© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Before the season started, there weren’t many who would have guessed that Purdue would need to defeat the Evansville Purple Aces on December 19 to crawl back to .500. After a rocky beginning to the 2009-2010 campaign, however, that’s exactly where the Boilers found themselves on Saturday afternoon. Purdue had been on the road for a month, growing and maturing away from the scrutiny of local fans. This contest represented the young team’s first opportunity to show off their improved play to the Mackey faithful. What they didn’t need was a tough team to shake their tenuous confidence. The Evansville Purple Aces were the perfect opponent in that regard, as Misty Murphy’s charges are not supremely gifted athletically and have struggled themselves this year. The teams played true to form, and the Boilers got a much needed confidence booster.
The first surprise of the afternoon came when senior Laura Garriga was introduced in the starting line-up. As if to demonstrate that her presence was not a fluke, the first play the Boilers ran was designed to get her the ball. The Spaniard grabbed an entry pass and made the lay-up to put Purdue up 2-0 with less than a minute elapsed. The Old Gold and Black never looked back. The Boilers controlled the game from the opening tip to the final buzzer. In an incredibly balanced performance, every available player saw double digits in minutes, scored at least 2 points and pulled down at least 2 rebounds. Versyp’s charges went into the locker room at the half ahead by 25, 42-17.
The players got a bit out of control in the second, and a string of turnovers slowed down their offensive production. The defense energy remained high, and the lead was never seriously challenged. In an afternoon filled with good performances, two players stood out. Brittany Rayburn regained her shooting touch. She has obviously been working on her tendency to draw player control fouls, and remained in control throughout the contest. Sam Ostarello had her best game as a collegian, doing it all on the court. Her play served as a reminder that, in spite of the team’s current struggles, the future remains extremely bright for the Boilers. The final score was 73-42 in the home team’s favor.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boiler’s high shooting percentage, 48% for the game, was due in large part to their excellent shot selection. The team was able to manage the clock during most of their offensive possessions, resulting in only a handful of desperate heaves with the shot clock running down. The team passed as well within the paint as they ever have, finding open players on the low block or dishing out to open wing players. The only cloud was three point shooting, as Purdue only connected on 3 of their 13 attempts for 23%.
The Aces were held to 31% shooting on the game. The visitors had trouble adjusting to Purdue’s man to man pressure, and never got on track. Evansville committed 28 turnovers, 12 of which were credited as Purdue steals.
The Boilers won the battle of the boards, 40-32. Ostarello was the difference maker, pulling down 14 boards – 6 more than any other player on either team.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers didn’t record stellar numbers from the charity stripe, hitting 8 of 12 attempts for 66%. Brittany Rayburn kept up her record setting pace, however. By hitting both of her freebies, Brittany maintained a 93 percent clip for her free throws, placing her tenth in the NCAA Div 1 ranks.
Purdue played a very smart game, taking what was given to them without forcing things. The team recorded 18 assists and 18 turnovers. Many of those turnovers when the freshmen got ahead of their selves and tried to force things. The errors are a necessary evil as the younger players learn to play together at the collegiate level.
Laura Garriga enjoyed her first start as a Boilermaker. No doubt Versyp is rewarding her hard work in practice and aggressive play during games. Laura’s minutes are not a stunt, however, as she proved that she just might be one of the two best post players on the team at this point in time. Garriga lived up to billing, as she recorded a career-best 6 points (3-4) including a tough runner in the lane. In her career-high 18 minutes, the Spaniard also pulled down 2 rebounds and committed two turnovers.
Sam Woods seems content to stay in the background, doing the little things while others grab more attention. Sam sometimes hesitates to shoot the ball , even when she has open looks on the low block. Her best play of the afternoon was when she confidently knocked down a long two pointer rather than look to pass first. In all, Sam recorded 4 points (2-6), 4 rebounds, and an assist, blocked shot, and turnover.
