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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Purdue 81, Iowa 59
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
One of the most Hallmark card-worthy aphorisms regarding athletics is Haywood Hale Broun’s, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” The quote needs a small edit to be accurate, however. Better to say “Losing at sports does not build character. It reveals it.” There’s nothing character building about winning. Winning is easy-peasie lemon squeezie. When a team is winning, the coach is a genius, the players are all a combination of Eagle Scout and Miss America, and even the radio and color announcers are fonts of wisdom. But losing, well, losing is tough all around. Losing the way the Purdue Boilermakers lost to Minnesota three days before they took on the Hawkeyes is especially gut wrenching. The effort and execution were so poor it forced everyone to take a look at themselves and each other in a new way. The Boiler coaching staff reacted by not allowing the players to wear Purdue gear in practice. No one was to wear the big gold P until they returned to playing Purdue ball with some Purdue pride. The players responded by holding a players-only meeting in which they cleared the air and recommitted themselves as a unit. As luck would have it, the very next game happened to be at home against the Big 10’s youngest team, the basement-dwelling Iowa Hawkeyes. It was impossible to determine whether the Boilers have finally found it within themselves to take the big step up that is needed to compete against better teams on the road, but Purdue’s easy victory on Sunday was an encouraging sign nonetheless.
Ashley Wilson earned the third start in her career replacing Sam Woods in the forward position. Ashley quickly demonstrated that she belonged as she scored right out of the gate by posting up her weaker opponent. A Rayburn triple pushed the score up to 5-0 in the Boiler’s favor, and the home team never looked back. Brittany regained her stroke and was asking for the ball. The Attica native poured in the points as the Boilers raced out to a double digit lead. The Old Gold and Black’s ball pressure made things difficult for the Hawkeyes offensively, and they had a terrible time moving the ball or getting off easy shots. As a result, the home team led 30-10 by the nine minute mark, and maintained a twenty point cushion for the remainder of the half. Perhaps the best illustration of Purdue new found aggression was KK Houser’s offensive rebound and put back of two straight Rayburn misses. The half time score was 44- 23 in the home team’s favor.
At the beginning of the second, Jodi Howell was the player sitting in Ashley’s place. Again, the freshman scored the first points of the stanza. As is often the case in blow-out games, the minutes were distributed across the roster and every player saw extended action. The rapid shifts in personnel slowed down offensive production a bit, but the team’s focus never faltered and the defensive intensity remained to the end. The Boiler’s enjoyed the most points scored this season with the final score 81-59 in the home team’s favor.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
The Purdue offense was extremely effective on Sunday, knocking down 27 of 56 shot attempts for 48%. The high shooting success was keyed on excellent ball movement, with both inside-outside and high-low passing working to full advantage.
The Boilers employed a few traps and some engaged in some light pressing, but primarily relied on solid position defense. This included having the Purdue point guard hassle the Iowa ball handlers as they attempted to bring the ball up the court. The Boilers held the Hawkeye to 37% shooting for the game. In addition, the visitor’s committed 19 turnovers, 11 of which were credited as Purdue steals.
Purdue won the battle of the boards, 35-30. For the first time in recent memory, it was the player in Old Gold and Black that found a body and established position as the shot went up. If the post player didn’t get the ball, they held their opponent back so that a Purdue guard could zip in and snare the rock. KK Houser took the most advantage, using her quickness to get to the ball first on numerous occasions. The freshman guard led the team in rebounding with 6 boards. Every Boiler pulled down at least 1 rebound, evidence that the entire team has placed a great deal of emphasis on this aspect of the game.
Free Throw Shooting:
The team shot 76% from the stripe. While that number isn’t one that will be featured in any upcoming press releases, it’s a respectable figure. Chelsea Jones and KK Houser were perfect from the line.
The Boilers only turned the ball over 12 times, one of their best performances on the year. The team did an excellent job moving the ball and finding open shooters. In what might be the best statistic in the box score, 8 of the ten players on the team dished out at least one assist.
Ashley Wilson quickly demonstrated why the coaching staff has such high regard for her abilities. She takes care of the ball, makes her shots, and continues to fool opponents with her speed. Time after time, the Hawkeye’s speedy Kachine Alexander tried to take her to the rack, and Ashley was able to keep up with the speedy guard. The only thing that limited Ashley’s time was her propensity to pick up fouls, two quick infractions sent her to the bench for most of the first half and she had 4 in 16 minutes play. Ashley finished with 6 points (3-3), 3 rebounds, and an assist.
