© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
In the spirit of full disclosure I must reveal that one of my close family members is currently a student at Indiana University. How the fruit of my loins came to matriculate at the institution in Bloomington is a long story. Suffice it to say, I have suddenly become unable to hate all things Cream and Crimson. It allows me to appreciate players like Jamie Braun, IU’s hard nosed gym rat who has stepped up to play point guard this season. And Coach Jack, who has dug in and committed herself to putting the team back on the map. My new-found IU affection doesn’t extent towards wanting them to actually beat the Boilermakers of course. He might be my only male child, but even a mother’s love has its limits
The Indiana Hoosiers came into Thursday’s game against the Purdue Boilermakers with an 8-4 record including 1-0 in the Big 10. Their in-conference win was over the volatile MSU Spartans. For the first time in many years, the Hoosiers entered Mackey as the favorite. From the opening tip, however, it was evident that Purdue’s performance against Minnesota was not a one-time fluke. The Boilers ability to take care of the ball returned as did their tough minded defense and ball pressure. Despite that, IU hit enough of its three point attempts to take the early lead. Offensively, the Old Gold and Black used their offense to generate good looks at the basket and take their open shots. When Brittany Rayburn took those shots, they went through the hoop. When anyone else did, they did not. The sophomore scored the Boiler’s first 11 points. This served to keep the home team in within shouting distance for the first ten minutes of the game. On several occasions the Boilers were able to come close, and they even tied the game several times. As the minutes counted down, other Boilermakers got into the act, and Purdue was able to score with relative ease. On each occasion, the Hoosiers had an answer and would extend the lead once more. The visitors went into the locker room ahead by 3, 38-35.
The Boilers took up where they left off in the second. A Jodi Howell three pointer tied the game up at 39 all, but the Hoosiers again extended the lead. The Boilers finally took the lead less than a minute later on two Chelsea Jones free throws, only to see the Hoosiers take the lead right back. A Chelsea lay-up finally put the Boilers up for good with a bit over 16 minutes to play. When Brittany hit a three pointer on the next possession the crowd went crazy. Leggett-Jack took a time out to give the arena time to settle down, but it did no good, the Boilers had found their groove. Everything went the Boilers’ way in the final ten minutes. The scoring came easily from every position, the defensive intensity never wavered. IU experienced a long scoring drought going from down 1 – 51-50 – at the 9:55 mark to down 12 – 65-53 six minutes later. The final score was 76-66. Purdue had its best offensive performance of the season and moved to 2-1 in the Big 10 with the win.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boilers shot a mere 37% from the floor for the game, including 39% from behind the arc. Scoring was spread out quite evenly, with three players in double figures and very player who saw the court scored at least 3 points. Their low shooting percentage was off set by all the second chances the team enjoyed as it pulled down 18 offensive reounds.
Purdue’s defensive commitment remained strong. The Old Gold and Black held IU to 36% shooting from the field. More importantly, they forced 24 turnovers of which 11 were credited as Purdue steals.
Purdue pulled down 2 fewer rebounds than IU, 43-41. Although this area of the game has been better of late, improvement is still the largest room in the Boilers’ rebounding house.
If Purdue had shot their free throws with the same accuracy as IU (78%), they would have scored an extra 8 points from the stripe. As it was, the home team could only take advantage of 57% of their 37 attempts for a total of 21 points.
Purdue’s improved play can be directly linked to the low number of turnovers they committed. On Thursday they had a mere 10 miscues, almost half of their previous average. The one reason why turnovers are so low can be attributed to the perimeter players’ refusal to attempt poor entry passes. Overall, 18 of the Boilers 23 baskets were assisted, a statistic that speaks to the team’s excellent decision making.
Sam Woods is still “learning her role” according to Stephanie White who commented on the power forward in her role as color commentator. Sam was more aggressive than in previous outings, but her shot was not falling on Monday. Sam is one of the team’s better free throw shooters, so her ability to go strongly to the hole will help the team a great deal when she develops this skill. In all, Sam recorded 3 points (0-5, 3-4 FT), 5 rebounds, an assist and 2 blocked shots to 2 turnovers.
Chelsea Jones’ confidence grew visibly throughout the course of the game. In a wonderful positive feedback loop, every time she sealed her defender she was rewarded with an entry pass. Because her defender was sealed, she often made the lay-up, which, in turn, made the perimeter players all that more eager to feed the ball inside. Chelsea was able to use her left hand for a baby hook move. This shot was, according to Versyp, one of the major reasons she was recruited, so it was nice to see it in action. In her first career double double, the sophomore scored 14 points (4-7, 6-9 FT), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocked shots and a steal with no turnovers.