The law of averages caught up to Jodi Howell. The long-range shots she usually hits did not fall on Saturday. Nobody shoots 75% from behind the arc for a season, so an off shooting game was bound to happen sooner or later. Jodi did a very nice job hitting the pull up jumper after dribbling a few steps in order to avoid a closing defender behind the arc, and scored her 4 points (2-7, 0-3 3pt.er) that way. The senior also pulled down 3 rebounds, and dished out 2 assists to 2 turnovers.
Brittany Rayburn was extremely careful with her drives; it appears as if she is actively working on cutting down on the number of charging fouls she is saddled with. She was also able to connect on most of the shots she threw up, it’s very nice to see her most recent shooting slump come to an end. Brittany has not missed a foul shot since the Georgetown game over a month ago. She credits her summer ankle surgery for her improved accuracy, noting that she could do nothing but practice fouls shots when she was rehabbing. Rayburn scored a very quiet game-high 22 points (9-13, 2-4 3 pt.er, 2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, a turnover and a blocked shot.
Ironically, FahKara Malone, the player with the most experience, appeared to struggle more than any other Boiler. While it’s true that her shots are often prayers thrown up, FahKara has had trouble hitting her wide open, plenty-of-time looks as well. Her defense is can still be out of control at times, and she picked up three fouls with over-aggressive attempts to steal the ball. Still, FahKara’s primary role is to get the ball to other players to shoot, while not “passing” the ball to the opposition. In that role, Malone has excelled this year. The Evansville native finished with 2 points (1-6, 0-3 3pt.er), 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals to 1 turnover.
KK Houser had by far her strongest game as a Boiler. She has an exciting ability to move the ball quickly while remaining under control. KK’s shot has arrived on campus as well. Here’s hoping she continues to improve in all aspects of her game. KK’s only knock on Saturday was that she could get ahead of herself at times, committing turnovers when attempting to force the ball too quickly up the court. KK finished the afternoon with a total of 8 points (2-5, 1-3 3pt.er, 3-5 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assist and 4 steals to 2 turnovers.
Like KK, Sam Ostarello committed turnovers by getting ahead of herself. That little minus was dwarfed by all the positives on the afternoon. Sam had a fantastic outing, a direct consequence of her competitive drive and the intensity she brings to the court. Perhaps her best play of the day, however, was an assist. Sam jumped up to pull down an offensive board on the high block, and whipped the ball to a wide-open Sam Woods before she hit the ground. Sam competes hard for every rebound and every lose ball. On Saturday, her shot fell as well. Here’s hoping she builds on this performance and continues to improve. Sam recorded her first double double as a Boiler with 17 points (8-13, 1-2 FT), 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocked shots to 7 turnovers.
Like virtually every other center, Chelsea Jones is going through the learning process involved with playing physical defense without committing fouls. It’s still a work in progress, although Chelsea played well when she was on the floor. Big Country ended up with 8 points (3-6, 2-3 FT), 2 rebounds, and assist, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
Ashley Wilson played with her usual tough minded intensity when she was on the court. Her “not in my house” block drew the loudest cheer of the afternoon. Ashley finished with 2 points (1-4), 2 rebounds, and one each of assist, block, steal, and turnovers.
Sharon Versyp appears to have altered her philosophy a bit. Committing errors – such as not running the correct play or committing a turnover – used to be a sure ticket to the bench. Now, the head coach has stated that she’s rewarding effort. Although this might mean gritting her teeth at times when balls get thrown into the stands, the overall effect on the play has been remarkable. Against Evansville, the players appeared to be having fun and getting after it rather than playing tentatively.
The officials were invisible in a good way, calling infractions without altering the flow of the game.
The announced attendance was 8743. With the game out of reach very quickly, the crowd didn’t have much reason to get loud, but most stayed until the final buzzer. One noticeable absence was Purdue Pete – perhaps he was down in Indianapolis cheering on the men.
The game against Evansville was certainly a step in the right direction for the young Boilers. Their next task is to maintain the same level of execution against a better team. They’ll get their chance on Monday when they take on a very good Gardner-Webb team in Mackey.
Game Ball: Sam Ostarello