© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
No Big 10 team received more love in the off season than the Wisconsin Badgers. At least one pundit fingered them to win the conference, and no less than the Big 10 coaches selected them to finish second in the league. Even the slow-to-adapt media thought they’d end up third. The reason why the Badgers were the recipient of such lofty expectations was never clear. True, they have the league’s consensus best player, Jolene Anderson, along with all their starters from last season. That combination failed to achieve a .500 mark in the Big 10 last year, however, so those facts hardly scream 2008 Big 10 Champ from this vantage.
Like Purdue, Wisconsin fell to all their decent pre-season opponents, and, like Purdue, this was said to be vital seasoning that would only help them in conference play. When the Big 10 opener pitting the Boilers against the Badgers tipped off in Mackey Friday night, it was anybody’s guess which team had learned the most and was ready to compete. When the game started, both teams played tough defense and shot poorly. Purdue drew first blood when Natasha Bogdanova found Danielle Campbell on the low block. For the remainder of the game, Purdue did well when they managed to get the ball down low, but would falter when weak attempts at entry passes resulted in turnovers. At times the game looked more like a track meet, for long stretches both teams ran up and down the court as they traded misses and defensive rebounds without actually scoring any points. The Boiler’s offense was stagnant at times, but they found the mark often enough to maintain a lead. They were aided in this effort by Wisconsin’s dismal shooting. At the 9 minute mark the Boilers were ahead by 8 points and seemed to have things in hand. Then Fahkara Malone picked up her second foul and was sent to the bench. The Badgers hit some shots and tied things up three minutes later at 21-all. Versyp called a time out to calm down her charges. The Boilers responded by reeling off 6 straight points, and went into the locker room ahead by 5, 29-24.
Jolene Anderson currently leads the Big 10 in scoring, averaging 20 points per game. She had 2 points in the first half, and thus much of the suspense in the second stanza was to see whether she would regain her rhythm and go off. It never happened. Like the first half, Purdue played quite well, but had enough scoring droughts to allow the Badgers to stay within striking distance. The Old Gold and Black slowly extended their lead as their level of play elevated. A triple by Fahkara at the 12:40 mark gave the Boilers their first double digit lead at 11. Wisconsin head coach Lisa Stone took a time out, but her charges failed to settle down. Instead it was Natasha Bagdanova who responded. She hit back to back triples pushing the Boiler’s lead to 17 points. With that, the game was essentially over. Wisconsin went through the motions until the final buzzer, but they failed to challenge the Boilers again. The final score was 65-48.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the game
The Boilers sure didn’t look like a team that struggled to get 50 points on the board a few weeks ago. On Friday they hit 45% of their shots, including 55% of their three point attempts. All night long Purdue took advantage of their superior height and strength in the paint, and they enjoyed a huge advantage in their close range attempts.
The Boilers played in a zone the entire night. There was no reason to change as it was extremely effective. The Badgers never attacked the zone; rather they were content to put up jump shots, resulting in 31% efficiency from the floor. Purdue did an excellent job getting out on shooters – Jolene Anderson and Janese Banks – and held both to single figures. In all fairness, Anderson had an off night and missed many looks she usually nails. In addition, Wisconsin did a terrible job finding her in their offensive sets, and she was often ignored by her own teammates.
Wisconsin and the Boilers both pulled down 39 boards. This seems fitting as neither team did a particularly good job of blocking out. Bogs led the Boilers with 10 boards.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers struggled from the line, although they did improve as the game wore on. After only hitting 3 of their 7 first half attempts, they nailed 7 of 10 in the second for a game total of 58%.
The Boilers committed 17 turnovers on the game. While there is certainly room for improvement, this is a semi-acceptable number. As with past games, failing to make the entry pass to the low block was the Old Gold and Black’s most glaring weakness. Overall the team ran their offense competently, exhibited stingy defense, and generally played smart ball.
