© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Before 5 minutes had elapsed during the game last Thursday that pit the University of Michigan Wolverines against the Purdue Boilermakers, it became crystal clear that nothing was going to come easily for this year’s Boilers. There are currently two main reasons why the team will have its ragged moments no matter how good or bad the competition. The first is the huge number of unforced turnovers they commit. Every miscue is one less chance to get off a shot, and as they pile up the offense sputters and stalls. The second factor is the inconsistent outside shooting. Without a long range specialist to keep defenses honest, they cheat into the paint, making penetration and interior passing almost impossible.
Michigan plays a scratchy zone defense very reminiscent of McCallie’s MSU defense and Versyp’s last Indiana University team. The Wolverines strategy was to sag into the paint and dared Purdue to hit their outside shots. When the game began, the Boilers fell for the open jump shot temptation and attempted numerous outside “J”s. In most instances they came up empty. Michigan isn’t an overpowering team by any means, but they have a system, and a gigantic center in Krista Phillips. After six and one half minutes had elapsed the Boilers trailed the Wolverines by a 10-4 margin. It was then that Purdue began to attack the zone, penetrating the gaps for closer looks. They were usually rewarded in those efforts by points, and the Old Gold and Black made up the deficit and regained the lead, 11-10 a short time later. The teams played evenly for the rest of the half. On many occasions Purdue would open up a small lead only to get reeled back in by the visitors. They entered the locker room tied, 24 all. Ironically, this was the same half time score as their previous Big 10 game.
FahKara Malone did not start the second half. Later it was revealed that she had suffered an injury at the end of the first. In the silver lining department, the team played almost as well without her as with her. In the cloud department, that level of play wasn’t quite good enough to put away the Wolverines. The two teams traded scoring runs and droughts throughout the second stanza. This usually resulted in Purdue going up by 5 or so points before coughing up the advantage and letting the Maize and Blue into the game. The finish was particularly wild. FahKara Malone finally entered the game with seven minutes remaining and was playing well. With less than three minutes left she was guarding a Michigan player right in front of the visitors’ bench. The Michigan player swung her arms to prevent a steal and clocked Malone square in the face with her elbow. FahKara went down in a heap. The crowd, already in a sour mood due to the substandard officiating, went crazy. The Wolverines stood around expecting the play to stop while the Purdue players attempted to play defense while keeping a nervous eye on FahKara who was still writhing on the ground. The officials finally stopped play when there were 4 seconds on the shot clock. They allowed the training staff to attend the sophomore. With Lauren Mioton subbed in Michigan was allowed to inbound the ball but didn’t even look at the basket before the shot clock expired. Perhaps motivated by the injustice, they later took the lead 51-50 with 1:36 remaining. On Purdue’s next offensive possession the ball went into Danielle Campbell who got a decent shot off. It clanged off the rim, but Kiki Freeman zipped in between several Michigan players for the quick rebound and put back giving Purdue the lead back. A Wolverine turnover gave the ball back to Purdue, and the visitors fouled immediately to stop the clock. After an extremely rocky night from the stripe, FahKara was able to hit both her charity tosses to put the Boilers up by 3, 54-51 with 22 seconds remaining. Michigan then took a time out to set up a final play. Natasha Bogdanova must be credited for quickly getting out on Krista Phillips and preventing her from getting a shot off from behind the arc. The Wolverines missed their shot attempt, and then fouled Kiki to stop the clock. She was able to connect for 2 to make the final score 56-51.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
When Purdue settled for outside jump shots they usually came up empty, and when they attacked Michigan’s zone good things usually happened. The Boilers look to be turning into a second half team. As has been the case several times this season, they were much more successful hitting the twine in the second half when compared to the first. Overall, the team hit 40% of its shot attempts including 30% from behind the arc.
Purdue had most of its success when it was in a man to man, and from that defensive alignment can easily throw in traps or presses when desired. They did a good job of keeping the Wolverines on their heels, and forced 20 turnovers from the visitors.
Purdue rarely blocks out or “gets a body” on opposing players when shots go up. It didn’t hurt them on Thursday as they managed to pull down 33 rebounds to 31 for the visitors. Danielle Campbell led the way with 9 caroms.
Free Throw Shooting:
If the Boilers had lost this contest they could have placed the blame at the feet of their poor free throw shooting. Although they did nail 4 crucial freebies down the stretch, if they had made a decent percentage all along the late-game heroics would not have been needed. Overall the team shot 55% from the charity stripe.
The Boilers are definitely improving in this department. The team only committed 15 turnovers on the night. This is still a much larger number than one would want, but represents a large improvement over earlier contests. The Boilers had some short stretches in the game when they moved the ball well and took excellent shots. If they could extend these good times while shortening the times they have poor offensive execution they will be a team to be reckoned with.
FahKara Malone was treated like a punching bag all night. She was hit in the head twice and tripped up at least once. Headaches kept her out of much of the second half, but when she was in she played quite well. In a very gutsy performance Malone finished with 9 points (2-4, 2- 3 3 pt.er, 3-4 FT), 2 rebounds and a steal to one turnover.
