© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
The question heading into Purdue’s Match up against the Northwestern Wildcats on Sunday afternoon was: had the Boilermakers had finally turned the corner? In the previous game, a surprisingly easy victory in State College, the Boilers were a focused, coordinated unit. They did everything well as they put up a season-high 79 points. Was that level of play to be the new norm? Or was the aggressive defense and high shooting percentage a fluke? The answer given on Sunday was both yes and no. Some of the not-so-welcome features of earlier contests – the inability to make lay-ups, the occasions of stagnant offensive sets, and the mental lapses returned with a vengeance. But the defensive intensity and dominance on the boards discovered last Thursday remained. As it turned out, these were the two things Purdue needed most to pull out the win.
The Boilers came out in their new starting line-up with Lauren Mioton and Samantha Woods taking the place of Natasha Bogdanova and Kalika France. This was in accordance with Coach Versyp’s new policy of starting the players who gave the most effort in practice. It worked great at Penn State, but did not prove to be magic charm. The team came out of the gate colder than the outside temperatures. The first score of the game was at the 17 minute mark when Danielle Campbell hit a short jumper. France and then Bogdanova were subbed in quickly, but their presence on the floor didn’t help the Boilers make their shots. When Kalika France hit a jumper for Purdue’s 3rd and 4th points over 7 minutes had elapsed in the half and the Old Gold and Black had already missed 12 shots and two free throws. By the next media time out the score remained 4-5 in the Wildcat’s favor. Things then began to click for the home team as they managed to find the basket and slowly extended a lead on the Cats. With 2:20 remaining in the first the Boilers were ahead by 10, 24-14, and it appeared as if they were on their way to an easy victory. Then the Old Gold and Black reverted to early December form. While the Boilers lost their concentration and committed a series of silly turnovers Northwestern reeled off 9 straight points to go into the locker room only down by 1 point, 24-23.
As was the case against Penn State, the original starting 5 began the second half. Despite that, the Boilers began the second half very much like the first with missed shots and turnovers. Again it was Danielle Campbell who broke the ice. She scored on a short jumper with 21/2 minutes elapsed following a turnover and a missed shot. Despite the offensive frustrations, the Old Gold and Black retained their defensive intensity. The two teams played fairly evenly for the first 10 minutes of the second stanza. The final tie was 32 all at the 11:45 mark. It was then that the Boilers superior athletic ability and intensity finally took their toll on the overmatched Wildcats. The visitors managed only 6 points for the remainder of the game. Purdue wasn’t exactly setting the nets on fire, but they were able to find some measure of offensive rhythm as they methodically put points on the board. The final score was 52-38 in the home team’s favor.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boilers started the game ice cold and barely made it to luke warm by the end of the contest. They hit 32% of their shot attempts, including only 20% of their three point tries. What was most frustrating was that the Boilers were running their offense well and getting excellent looks; the shots just weren’t falling.
Purdue switched from their usual zone to man to man and back throughout the game. They also threw in more traps and switches than previously seen. The combinations resulted in season-high 32 Wildcat turnovers of which 17 were credited as Boiler steals. The huge number of turnovers resulted in very few shot taken for the visitors. They only managed to get off 39 attempts, a new Mackey Arena low.
The Boilers have improved in every aspect of their game since November, but boxing out is easily the area that has seen the most change for the better. Being out of position has become a rarity as the Boilers enjoyed an 37-30 advantage on the boards. The Old Gold and Black nabbed a remarkable 16 offensive caroms. Seven of those “O boards” were nabbed by Natasha on her way to a game-high 13 rebounds.
Purdue hit 13 of their 18 free throw attempts for 72%. Natasha and Kiki were both perfect from the line.
One now gets the impression that the Boilers know what they’re supposed to be running even if they don’t always succeed in the execution. Purdue committed 17 turnovers on the afternoon which was a major reason why the Wildcats were able to stay in the game for as long as they did.
Samantha Wood’s start was largely ceremonial as she played a total of 8 minutes. Samantha’s play is reminiscent of Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton’s freshman season. Like Lindsay, Samantha shows wonderful potential and a real mind for the game, but can’t quite get the pieces to fall into place. Samantha failed to score on her lone shot attempt, but did pull down a rebound.