Jodi Howell demonstrated her improved mobility as she penetrated into the lane to dish off assists. She even did a stop and pop move. It is wonderful to see Jodi move from being a spot-up shooter to a complete player, and all the better that she’s able to play so well during her senior year. Jodi finished with 11 points (4-11, 3-8 3 pt.er), 3 assists and a steal to 1 turnover.
For the first 6 minutes of the game, Brittany Rayburn was the Boiler’s offense. Brittany did not force any looks, it was merely a case of her shot falling while others did not. Rayburn has not been called for an offensive foul for several games now, including this one, and it appears as if she has mastered the new way officials are calling games. The Big 10 network commentators mentioned Brittany’s poise and the ease at which she runs the offense. She certainly does not play like a sophomore, and it is easy to forget that she had relatively little experience up to this point in her career. She seems to be the player whose contributions everyone takes for granted, but her scoring ability is essential to the Boiler’s success. Rayburn finished with a game-high 22 points (7-13, 4-9 3 patter, 4-7 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals to 2 turnovers.
FahKara Malone’s poor shooting percentage is now working to her advantage. Defenders don’t pay much attention to her any more, giving her ample room to roam the court and set up other offensive players. Perhaps this is one reason her assist numbers have increased in her final season. When FahKara does find the net, it has an added impact. Her three pointer as Purdue was maintain a lead late in the second half was the coffin nail that broke the Hoosier’s resolve. Malone finished with 9 points (3-11, 1-4 3 pt.er, 2-5 FT), 4 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals to 1 turnover.
Alex Guyton played a few more minutes and looked much more comfortable when she was on the court. If she plays against Notre Dame on Monday, red shirting this year will not be an option and she will be with the team for the rest of the season. If her play against IU is any indication, she will be a big help to the team this year. Alex recorded 5 points (1-3, 3-4 FT), 2 rebounds, and a steal to 1 turnover.
KK Houser is still learning that not all passes will work at the collegiate level. She struggled during her time on the court, although her desperation prayer as the shot clock ran down found nothing but net. KK finished the afternoon with 3 points (1-1 3 pt.er) and 3 turnovers.
Ashley Wilson’s most memorable play of the day occurred when she hung back in the paint during one of IU’s offensive possessions. She swooped in to intercept a perimeter pass and took it in for an easy lay-up. Her move was extremely analogous to Katie Douglas’ similar ability to step into passing lanes for break away lay-ups. Despite her relative lack of size, Ashley competes extremely well for rebounds and plays well inside the pain. Wilson recorded a total of 3 points, (1-3, 1-2 FT), 4 rebounds, an assist, and 2 steals.
The one player who must be keeping other Big 10 coaches up at night is Sam Ostarello. The level of athleticism and basketball sense the freshman exhibits must have them dreading 4 years of competing against the Boilers with the long-armed forward patrolling the paint. In one instance, Sam skied well above the other players to grab a rebound with one arm. She was able to get set and in balance and go back up for the put back before anyone else had time to react. Sam was rewarded for her heady play with extended minutes, and she will become increasingly difficult to keep off the court as she improves. In all, Sam O had a total of 6 points (2-7, 0-1 3 pt.er, 2-6 FT), 8 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Versyp has not stated what role, if any, the coaching staff can be credited for Purdue’s improved play after the Christmas break. To hear the players tell it, they had the chance to reflect on their past play and vow to improve. To hear the coach tell it, everything has “clicked”. If that click only occurred after it got some pointed nudging by Versyp, she’s not spilling the beans. There is no question, however, that she is thrilled by the recent results.
The audience went wild on several occasions due to poor calls or no calls on the part of the officials. In most instances the replay vindicated the zebras, but that never stops the audience from voicing their displeasure at the top of their lungs.
One of the larger crowds in recent memory was in attendance. The official tally was 10033 and the lower bowl was full. The audience was a true sixth man, and at times the noise disrupted the IU players. Also in attendance were a handful of IU fans. Not as many as will travel to watch some of the other conference schools, but an improvement over past years.
A grateful Boilermaker nation can once again sleep soundly, knowing that the Barn Burner trophy has returned to its rightful place in West Lafayette. The Boilers won’t have long to rest on their laurels, however. Notre Dame, undefeated and ranked in the Top 5, is just around the corner.
Game Ball: Brittany Rayburn and Chelsea Jones