When asked about Natasha Bogdanova’s restricted playing time, Sharon Versyp was quoted saying that it was not due to the junior’s nagging injuries, but because of less than stellar performance. Or, in the parlance of the new half time segment, she was seeing not enough Russian and too much rubbish. Clearly Bogs has taken this to heart as she came out on Thursday with a much more aggressive mindset. She looked for her shot, but it was her renewed attention to defense that was most heartening to see. Her quick cover at the end of the contest sealed the deal for the Boilers. In all, Natasha scored 8 points ( 3-9. 2-5 3 pt.er, 0-2 FT), 5 boards, and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Kiki Freeman let the game come to her. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the rest of the team has caught up. Rather than being the person taking the lion’s share of the shots (something that happened earlier due to poor ball movement by the Boilers), she stayed within the offense as others could be counted on to look to score as well. As a result, Kiki took fewer shots but made a higher percent. Freeman’s offensive put back was the play of the game for the Old Gold and Black. In a very solid game Kiki finished the night with a team-high 14 points (6-12, 2-3 FT), 5 boards, an assist, a block, 5 steals, and 2 turnovers.
Kalika France had perhaps her most consistent game as a Boiler. She was able to contribute offensively and defensively the entire time she was on the court. Perhaps it’s because she finally is comfortable in Versyp’s system, but the unforced turnovers that limited her effectiveness seem to be a thing of the past. Kalika had to raise her game when FahKara was out in the second half, and she was able to this without sacrificing her own offense. One hopes her knees allow her to play at this level of the remainder of the year. Kalika finished with 11 points (4-11, 0-4 3 pt.er, 3-5 FT), 3 assists, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
Danielle Campbell looked fairly comfortable as Purdue’s designated “go to” She had trouble holding onto the ball, but looked to go up and score aggressively rather than attempt fakes and false starts. This is something she had trouble doing earlier in the year after being punished against UNC, so it’s a good sign that she could shake the UConn game off so quickly. It’s not often that Danielle is asked to go up against an opposing center that is much larger than she is. Luckily, she was extremely good at using her superior speed to gain an advantage. In all, Danielle had 13 points (6-13, 1-2 FT). 9 boards, 1 steal, assist, and block apiece, and 4 turnovers.
Lauren Mioton began the second half in place of the injured FahKara Malone. During her time on the court she ran the offense well and the Boilers were able to gain and maintain a lead. Lauren is deceptively good at bringing the ball up the court. From the stands she wobbles and skitters as she’s doing this, appearing that it’s all she can do to keep things under control. However, she can avoid the traps and can protect the ball from quick mitted defenders, so it’s obvious that it works for her despite its awkward appearance from the bleachers. In another trademark solid outing, Lauren did not even look for a shot, but pulled down 2 boards, and dished out 3 assists to 1 turnover.
Brittany Dildine provided a positive spark off the bench. She is not looking for her shot at all, but provides some defensive pressure.
It was nice to see Samantha Woods get minutes in both halves. She failed to score in her lone attempt, but moves well without the ball.
If one looked at the box score, it might come as a surprise to read that in my opinion Keshia Mosley had one of her best games. She scored the lone bench point on a free throw while pulling down two boards and registering a steal. Keshia’s defensive effort was easily the best she’s demonstrated, while on offense she looked to be on the same page as her teammates rather than merely a hired gun.
Few coaches made the type of first impression that new head Kevin Borseth did when he hit the sidelines in Mackey. He screams – at his players, his assistants, and the referees. He glared and stomped and generally did everything a person can do to make himself unwelcome. The final straw for most fans was when he denied that FahKara had been hit in the post game interview. It looks like the Big 10 has another Bobbie Knight, this time coaching a women’s team. He’s got a system and wins games, however, which means he may be the visiting coach the Boiler fans love to hate for a long time.
The officials were bad. They were the living embodiment of the type of official most fans complain about. They were inconsistent, both in calling touch fouls at one point then swallowing their whistles while players were being mugged, then by going minutes without finding any fault with any player then turning around and calling things that had gone by earlier. They would not call obvious open court infractions such as walking, and then make dubious make-up calls to balance things out. They completely miss handled FahKara’s injury – for starters the obvious offensive foul should have been whistled. Then, once she was down the officials either had to determine that she was required immediate assistance or let the play continue until Purdue gained possession. As it was, it appeared as if they were intimidated by the crowd into finally blowing their whistles.
The crowd was in a bad mood all evening. No doubt this was a combination of frustration at the Boiler’s inconsistent play and anger at the poor officiating.
With the win Purdue remains in a 3 way tie for first place in the Big 10 and one game under the .500 mark on the year. They have a chance to improve on their record next Monday when IU comes to town for a rematch. Playing Michigan and IU twice is a nice way to ease into the Big 10 season for the Boilers, and it should enable them to remain at the top of the standings for a few more weeks.
Game Ball: Kalika France