© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Perhaps the single most telling fact about the Iowa women’s basketball team is this: Megan Skouby, their 6’6” senior starting center, has never had a double figure rebounding game. Her career high is 9 boards. The Hawkeyes are an outside in, finesse team. Since Head Coach Lisa Bluder took over the reins, the team’s bread and butter has been quick cuts, fancy passing, and three-point shooting. They win by out scoring their opponent. Banging under the boards and staunch defense is not a feature of Hawkeye ball. Purdue handled them with relative ease when they met in late December, but beating any team twice in a short time span can be difficult.
The Boilermakers were coming in off an extremely emotional and hard fought game three days earlier. The fear was a big let down and a flat effort. This was deemed completely likely as, up to this point, the Boilers have not exactly been a model of consistency. Sure enough, the shots didn’t fall as easily, but Purdue was able to use its new-found grit to ramp up their defensive intensity and win going away.
The teams began the game feeling each other out. Both squads had trouble scoring, but managed to hit just enough shots to keep pace with the other. Jodi Howell broke the seal on the basket before two minutes had elapsed, and her timely three point shooting allowed Purdue to take a narrow lead. The Hawkeyes answered triple for triple, however, and the teams traded leads throughout most of the first half. Holding Purdue back was their troubles getting lay-ups to fall, while Iowa was stymied by the Boiler’s ability to get out on shooters. With a little less than 5 minutes left in the half, another Howell triple put the Old Gold and Black up for good, 23-21. They went into the locker room with a 4 point advantage, 30-26.
The game was won in the opening minutes of the second half. Keyed by Kiki Freeman’s aggressive play, the Boilers went on a 10-3 run to reach a 40-29 advantage with 12 minutes left. Iowa mounted one last push to cut the lead to 9. The Boilers responded by changing Lindsey Wisdom-Hylton’s orientation. Lindsey was getting increasingly frustrated in her inability to make the bunnies, so she was moved a few feet away from the basket. LWH nailed her jump shots with ease, and the Boilers never looked back. The final score was 60-49.
Comments on specific aspects of the game:
The Boilers shot much better from behind the arc than from immediately under the basket – 41vs. 58%. Part of this was due to the Hawkeye’s relaxed defense, and part was due to the post player’s tired legs. Jodi Howell and Lauren Mioton were perfect from behind the arc, going a combined 5-5. Nineteen points came from the bench, an especially encouraging sight.
Iowa has a very peculiar offensive style. They initiate their offense like many, if not most teams, by having a guard or wing penetrate into the paint. If the defense collapses onto the penetrator, that person finds the man who is left open by the double team. There is a key difference between how Iowa runs their offense and everyone else, however. In many, if not most teams, if the penetrator is not double teamed they take the ball to the hole in an effort to either score or draw a foul. In contrast, the Iowa penetrator stops at the top of the key and attempts to dish whether she is being guarded or not. Thus, as long as a defensive team stays home and resists the urge to double team the player with the ball, that person has nobody to pass to and is stuck. The Boilers know that, and essentially shut down the Hawkeyes by resisting the urge to collapse onto the ball handler. In all, the Hawkeyes could only manage 32% shooting and committed 16 turnovers.
When the game began the Boilers did a very poor job of getting to loose balls. The team slowly made up ground over the course of the game, and finished with 2 fewer boards, 34 to Iowa’s 36. Lindsay led the way with 10 boards.
Free Throw Shooting:
One consequence of Iowa’s unwillingness to mix it up is that they don’t commit many fouls. Purdue did not attempt a single free throw in the first half, and took only had 9 attempts in the game. The Boilers made 7 of those for 77%. Kiki and Natasha were both perfect from the line.
Purdue recorded 20 assists on 23 made field goals. That is a remarkable statistic, and speaks to the team’s excellent ball movement and team play. As a team they committed 14 turnovers, a number that could be improved upon but is not too bad when one considers that the loss of FahKara has thrust many players into new roles.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton had a heck of a time making her lay ups. The audience felt for her every missed attempt, and gave a big cheer of relief when she finally hit one. Lindsay played like the senior team leader that she is, however, and didn’t allow her troubles scoring to throw off her game. Instead she found other ways to help her team –scoring on her jump shots as well as being her usual disruptive force on the defensive end. Perhaps the Naperville native has an affinity for old time rhythm and blues bands, as lately she has entered the Fifth Dimension. On Thursday Lindsay both moved into 5th place all time on Purdue’s steal lists while recording her 5th double double of the season. This is all one game after she became Purdue’s 5th leading rebounder. In an excellent outing LWH recorded 14 points (7-14, 3-7 FT), 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocked shots, and 5 steals to 5 turnovers.