Chelsea Jones held her own against Morgan Johnson, Iowa’s 6’6” center. She seemed more eager to look for her shot, a tactic that allowed her to pick up fouls on the opposing players and score from the charity stripe. In a solid outing, Chelsea had 8 points (1-4, 6-6 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
Jodi Howell found it tough going on Sunday. She didn’t look comfortable, and it’s possible that her knees were causing some trouble. In the first half Jodi made little impact on the court. In the second half some plays were run for her, allowing her to get some outside looks. The senior had her own cheering section, as the Alexandria High School girl’s basketball team was providing vocal support. Jodi scored 3 points (1-3, 1-3 3pt.er), 1 rebound, a turnover, a blocked shot and a steal.
Brittany Rayburn had been in a shooting slump, but she came out on Sunday ready to play. The sophomore knocked down her first 3 3 point shots, and quickly dominated the game. Brittany let the game come to her and took her shots within the structure of the offense. When she scores this way, the points come naturally. Brittany recorded a career-high 28 points (8-15, 4-7 3 pt.er, 8-9 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals to 1 turnover.
FahKara Malone tied her newest assistant coach, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, to become third all-time in steals for Purdue’s women’s basketball team. The senior played a solid game, and seemed in control when she was on the court. If she could finish the fast breaks her mid-court steals generate, her scoring would increase as would her value to the team. Malone finished with 10 points (4-8, 2-4 3 pt.er), 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals to 2 turnovers.
KK Houser played at a much higher level than she had previously. She is a good shooter and can score, so one hopes she continues looking for opportunities. To date, she seems more focused on setting up and running Purdue’s plays rather than taking what the defense gives her. KK got to the weak side when shots were taken, which allowed her to pull down a career-high 6 rebounds. She still commits turnovers at a higher rate than one would like, but the silver lining is that they generally are made when she’s trying to make things happen or pushing the ball up court. The freshman finished with a total of 6 points (2-5, 0-1 3 pt.er, 2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Sam Ostarello appears more comfortable every time out. Playing against the tall, but not particularly physical Hawkeyes suited her, and she moved very well in the paint. Sam uses her quickness to go up for put backs before other players have reacted, and this is earning her trips to the line. Now she just needs to be more consistent in knocking them down. Sam totaled 9 points (4-6, 1-4 FT), 1 rebound, 2 assists, a steal and a turnover.
Perhaps the most important number in the box score for Alex Guyton was the 20 minutes she spent on the court. Alex didn’t look any slower than last year, and appears to be shaking the cobwebs off at a rapid rate. Alex is still regaining her rhythm and missing some shots that will probably fall for her soon, but there’s no mistaking the impact she will have when she’s 100%. Alex recorded 7 points (3-9, 1-2 FT), 5 rebounds, and an assist, a blocked shot, and a steal.
Sam Woods has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse is a big hurry as she moved from starting to being the second option off the bench. Versyp is no doubt sending a message about the need for Sam to be aggressive when she’s on the floor. Taking some pressure off of her by letting her come in off the bench should help in this regard. In all, Sam had 4 points (1-2, 1-1 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Laura Garriga saw 7 minutes of action. Laura is aggressive and knows all the plays cold. This seems to settle down the younger players. The Spaniard failed to connect on her lone shot attempt, but did pull down two rebounds.
One can only guess at the types of emails and other comments Sharon Versyp was reacting to when she stated in the post game interview that the “real” Purdue fans were at the game and supported the team. No doubt the team’s decidedly un-Purdue-like struggles have brought some vocal critics out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, negative reactions to losing come with the territory if you want to play in front of 10,000 people at home, and have your own TV show, radio show, and beat reporter. If a women’s basketball program only wants a supportive audience no matter what through thick and thin, they should strive to play in front of 100 or so people who are their parents and close friends. Like many coaches of high profile college teams in all sports, Versyp wants the full arena plus 100% support from everyone aware of the program, and isn’t at all happy that she can’t have it both ways. Crabbing publicly about the critics never helps matters, however.
Versyp maintained that she and the staff are positive and have remained positive no matter what. How that squares with having practices that work to improve her team’s “mental toughness” and refusing to let them wear their Purdue gear is a little difficult to judge.
Before the game, Versyp was honored for achieving her 200th career win against Northwestern earlier in the month. Congratulations and here’s hoping that the second 200 will come soon.
Two words: June Courteau
The Black and Gold Sound was back up to full strength, and they did a magnificent job. The announced crowd of 9041 was fairly vocal in the first half until the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt.
After this confidence builder against Iowa, Purdue now faces one of its most stern tests of the season. They travel to Michigan State University to take on a Spartan team that is 2-5 in the Big 10 and desperate for a win. The Boilermakers need to bear in mind that to achieve their goals they need to climb solidly above .500 for the season and stay without shouting distance of the top of the Big 10. They can only do this if they play well enough for long enough to knock off a good team on the road. Perhaps they can be inspired by the words of Clive Woodward after his rugby team won a World Cup: “Our success has not been a continual series of victories. We have had a number of devastating setbacks; how these are handled is the making of a great team…winning does not happen in straight lines.”
Game Ball: Brittany Rayburn