Kiki Freeman had perhaps the quietest double figure game on record. She went about doing what she does best, working as a seamless part of the offense while providing great defensive pressure. In all, Kiki recorded 10 points (4-11, 2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, an assist, and 3 steals to 2 turnovers.
Danielle Campbell went up against 6’5” Amy Jaeschke all game. Although the Wildcat freshman took Danielle out of her comfort zone, the sophomore was able to use her speed to maneuver around her opponent. Danielle finished with 12 points (4-8, 4-6 FT), 5 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals to 4 turnovers.
Lauren Mioton was the starting shooting guard. True to the position’s name, she shot the ball. The coaches and announcers all claim that she shoots well in practices, but so far that hasn’t translated into production during games. Lauren was yanked the first time she had the ball in scoring position and pulled it out rather than looking to put up a shot. Lauren came back in later in the first half to run the show when Malone went out. She appeared much more comfortable in that role. Lauren did hit one of her three shot attempts and pulled down a rebound to 3 turnovers.
After two games in which she scorched the nets, on Sunday FahKara Malone couldn’t hit the ocean from the shore. The rest of her game was pure FahKara as she pressured and harassed on defense while running the show on the other end. FahKara finished with 4 points (0-7, 4-6 FT), 1 rebound, 3 assists and 4 steals to 3 turnovers.
Kalika France was responsible for the key sequence in the game for the Boilers. With three minutes to go she failed to grab an offensive rebound, but then stepped in front of the outlet pass for the steal and immediately put it up for an easy score. Kalika then hung around under the basket and stole the inbounds pass to retain the Boiler’s possession for another eventual score. This sequence amounted to a 6 point swing and broke the Cat’s back. Northwestern did not score again in the game. Coming off the bench didn’t affect Kalika’s attitude or her playing time as she totaled 34 minutes for the game. In that time she scored 9 points (4-9, 1-2 FT), 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals to 2 turnovers.
Coming off the bench positively agrees with Natasha Bogdanova. The adjective that best described her effort on Sunday was “strong”. She boxed out and went for rebounds all over the court. Natasha has always been an active defender, but on Sunday she played smart as well as hard. She didn’t commit the silly fouls or suffer the mental lapses that have marred her earlier efforts. In one of her strongest outings, Natasha recorded a double double with 13 points (5-14, 1-3 3 pt.er, 2-2 FT), 13 rebounds, Purdue’s only blocked shot, and 3 steals to 1 turnover.
Brittany Dildine places with such abandon and brings so much energy and competitive spirit to the court that she’s hard to keep off the floor. Her best play of the afternoon was when she zipped into place on a defensive rotation to draw a charge. Brittany is beginning to play like any other player rather than a defensive specialist. She’s looking for her shot a little bit, and is even having plays designed for her. Dildine ended the day with 2 points (1-3), 1 rebound, and a turnover.
After being automatic from the floor, Keshia Mosley had an off shooting night. No doubt this is a combination of being scouted well and pure bad luck. Keshia is playing within the flow or the offense and her defense is steadily improving. Mosley finished with 2 boards, an assist, turnover, and a steal.
Sharon Versyp made huge changes before the game at Penn State to great effect. On Sunday she pushed all those same buttons and …… Let’s just say there’s a special place in heaven for people whose career success depends on the actions of 18 – 22 year olds.
The officials were invisible in a good way. They were able to make the necessary calls without being the focus. The only complaint would be when double dribbles are not called.
The announced crowd of 12592 was the largest of the year. This was due to the ticket promotion associated with the National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebration, and the NCAA/Big Ten Pack the House Challenge. The audience was entertained at half time by the amazing Quick Change magic act. The duo is a regular at basketball games, I’ve seen them no less than 10 times since 2000. Every time I have seen them they’ve earned a well deserved standing ovation.
With the win, Purdue finally has climbed up to .500 for the season. They have now won two games in a row for the first time since November. The Boilers remain tied for second place in the Big 10 and in the hunt for the conference title. The team has nowhere to go but up right now as they continue to improve. They next travel to Iowa, a place that seems to bring out either the best or worst in the Boilers. Here’s hoping they can maintain the winning habit and take another one on the road.