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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Purdue 55 Gardner-Webb 56
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
There are two main ways that teams can play defense against an opponent with one dominant player. One method involves leaving that person alone and shutting down everyone else. The reasoning in this instance is that one person can’t put up enough points to match an entire team’s contributions. Who cares if Susie Buckets pours in 40 points if your team can manage 41? The second method is to devote an inordinate amount of effort towards shutting down the dominant player, daring someone else on the team to step up. On Monday in Mackey Arena, Gardner-Webb University employed both strategies. In the first half Rayburn was allowed to go wild. In the second she was the focus of several junk defense strategies.
As was the case in earlier games, the Bulldogs discovered that if you stop Brittany Rayburn, you essentially shut down the Boilers. The only silver lining to Monday’s heart-breaking loss, if one could call it that, is that the remainder of the team will have ample opportunity to figure out how to score from now on. Because only the most brain-dead opposing coaching staff could look at the tapes from Purdue’s first 11 games and devise any strategy other than this: dog Rayburn every second she’s on the floor, make a jab step or two at Jodi Howell if she’s set up behind the arc, then sit back and watch you team storm the court after the win.
During the first half the Bulldogs played Brittany Rayburn honestly, treating like any other player as they set up in zone defense. The Attica native sliced through their soft zone like a knife through butter, penetrating deep into the paint before hitting short jumpers or nailing open threes. The visitors were able to score as well, and the lead see-sawed back and forth. A Malone break away lay-up tied the score at 23 all with a little over 17 seconds remaining in the half. In the final 2 minutes Brittany hit a three pointer, and then set up a final Chelsea Jones lay-up. A Malone free throw added another point to bring the teams to the half time score. Purdue went into the locker room up by 6, 29-23.
Gardner-Webb switched strategies during intermission, and for the second twenty minutes there was a player chasing Rayburn every where she went. This left the remainder of the team to maintain the lead. Unfortunately, the results in this effort were decidedly mixed. The Bulldogs were able to even things up after 5 minutes – 33-33. Purdue again went ahead, only to seen the tenacious Bulldogs again tie things up 38-38. An Ostarello basket put the Boilers up by 7, 52-45 with under three minutes remaining. Both teams were in the double bonus by this time, and most offensive possessions ended with a trip to the free throw line. In the final minutes Purdue was awarded 8 charity tosses, 3 of which they were able to turn into points. Gardner-Webb converted 3 of 4 in the same span. In the final seconds Purdue was clinging to a 2 point lead, and it looked like they would finally pull a close one out. A deep, deep three point basket with 20 seconds remaining, however, put the visitors up by 1. Rayburn took the ball out of bounds and up the court. To her credit, she kept track of the time and was able to drive to within the arc before getting her shot off. It clanked off the rim, and the stunned Boilers were down by 1 when the final buzzer went off. The final score was 55-56.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the game
The Boilers shot 39% from the floor. What makes this rather anemic percentage even worse was the fact that Purdue took 7 fewer shots than Gardner-Webb. This low output has its roots in the low number of offensive rebounds and high number of turnovers that are committed before the team can even look at the basket. The only bright light is that the team’s defensive abilities should keep them in games until their offense catches up.
Overall, Purdue’s defensive intensity remained at a high level. The Bulldogs were held to 37% shooting. They committed 23 turnovers of which 11 were credited as Purdue steals.
Purdue took a large step backwards in this category, pulling down a mere 6 offensive caroms while GWU beat them on the boards 40-31 overall. Head coach Sharon Versyp discussed the team’s need to “crash the boards” in post game interviews. Perhaps less crashing and more establishing good rebounding position is in order. The Boiler post players aren’t the fleetest of foot, so their efforts might be better spent in moving to establish position when a shot goes up. In too many instances they remain flat-footed and immobile until it is too late to influence the play.
Free Throw Shooting:
Purdue players not named Brittany Rayburn hit 5 of their 12 free throw attempts for 42%. Adding in the sophomore’s 12-18 (66%) you get the team total of 57% for the game. Short and sweet -If Purdue wants to turn things around and win some games; they will need to score more consistently from the line.
Passing Decision Making:
The Boilers have fallen into a familiar trap, one that hampered them a great deal last year. Namely, they seem intent on initiating their offense by getting the ball to a post player on the high block. When it works, it’s all good. When that post player is fronted or otherwise in a poor position to receive the ball, however, the entry pass is attempted anyhow. More often than not, a turnover is the end result. Purdue did a very good job bringing the ball up against the press. It appeared as if Gardner-Webb employed some form of trap or press in virtually every defensive set, and the Boilers had no trouble moving the ball against it.
Sam Woods strengths, her court vision and outside shooting, don’t help her very much on the low block. As a result, her play is still very much a work in progress. She needs to get stronger physically and a whole lot meaner before opponents will respect her. In all, Sam scored 5 points (2-3, 0-1 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT, 5 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and a steal to 3 turnovers.
