© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
The tenth anniversary of Purdue’s Women’s Basketball National Championship was celebrated over the weekend. Most of the players and coaching staff from the ’99 team returned to West Lafayette to be honored. They attended a celebration banquet, played in an alumnae game, and ate at a luncheon before being recognized during half time. The young women who played for that team have gone on to have remarkable lives, and it was stirring and memorable weekend. Sandwiched in between all the hoop-la was a basketball game as the current Boilermakers took on the Northwestern Wildcats on Sunday afternoon. The Cats were the perfect opponent for the celebratory weekend– the Washington Generals of the Big 10 were the team least like to spoil things by stealing a win away from the home team. Under the guidance of new head coach Joe McKeown NU is unlikely to remain the conference doormat for long, but this year they remain an easy mark.
Purdue won the opening tip, and Jodi Howell hit an open three point shot on the Boiler’s first possession with less than 20 seconds gone by. The Boilers would never give up the lead. A second quick bucket by Howell forced Northwestern out of their zone defense, and Purdue was able to score quite easily from that point on. The Wildcats were able to keep things reasonable throughout most of the first half, scoring enough to remain only 4-8 points back. Both teams appeared to be comfortable with playing out a low key affair until Versyp subbed in Alex Guyton and Chantel Poston. The energy on the court took a big step up behind the play of the fiery freshmen. Purdue upped its defensive intensity and shut down the hapless Cats. The margin going into the locker room was the largest of the first half – 30-20.
The Boilers maintained their intensity throughout the second. Perhaps the new-found intensity came from hearing the ’99 team members recount their playing philosophy, or perhaps it was the next step in the team’s maturity. The results on the court were dramatic. The Boilers were able to build on their half time lead and play focused intense basketball for all 40 minutes. All the more remarkable was the fact that this happened even though every active player saw extended time on the court. The final score was 70-44.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
The Boilers aren’t exactly a well oiled machine, but the offense ran quite smoothly on Sunday. The statistic that tells the tale is the 19 assists on 24 made baskets. Overall the team hit 46% of their attempts.
Purdue ramped up the defensive intensity on Sunday, and the Wildcats had a difficult time adjusting to their pressure. The visitors were held to 34% shooting for the game. In addition, they coughed up 23 turnovers, of which Purdue was credited for 7 steals.
The Boilers won the battle of the boards, 32-30. The post players appear to have made blocking out a point of emphasis, as they are doing this much more consistently than earlier in the season. The team concept was in full force as 10 of the 12 Purdue players pulled down at least one board, while nobody nabbed more than 5.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers hit 19 of their 24 attempts for an 80% total. Danielle, Natasha, Brittany, and Alex were all perfect from the stripe.
The team’s increased focus has resulted in crisper passes and fewer sloppy turnovers. Overall, the Boilers committed 13 turnovers on the game. While is a number that could improve, the bright side was that no player committed more than 2.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton currently ranks 8th, 4th, 5th, 5th, 11th, and 2nd in the Big 10 standings in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, blocked shots, assists, and steals respectively. She shares the top 15 standing with post players in the first four categories and guards in the remaining two. Her versatility is truly remarkable, and she demonstrated every bit of it against the Cats – scoring 13 points (5-11, 3-4 FT), 4 boards, 4 assists, a block and a steal in 21 minutes.
Danielle Campbell has struggled from the field recently, and she had a hard time finding the basket on Sunday. The good news was that she exhibited more body control and cut way down on her turnovers. One hopes this is a sign that the Chicago native is coming out of her mini-slump. Danielle finished with 4 points (1-6, 2-2 FT), 5 boards, 4 assists, 2 blocked shots, and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Jodi Howell looks more comfortable every game. She also contributes more and demonstrates her entire range of basketball skills. In addition to hitting her outside shots, Jodi is now attacking the basket off the dribble and mixing it up for rebounds. Jodi played a team-high 29 minutes, and appeared comfortable and relaxed the entire time. In all, Jodi poured in a game-high 15 points (3-5, 2-4 3 pt.er, 7-9 FT), 2 boards, an assist and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Lauren Mioton made both of her shot attempts and a free throw for 5 points total. When she began starting in FahKara’s absence, she looked to score as a last resort. At times the team would commit a turnover as Lauren forced a pass rather than take advantage of an open look. On Sunday she shot within the flow of the offense and looked very comfortable doing so. In addition to her points, Lauren nabbed a rebound, and dished out 3 assists to 2 turnovers.
Kiki Freeman’s best play of the game might have been when she grabbed a rebound and headed up the court. She wasn’t going hell for leather, just loping along waiting for her teammates to join her. She noticed that the Wildcats were setting up in their defensive stands, hardly paying her any attention, so cool as a cucumber she dribbled to the other basket and put in the lay up. Kiki had one of her signature low key games, contributing in every aspect without drawing attention to herself. She finished with 10 points (5-8, 0-1 3 pt.er), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
Natasha Bogdanova failed to find the basket, but otherwise played her energetic game. In 11 minutes she scored 2 points from the free throw line, and pulled down 3 rebounds and a steal to one turnover.
It was reported in the paper that Brittany Rayburn has hit the freshman wall, and is working with Coach Versyp to get through it. If her play on Sunday is any indication, she is finding her second wind. The shots aren’t dropping for her as often as she’d like, but otherwise Brittany played the mature game that has been her style since stepping onto the West Lafayette campus. Brittany played the point when Lauren was not in the game. Despite saying that she is not comfortable at that position, she does a fine job running the show. The Attica ace finished with 8 points (2-7, 0-2 3pt.er, 4-4 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal to 2 turnovers.
Chelsea Jones played for 5 minutes. She’s a good match-up for Northwestern’s star Amy Jaeschke, and she held her own under the basket. She failed to score on two free throw attempts, but did manage to pull down 3 rebounds in her short time on the floor.
Michelle Clark saw more time than she has lately, and made the most of her minutes. She did not score on her lone shot attempt (a desperation buzzer beater), but did dish out an assist.
Alex Guyton saw extended minutes, no doubt due to the intensity and excellent play she brought to the court. What is most encouraging about Alex is that she competes hard for every play. Perhaps her best move was when she lunged at a loose ball in an effort to keep it in bounds. In a gritty performance, Alex was perfect from the filed for 7 points (3-3, 1-1 FT) as well as pulling down 3 boards, and committing a turnover.
Lauren Mioton was quoted in the paper as saying that the rest of the team laughs when Chantel Poston elevates for a jump shot. There’s really not much one can do when watching Chantel spring into the air. It’s easy to see why, she gets so high off the ground it is truly ridiculous. The only thing higher than her elevation might be the freshman’s potential, she could become one of Purdue’s greats. Chantel took all her shot attempts by slashing into the paint and connected on 3 of them for 6 points. She also snared a rebound and committed a turnover.
Laura Garriga dished out a very nifty assist to a cutting Lauren Mioton during her 4 minutes on the court.
The National Championship recognition was Versyp’s baby, and she should get all the credit for pulling it off in such excellent fashion.
All anyone asks of officials is that they be consistent. The officials on Sunday were just that – consistent with paranoid schizophrenics who had stopped taking their medication.
The official attendance was 10,224, and Mackey was the most full it has been all year. No doubt this was helped by a host of promotions that drew in a large number of high school kids. The crowd was especially appreciative of the half time recognition of past basketball players and the ‘99 team and coaches.
The joy of Sunday’s victory and celebration was tempered by the Boiler’s loss against Ohio State on the following Thursday. Looking good against a team like Northwestern is nice, but the Boilers have bigger dreams for the season than that. Time is running out for this year’s team, and if they hope to make a run in the post season they will need to elevate their level of play against stiffer competition.
Memories of the ’99 team serve to highlight what the current edition of the Boilermakers lacks. The ’99 Boilers had lots of players that would rise to the occasion, but there was one who stood out and played her best when the going was the toughest. That player was Katie Douglas. In 1999 she was happy to play third fiddle, doing the dirty work of shutting down the other team’s best player (we see you Chamique Holdsclaw), and passing up shots so that offensive flow was maintained. But when the chips were really on the line the ball went into Katie’s hands and she produced. The one word description of Katie’s play is perhaps the highest compliment that can be given to any basketball player – she was a gamer. In a word, this year’s team needs a “gamer.” Until one emerges, they will continue to struggle and disappoint.
Game Ball: Jodi Howell