|OldGoldFreePress COLUMNISTS |
BACK TO Capri_Small'S COLUMNS|
PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
University of Connecticut 100, Purdue 50
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Sunday’s match-up between the Purdue Boilermakers and the UConn Huskies represented the second leg of a home and home series. When the game was scheduled two short years ago, Purdue’s anticipated starting line-up was comprised of Ta’Shia Phillips, Amber Harris, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, Jodi Howell, and Dee Dee Jernigan. We all know how that turned out – between defections and injury not a single one of those players was suited up. The anticipated Purdue team could easily make it to the Final Four if they played up to their potential, and the murder’s row the Boilers have faced this year was designed to toughen them up and prepare them for that eventuality.
Instead Purdue is represented by the anticipated bench players, a group that has proven earlier in the year that they couldn’t beat the Washington Huskies let alone those from Connecticut. To add one more insult to injury, the 2007-2008 edition of the Huskies is exceptionally good, even by their lofty standards. The team is undefeated and pretty much un-tested. Their narrowest margin of victory this year has been 12 points – when the team played the #2 team Stanford. Currently they appear to be on track to win the National Championship without suffering a single defeat.
The question facing head coach Sharon Versyp was what kind of lemon-aid could she make out of these lemons. She needed to wring a few positives out of a sure blow-out. Coaches in this situation usually either emphasize effort and execution or exhort their charges to experience playing a top team and see first hand just how good they are. Versyp opted for the former, she wanted her charges to fight hard and run their plays. Unfortunately, when the game began the Old Gold and Black appeared intimidated and nervous. By the time the Boilers settled down, the Husky steam roller was well on its way and they had already put up 11 quick points. UConn is a machine, every player knows where her teammates are on the court so they move the ball quickly and effortlessly. Because they are fantastic athletes, they do this at a break neck pace and rarely make a mistake. While nobody enjoys being on the short end of an old fashioned beat down, the Huskies are amazing to watch.
What was most frustrating for the home team at the beginning of the game was that on many offensive possessions they managed to get good open shots, but they just wouldn’t fall. The Boilers evidenced their first signs of fight with the entry of Brittany Dildine into the game. Brittany wasn’t about to back down from anyone, and she threw her body all over the court. She took the ball hard to the hoop and got in the Husky player’s faces. Brittany started the second half as a reward for her gritty play. After the game, Versyp said it was because Brittany was the only person who did what the coaching staff was asking the players to do. The ex-volleyball player’s courage became infectious, and other members of the team began playing well, too. No doubt the fact that UConn was playing the end of its bench for most of the half helped, but Purdue played the #1 team even for most of the second stanza. As a fan, it was most heartening to see every player compete and try hard. Little-used reserves such as Laura Garriga and Michelle Clark saw minutes. One could see Clark grow and mature during her short time on the court. When she first brought the ball up the court her pocket was picked by a speedy guard for an easy lay-up. Second time up the court Michelle protected the ball, but had trouble with the offense. Third time proved to be the charm, as she took care of the ball and then made an aggressive move to the basket and hit her jumper. Sam Woods moved extremely well without the ball, and caught the UConn defense napping on several occasions. Keshia Mosley was well scouted, and her struggles in completing her tried and true moves should provide excellent motivation for her to improve.
Most of the large crowd stuck around until the final minutes. Nobody in the stands but the most ignorant or optimistic expected the Boilers to win, so the experience was about seeing the top team in the country live and supporting their girls. There were plenty of voices to boo the final three point basket made by UConn – something deemed unnecessary as the visitors were already up by 47 points with less than 20 seconds on the clock.
The final margin – 50 points- was the worst defeat in Mackey for a Purdue team ever. But the Boilers left the court with their heads high. They learned that if they played with courage they could compete with anyone, and this should pay big dividends in their remaining Big 10 contests.
Game Ball: Brittany Dildine