Natasha Bogdanova played one of her best games as a Boiler. She stayed focused and under control when on the court. In addition, Bogs did an excellent job grabbing rebounds out of the zone defense, not an easy task. Natasha has really matured this season and is playing her best ball right now. It’s exciting to watch things come together for the gregarious Russian. Natasha recorded the first double double of her career with 11 points (4-5, 2-2 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 10 rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot to 1 turnover.
Kiki Freeman used her length and speed to get out on Wisconsin shooters. She has become Purdue’s designated scorer as she will both post up down low and attempt jumpers and even triples on occasion. On Friday she attempted 17 shots, connecting on 6 of them. In a solid performance Kiki finished with 12 points (6-17, 0-1 3 pt.er), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals to 4 turnovers.
When the Boilers absolutely need a defensive stop or a bucket, it is usually Kalika France who steps up. It’s clear that her knees bother her on occasion, but she gets it done when she’s needed. One has to think that she’d be even more effective if she played fewer minutes, particularly as the season wears on. Kalika scored 5 points (2-7, 1-3 3 pt.er, 0-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal to 3 turnovers.
Danielle Campbell was the focus of the offense. It took a while for her to warm up, but over the course of the game Danielle appeared increasingly comfortable. She took the ball aggressively to the basket and enjoyed an excellent shooting night as a result. Defensively, Danielle anchored the zone and shut down the Badgers’ penetration. In all, Danielle recorded a game-high 19 points (8-12, 3-5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks to 5 turnovers.
FahKara Malone picked up two quick fouls in the first half. As a result she totaled 28 minutes on the night, far fewer than the other starters. This proved to be a blessing in disguise as she looked fresh and in control throughout the second half. She even looked to be relaxed and enjoying herself, something not seen since last year. In an excellent outing FahKara recorded 11 points (2-5, 1-3 3 pt.er, 6-8 FT), 1 rebound, 5 assists, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
The rest of the team shoots field goals, but Keshia Mosley attacks the basket. She was first off the bench on Friday, no doubt because she is the most reliable bench scorer and is always good for some points. Keshia is already a fan favorite, probably because not only does she makes good things happen when she’s on the court, but she does it with a little swagger. Keshia scored 4 points (2-4), 1 rebound, and a turnover.
Lauren Mioton took over when FahKara came out, and kept the team playing well. Most notably, Lauren looked to score early and often. Her sole field goal in 3 attempts was a three pointer taken in rhythm within the offensive flow.
Brittany Dildine should have the nickname of “Sparky” as she provides a huge energy surge when she’s on the court. She’s the ultimate “do the little things that don’t show up on the box score” player. Her frenetic energy appears to un-nerve the opponents. Brittany didn’t score in her lone attempt, but dished out a gorgeous assist on a fast break and record a steal.
Michelle Clark and Samatha Woods saw 3 minutes each. In that time both failed to make a huge impact, but didn’t make any errors and kept the team’s tempo going.
Before the game started, Versyp stated that the team was just about to turn the corner. It must be frustrating for the staff to wait for the players to “get it”, especially when the team shows glimpses of their potential. The coaching staff’s contribution is to give the team the tools – the game plan and motivation- needed to get over the hump. The Boilers had the right game plan and were extremely well prepared for the Badgers.
The officials appeared to have traveling on the brain. There were many instances when this was deserved, as both teams had happy feet on numerous occasions. Once the officials got into the “steps” groove, they started calling at when it appeared as if a foul would have been more appropriate. Overall, however, the officials did a fine job.
Katie Gearlds was in da house as she was honored before the game for being named an All-American last year. The game was very well attended, particularly for a one that fell during the vacation when school is not in session. The crowd was into the game and appreciated the effort evidenced on the court.
The Boilers needed this win in the worst way, and one hopes the game sets the tone for the Big 10 season. The team will need all the mojo they can muster as they have a tough road test in Minnesota coming up. The Boilers will need to play every bit as well as they did Friday to secure a win. Happily, the Old Gold and Black finally look to be capable of delivering such a performance.
Game Ball: Natasha Bogdanova