Chelsea Jones’ job was to keep the Bulldog’s 6’6” center, Sandra Vaitkute, away from the basket and prevent her from scoring easy buckets. By and large Chelsea did this very well, holding her well under her average. Chelsea still has troubles getting in proper rebounding position, and this prevents her from taking advantage of her own height. Jones finished the night with 4 points (2-3), 5 rebounds, and 3 turnovers.
Early in the second half, Jodi Howell stepped in front of a lazy pass and took it in for a break away lay-up. This play was the highlight of her evening, as otherwise Jodi had trouble finding the basket. For the first time, Versyp called out Jodi with the expectation that the seniors do more to lead the team. One hopes she can respond by becoming more aggressive without incurring injury. Jodi ended the game with 2 points (1-4, 0-3 3 pt.er), 2 rebounds, an assist and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Brittany Rayburn attempted to carry the entire team on her back. To her credit, she almost pulled it off. For long stretches of time she was the Boiler’s only offensive threat. She played 38 minutes, including all 20 in the second stanza. She became visibly exhausted towards the final minutes, which no doubt had an impact on her ability to drain free throws down the stretch. Brittany finished with 26 points (6-18, 2-3 3pt.er, 12-18 FT), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals to 5 turnovers.
FahKara Malone assured the press that she and the rest of the team would right the ship over the Christmas holidays and play like a different team in the Big 10. For FahKara, that might mean slowing down rather than speeding up. She has not shot well this season, and much of what she does appears rushed. On defense, this is manifest by committing silly reach-in fouls. One such occasion resulted in a very nasty head bump for both Malone and the opposing player. The senior recorded a total of 6 points (2-8, 1-2 3pt.er, 1-3 FT), 3 rebounds, 3 assist and 3 steals to 3 turnovers.
KK Houser evidences a world of potential. She plays under control, even when pushing the ball up the court at high speeds. KK needs to learn how to play against much taller opponents, the moves that probably worked in high school won’t cut it against collegiate post players. The team played its best when KK was on the court, no doubt because she gives them an additional ball handler and scoring threat. KK finished with 3 points (1-2, 1-1 3pt.er, 0-1 FT), 1 rebound and assist and a turnover.
Sam Ostarello picked up two quick fouls in the first half. She picked up some more in the second, and ended up with 4 fouls in only 16 minutes play. She is by far Purdue’s most effective post player, so one hopes she quickly learns how to play tough defense without committing infractions. Probably Sam’s best play of the afternoon was when she swooped in and put back a missed free throw in one smooth motion. In all, SamO recorded 7 points (2-4, 3-6FT), 5 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals to 1 turnover.
Alex Guyton dusted off the cobwebs to play for 6 minutes. She played with energy , but had trouble finding her teammates on the floor. Alex managed a rebound, a steal and 2 turnovers in her time on the court.
It appears as if Ashley Wilson has been scouted. Those wide open drives to the basket aren’t there any more, and she will need to learn countermoves. One hopes the time off allows her injuries to keep healing as Purdue will need her physical presence in the Big 10. Wilson finished with 2 points (1-2), a rebound, and a turnover.
Laura Garriga played with a great deal of energy, but her lack of size put her at a large disadvantage against GWU’s huge posts. She did manage 2 rebounds, an assist and a turnover in 2 minutes.
Sharon Versyp doesn’t impress one as somebody with a lot of patience. Up tot this point, however, she’s urged fans to settle down and allow the team to find its way. It appears as if her wait and see attitude is beginning to run out. In the post game interviews she was pretty blunt about the team’s shortcomings. Lack of free throw shooting and failure of the seniors to step up and lead the team are two problems that are top on Versyp’s list . It was obvious in the second half that Rayburn was exhausted, and one has to wonder how the final minutes would have unfolded if she had been given a few minutes rest. Entry passing into the post remains a huge problem for the team, and is something the coaching staff needs to address.
June Corteau has a new hair-do. Her appearance may be different, but the inconsistent calls and random whistles are ever constant. It’s difficult for players to adjust to how a game is played when officials swing wildly from allowing players to take each other’s heads off to whistling every touch foul.
The crowd was smaller than Saturday afternoon, but that was to be expected for the Monday after the end of the term. Even the Gold and Black Sound was depleted. They made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in sheer numbers. The rest of the audience had trouble getting into the game. This team is going to have to win one of these close games to win back the audience’s trust.
It’s back to the drawing board for the struggling Boilers. Malone stated that things will be completely different after Christmas break. The team doesn’t need to make a 180 degree change so much as find more consistency and focus. If they can connect on a few more free throws, catch a few more passes, and remember to box out, they’ll be right back where they want to be.
Game Ball: Brittany Rayburn