Like Lindsay, Danielle Campbell had trouble finishing inside. Dani played tough defense and did an excellent job finding open perimeter players when the Iowa defense collapsed on her. Danielle finished with 4 points (2-8), 4 boards, 4 assists, and 3 blocks to 2 turnovers.
Kiki Freeman had an uncharacteristic bad shooting night. Usually she is money from the baseline, but on Thursday she had trouble finding the bottom of the net. She played hard in all other aspects of the game. It was Kiki’s energy at the start of the second half that really put the game out of reach. She recorded 2 rebounds, 2 assists, a field goal and a steal in the first 4 minutes of the second stanza. This contributed to her overall line of 6 points (2-10, 0-1 3 pt.er, 2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal to 1 turnover.
Jodi Howell was on her game Thursday night, and had an excellent outing. She spent her time off the court on a stationary bicycle, hopping off of it to join the team during time outs and other stoppages of play. Jodi appeared more comfortable in the second half than she had in previous contests, and perhaps this new strategy will keep her warmed up and ready to go all 40 minutes. Howell scored 9 points by making all three triples she attempted, and she also recorded a rebound, a steal, and two turnovers.
The honeymoon is over for Lauren Mioton. On Thursday Versyp was in her face, chewing her out when things didn’t go as well as the coach expected. There was one notable exchange when Lauren passed up an open three point shot in order to force the ball inside. From the dramatic gestures and pointing, one could tell that Versyp wanted Mioton to shoot the ball from across Mackey arena. The next time Lauren was in that position she did, indeed, shoot the ball – and made the three point shot. In her slow, deliberate manner Lauren ran the team, kept everyone on an even keel, and got the ball where it needed to go. In another excellent outing, Lauren was perfect from the floor to score 6 points (2-2 3 pt.er) had 2 rebounds, a career-high 6 assists, and a steal to two turnovers.
Natasha Bogdanova is coming into her own. For the first time in career she is looking for her shot and scoring within the flow of the offense. Prior to this she either decided her role was to be a rebounder and didn’t look to score or would hunt shots and force things. Part of Purdue’s recent success has been due to the fact that there is no drop off in post play when Nats replaces the other bigs. When the game was over Natasha had totaled 9 points (3-8, 1-3 3 pt.er, 2-2 FT), 2 rebounds, a turnover and a blocked shot.
Brittany Rayburn didn’t set the nets on fire, but had an extremely solid, consistent game. It is hard to remember that she’s a freshman as she anticipates so well and makes excellent decisions with the ball. Rayburn finished with 9 points (3-8, 1-3 3 pt.er 2-3 FT), 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. Brittany did not record any turnovers, quite an accomplishment for a player who has the ball in her hands as much as she does.
Good things happened whenever Alex Guyton took the court. Iowa’s willowy posts hardly slowed her down as she had great success under the rim. In 6 minutes she scored 3 points (1-2, 1-2 FT), 2 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Chantel Poston is still working on her control. She sliced through Iowa’s zone like a hot knife through butter, but did not finish. She did dish out an assist, pull down a rebound, and commit a turnover in 3 minutes play.
Michelle Clark and Chelsea Jones saw limited action at the end of the contest. Michelle was charged with a foul for standing near an Iowa player who fell out of bounds, but otherwise neither dented the box score.
The coach’s emphasis prior to the game was to limit Iowa’s three point shooters. The team carried out the plan, and also did an excellent job shutting down the Hawkeye’s inside ball movement as well.
The game had little physical contact and thus there was little for the officials to do. This worked at well as the zebras were decidedly not the NCAA’s A-team.
The student section was filled due to a special promotion with the residence halls The TAs from all the residence halls attended the game as part of a conference. They proved to be a loud and fun group. The hope is that they return along with the students who live on their floors. If even a quarter of Thursday’s crowd became regulars Mackey arena would be a hopping place during women’s games.
With the win Purdue pulls into a 3-way tie for second place in the Big 10. If they take care of business they will be in a position to move into the top slot. On Thursday they demonstrated that they rely on tough defense to win games when their shots aren’t falling. This is another welcome step on the way to becoming a championship team. Things don’t get any easier for the Old Gold and Black, however, as they travel to take on an energized Northwestern team in Evansville.
Game Ball: Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton