© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Part of preparing a team for post-season play is to put them in the same type of environment they will experience during the Big 10 and NCAA tournaments. The atmosphere of these events is very different from regular play. One way that it is different is that teams are required to play two or three games in three days. Playing tough games back to back requires a degree of stamina and focus that one just can't approximate with the typical two games per week schedule. It was for this reason the Boilers scheduled the BTI Classic in which 3 teams played in a round robin format within a 3 day time frame. Being the host of such an event has a few advantages . You get to stay at home, of course, and set the schedule for which when you play the other 3 teams. So, on the same night Georgetown and Dayton played a fast-paced game that went down to the wire (hopefully tiring each other out in the process), Purdue matched up against the Seattle University Red Hawks, the decidedly weak sister in the BTI quartet.
The Boilers began the game as if it were a scrimmage rather than an official contest. It appeared as if the goal of the game was to establish a post game and to build Chelsea Jones' confidence. She was fed more than a foie gras goose as on most offensive possessions perimeter players would pull up outside the three point line and then pass the ball around until a decent entry lane was found. Occasionally the perimeter players took advantage of the fact that Seattle was in a sagging zone defense the entire night and pop up a three point shot. As one might expect to occur from such a strategy, the team's offensive flow suffered. With offensive frustration came some misses on defense, and the Red hawks were able to hang with the Boilers. With a little over nine minutes to play, the Boilers lead was one point, 17-16. It was at that point that head coach Sharon Versyp switched from ‚Äúlet's get our post game on track‚ÄĚ mode to ‚Äúlet's win the game‚ÄĚ mode. The Boilers became noticeably more aggressive on both ends of the court. They attacked the basket on offense and increased the overall tempo of the game. The Red Hawks had no answer for either strategy. The Old Gold and Black went on a 21-4 run to end the half, and went into the locker room ahead 38-20.
The second half was a much more balanced affair. Perhaps because Chelsea's shot finally started to fall, she relaxed and played within the frame of the offense. Purdue began taking what was given to them (which was, in truth, just about everything from the overmatched Seattle team) and every Boiler was able to contribute . All eight dressed players played, they all scored, and each pulled down at least one rebound. The final score was 69-38 in the Boilers favor.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boilers shot 43% for the game, including 44% from behind the arc. In the first half three point shots accounted for 18 of the 32 points scored from the field. In the second half Purdue had more success going inside for a much more balanced overall effort.
The Boilers began the game in the man to man offense, but switched to zone for long stretches. No matter which formation, their defensive success was predicated on the intensity with which they played. The Boilers held Seattle to 30% shooting from the floor. The Red Hawks committed 21 turnovers of which 11 were credited as Purdue steals.
After a somewhat rocky beginning, the Boilers dominated on the boards, pulling down 37 to Seattle's 29. Every single Boilermaker corralled at least on carom. Even with the flu, Sam Ostarello managed to nab a game-high 9 boards.
Free throw shooting might never be a strength of this team, but they did manage a very respectable 70% from the charity stripe. Jodi Howell was perfect from the line.
The Boilers dished out 14 assists for 22 made baskets. Having a 4 guard offense helps with the ball handling a great deal, and will allow a great deal of flexibility in the future. On Friday, the team still seemed to still be learning where they were supposed to be for long stretches of time.
In the post game interview, head coach Sharon Versyp said that one goal for the team was to help Chelsea Jones believe in herself. Chelsea's play on Friday should be a giant step in that direction. After missing a few point blank looks, Big Country settled down and played extremely well. In the second half she went to the basket with authority and was able to knock down most of her looks. This confidence hasn't come a moment too soon, as future opponents will pose much more of a challenge. Chelsea ended the night with 12 points (which happens to be 7 points more than her entire freshman total, 5-12, 2-3), 7 boards, an assist, a steal, and 2 blocked shots.
Midway through the game, Jodi Howell found herself with a breakaway lay-up. She raced down the length of the court, and made the shot even as she was pushed off her feet. She did not have the strength of speed to do that sort of thing in previous years, and Jodi's new found athleticism is a very welcome sign. Jodi finished with 6 points (2-3, 1-2 3pt.er, 1-1 FT), 1 rebound, an assist and a steal.
Brittany Rayburn's shot was dropping for her Friday. She stated that she had taken extra shooting practice, and the results were evident. In perhaps her best play of the night, Brittany held the ball out of bounds with 2 seconds remaining in the first half. She passed the ball to Malone, who passed it back to her. The sophomore was still standing several feet behind the arc when she got the shot off. It sailed through the hoop as the buzzer went off. Rayburn scored a career high 26 points (7-13, 5-8 3pt.er, 7-8 FT), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals to 3 turnovers. Brittany's line is all the more remarkable when you consider that she is playing the power forward position due to Purdue's thin bench.
FahKara Malone looked to score early and often. In the first minute of the game she had doubled her previous game's output. FahKara is not a score first point guard, but can step up when needed. Her speed to the basket seemed to un-nerve the Red Hawks and was the key to the Boiler's easy victory. In all, Malone had 8 points (2-7, 0-3 3pt.er, 4-8 FT), 1 rebound, 5 assists, and 3 steals to 3 turnovers.
KK Houser demonstrated a little of her scoring potential, hitting two straight three point field goals in the beginning of the game. KK is still learning the offense and got burned a time or two on the defensive end. Her handle is excellent however, and there is no mistaking her talent. KK recorded 6 points (2-6, 2-4 3 pt.er), 4 rebounds, and 2 steals to 3 turnovers.
At some point in the future, when Sam Ostarello is the chairman of a major corporation or starting wing on the U.S. Olympic team, she will tell a funny, funny story about how she began her career at Purdue. She'll talk about the time she had the flu, felt sick, and motioned to be taken out of the game. And about how she ran to the sidelines and puked in front of 8,000 horrified fans. Despite this graphic demonstration of how terrible SamO felt, she gave it her all on the court. She still managed to pull down 9 rebounds and her free throws ‚Äď finally- began dropping for her. Sam's best play of the night might have been her forceful ‚Äúnot in my house‚ÄĚ block in the second half. One hopes she had a good night's rest and is feeling much better today. Sam recorded a total of 3 points (0-3, 0-1 3 pt.er, 3-4 FT), 9 boards, an assist and 2 blocked shots to 2 turnovers.
Ashley Wilson's minutes were severely limited due to a groin pull. She used her strength to get to the rack for her scores. Ashley's ability to maintain her dribble in traffic is quite impressive. Time will tell if she can do the same against quicker defenders. In all Ashley had 6 points (3-6), 1 rebound, and a block to 3 turnovers.
Laura Garriga is now all business when she's on the court. The deer- in- the- headlights bench warmer of last season has been replaced by someone who appears calm and confident. She was able to quickly rotate over and prevent a score on defense, and helps offensive flow. Laura even took the ball to the hoop using a nifty up and under move. In 13 minutes, Laura played better than she has in her 3 previous season as she scored 2 points (1-1), pulled down 3 rebounds, dished out 2 assists and recorded a steal to 3 turnovers.
Just like players, coaches can either let the game come to attempt to force something that isn't there. It's clear that the coaching staff needs to get the post play on track, and at times this dictates the team's decisions. Like players, when the coaching staff lets the team take what is given them they are much more successful. Versyp did an excellent job managing her short bench and keeping players fresh.
The officials at Friday's game where decidedly not the A-team when it came to abilities. Brian Enterline in particular appears to be watching a completely different contest than that seen by everyone else in the building. One hopes their presence on Friday means that they will not be on the court Saturday or Sunday when Purdue plays.
There was no official attendance listed in the box score, but the game was much more sparsely attended than most Boiler contests. No doubt this was due to the 5:00 tip-off time coupled with Purdue's men's basketball game off campus and football game in Bloomington. The band was present at full strength, however, and kept things lively.
After two easy wins, Purdue now has to get out of the baby pool and take on tougher competition. Their next opponent, Dayton University, has already beaten Michigan State University and almost pulled off the upset at Louisville. They pulled out a squeaker against Georgetown in the late game Friday. The Boilers will need to play well at all positions to pull off a victory. After easing into the season, they seem ready to do just that on Saturday.
Warm tea with lemon, chicken soup, and Vick's Vapo-rub: Sam Ostarello
Game ball: Laura Garriga