.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall during intermission. All that was said after the game was that Versyp wasn’t happy with the play from power forward position, but one suspects the actual discussion was a tad more heated. Keshia Mosley started and immediately demonstrated that she belonged on the court. She caught passes, took the ball to the hoop and made her shots. The Boilers took their first lead of the second half when Mosley made a lay up and one at the 16:20 mark. For the majority of the half the Boilers alternated between playing like a cohesive unit – during which time they’d attack the basket and draw fouls– and like a team of role players who felt they had no business being on the court – during which time they’d commit turnovers and miss defensive assignments. The score see sawed with Purdue taking the lead when they played well, and then giving it up when they played poorly. SEMO employed a full court press most of the half, and the Boilers became increasingly proficient at moving the ball up the court against it. As that happened, they had more time to run an offense. In the final six minutes the Boilers finally started clicking. Kiki Mosley regained her shooting touch and poured in 3 straight jumpers to extend the lead. The final score was Purdue’s largest margin of the game, 51-41.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The offensive output in the first half was, in a word, terrible. Every person played as if they didn’t want to be the one stuck with the ball as they’d pass up open looks to force poor passes. This resulted in only 5 of 22 attempts finding the mark, including a great big goose egg from behind the arc. The output was much improved in the second stanza, where the home team made 45% of their attempts.
The Boilers alternated between zone and man to man looks. In both instances, there were numerous instances of what appeared to be missed rotations and blown assignments. Guarding three point shooters was particularly difficult. Despite the Boiler’s apparent struggles SEMO was held to 23% shooting on the game.
The one place the Boilers had unquestioned dominance was on the boards. They grabbed 48 boards to 30 for the visitors. Danielle Campbell led all players with 12 for the game.
Free Throw Shooting:
Purdue enjoyed a huge advantage from the charity stripe. They made 20 of 28 attempts (71%) to a mere 4 attempts for the visitors. The imbalance did not appear to be due to umpire bias so much as style of play. The Boilers would take the ball aggressively to the hoop while SEMO appeared content to attempt outside jump shots. Natasha was perfect from the stripe.
Twelve assists to 22 turnovers pretty much tells the story. The Boilers sorely missed FahKara as they appeared tentative and out of sorts all afternoon. As with earlier contests, the entry pass to the low block was a huge sore spot and the Old Gold and Black rarely completed it successfully.
It is unlikely that anyone involved in the recruitment of Lauren Mioton had her penciled in as a starting point guard as she is a classic situational player. Yet, there she was going 33 minutes in her second career start. In this position, her difficulties scoring are thrown into high relief, all the more when everyone else has troubles finding the net as well. Her three point shot in the first half came when Purdue needed a bucket in the worst way, and the entire team relaxed when it found the net. Lauren is calm, knows the plays, and did a credible job running the team. At the end of the day the New Orleans native had totaled 7 points (1-5, 1-2 3 pt.er, 4-6 FT), 8 rebounds, and 3 turnovers.
Danielle Campbell’s difficulties playing more athletic teams have obviously hurt her confidence. She had troubles holding onto the ball. When she did get the rock on the low block, she’d fake and spin as if Pringle and Larkins had transferred from UNC and were ready to swat her shots. Danielle’s reluctance to go strong to the hoop was responsible for most of her 4 turnovers and her poor shooting percentage. By the end of the game Campbell had appeared to regain some measure of confidence and began to look a little more comfortable. One hopes she builds on this performance in future contests. Danielle had a very quiet double double with a total of 10 points (2-8, 0-1 3 pt.er, 6-7 FT), 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocked shots.
Like Danielle, Natasha Bogdanova appeared to have lost a fair amount of confidence compared to her last appearance in Mackey arena. Also like Danielle, “Bogs” finally settled down and played fairly well in the final minutes of the contest. Natasha had a strong drive from the high block and finish which might have been the most convincing field goal of her collegiate career. Natasha finished with 7 points (2-6, 0-2 3 pt.er, 3-3 FT), 6 rebounds, and assist and a blocked shot to 4 turnovers.
It is a huge shame that Kalika France is not an effortless scorer, because she does everything else well and can set the emotional tone on the squad. She gets rebounds, pushes tempo, and finds open teammates. The Boilers were most successful when Kalika brought the ball up the court, no doubt because her speed was able to get the speed of the game up to Purdue’s liking. In all, the Maryland transfer had 4 points (1-6, 2-4 FT), 8 rebounds, 4 assist, and a block to 3 turnovers.
Kiki Freeman – who knew? Being the a double figure scorer pushes Kiki to play bigger than anyone expected, and it is to her credit that the hard-working junior has stepped up to the challenge. Freeman just might be the most coachable player in the country. Two years ago her role was to be a spark off the bench and do the little things. Right now it’s to score, lead her team, and go 40 minutes. Through it all she’s done her best to fill her role with good cheer and constant effort. Kiki finished with a game-high 17 points (7-15, 3-4 FT), 4 rebounds, and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Keshia Mosley wasn’t having any of her teammates’ mental struggles. She made an immediate impact when she was on the court. When the ball was thrown in her general direction she caught it. She then turned to the basket and shot a lay up that usually went through the hoop. While this sounds very basic, Keshia seemed to understand that there was no player on the Redhawks that could stop her, so she just went and did what she wanted to do. Keshia needs to contribute as much defensively to see more minutes, but her potential is sky high. In 8 minutes she recorded 6 points (2-2, 2-3 FT), 2 rebounds, a steal and a turnover.
Michele Clark and Samantha Woods did credible jobs in their back up rolls, although neither had much of an impact on the box score. It is clear that both need to get stronger before they can become high-impact players.
Brittany Dildine did not do much that was recorded in the box score, either, but she brought a great deal of energy onto the court. When she leapt into a mix of Redhawk players to tie up the ball, she seemed to jolt the remainder of the team awake.
In a game where one’s players can not find the basket, it is tempting to shuttle players in and out, looking for a combination that clicks. To her credit, Sharon Versyp resisted the impulse, and stuck to her game plan no matter how her charges struggled. The one thing that would get a player a quick hook was blowing a defensive assignment. This approach helped the team regain some confidence, and should pay dividends in the future.
It would be incredibly petty to complain about the officiating when one’s team made 16 more free throws than the other attempted. So I won’t.
The announced crowd of 8901 spent much of the afternoon in a stunned silence. For the first time in memory, the visiting team bench’s chants of “D-fense, D-fense” were the loudest cheer in the arena. The Boiler faithful are looking for something to cheer, and they loved Keshia and Brittany’s efforts.
Its baby steps for the young Boilers. The most encouraging thing about the team’s play (other than the W in the record book) was the fact that they played their best ball in the final 10 minutes. Things get much tougher when Notre Dame comes to town next week. Even with FahKara healthy the Irish are going to pose a stern test for the Old Gold and Black.
Game Ball: Keshia Mosley and Kiki Freeman