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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Purdue 63,  Ohio State 61
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
There are a select group of players that are loved by their fans but hated by opponents. What are seen as displays of honest emotion and gumption by the sympathetic fan come off as whining and dirty play when watched by others outside the friendly confines. Big 10 schools have had many such athletes. Janelle McCarville at Minnesota immediately comes to mind, as does Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante, and OSU’s Katie Smith. Then there is Ohio State’s current point guard, Samantha Prahalis. Sammi generates fierce emotion from the fans of opposing teams because of her theatric displays after scoring, getting fouled, or, heaven forbid, fouling someone else. She’s the only player I’ve ever seen T’ed up solely due to her over-the-top fist pumping. Then there’s the ridiculous flopping, no doubt coached by Flop Queen assistant coach Debbie Black, and the gratuitous hot dogging with no-look and through the legs passing. But, just as I have a soft spot for Jack Russell Terrorists, err, Terriers, I can’t help but admire the fiery floor leader. Above everything else, Prahalis is a competitor. If making you angry will help her to win, she’ll make you angry. She may appear to be devoting all her attention to the sizzle rather than the steak, but whenever there’s a broken play or a seam in the defense she makes a bee line for the basket. She wants to win every game, every play and every possession. It would be nice to lose the mugging, but the Boilers could use a little of her single minded grit and tenacity.
The Ohio State Buckeyes were prohibitive favorites coming into Monday’s match-up against the Purdue Boilermakers. They came in ranked #4 in the country with a 20-1 record including being undefeated in the Big 10. On paper they beat Purdue in every statistical category, and many believed that they were going to run the table in the Big 10. Close games against Wisconsin and Michigan (twice) were the only hints that the Bucks might be vulnerable. For the first 6 minutes of the game, it appeared as if everything was going to go as expected. For the first three OSU possessions, Brittany Johnson, their three point ace, was left all alone behind the arc. The score was 9-0 before two minutes had elapsed. Meanwhile, the Boilers appeared to be in the basketball equivalent of the fetal position. The Buckeyes had run up a 16-0 deficit before a Sam Ostarello jumper finally went through the net at the 13:15 mark of the first half. After a KK Houser score, it was Sam Wood’s offensive board and put back – and one – that finally seemed to snap the Boilers into the game. Wood’s scoring cut the deficit to single digits, and for the first time it looked like the Old Gold and Black might be able to put up a fight. Key to the comeback was KK Houser’s aggressive attacks on the basket. On two consecutive possessions, she spied lanes to the hole and got to the hoop so quickly the Bucks had no choice but to foul her. Meanwhile, the pressure defense Purdue was employing was beginning to have an effect, and slowly Versyp’s charges crept up on the Buckeyes. An Ashley Wilson lay-up pulled the Boilers to within one at 25-26 with 3:38 in the half. The visitors responded, however, and were able to stretch out their advantage. The teams went into the locker room 3 points apart with Ohio State ahead, 32-29.
Sam Ostarello and KK Houser were on the court when the second half began, and they picked up right where they had left off in the first. Sam O was usually guarded on the low block by a much shorter player, and she exploited that fact to score the first two buckets in the half, putting Purdue up for the first time at 33-32. The Buckeyes responded, going on an 8-4 run to extend their lead to 44-37. A Purdue time out was taken, and Versyp was able to refocus her charges. Purdue came back, and finally tied it up again, 48-48 with 7:42 left. A KK Houser old fashioned three point play put the Boilers up yet again, 51-48. OSU wasn’t about to lie down, however, and they kept things close till the final minutes. Perhaps the most important score of the night was made at the 1:03 mark when Sam O zipped in front of Big 10 Player of the Year Jantel Lavender to grab an offensive rebound and put back. This extended Purdue’s lead to 5, 61-56. There was a lot of basketball left to play however. The Buckeyes fouled KK with 16 seconds on the clock. Her free throws pushed the score to 63-58 with 13 seconds left. Samantha Prahalis took the ball up the court and hit a quick three point basket, making the score 63-61 with 7.8 seconds remaining. On the ensuing play, Brittany Rayburn was fouled before the ball was inbounded. The timer watched the ball, however, and 3 seconds elapsed off the game clock. This resulted in a prolonged unofficial official time out as the zebras watched the monitor to determine where to put the clock. After much deliberation they realized that the foul had occurred before the ball was inbounded, thus 7.8 seconds should remain on the clock. While the officials were talking, the Boilers had a chance to huddle. Hit or miss the free throws, they decided that they would play for a tie and overtime. This translated into no three point shots and no fouling. When Brittany Rayburn went to the line, the rest of the Boilers were hanging back, defending their three point line. The free throw failed to connect, and Prahalis again went flying down the court. She easily penetrated into the lane, and then seemed rattled by the lack of defensive pressure. The Boilers left her alone, covering the potential dishees rather than the disher. It also became clear that nobody was going to get close enough to her to allow her to initiate contact in an attempt to draw a foul. After a moments hesitation she flung the ball at the basket, and it looped over the hoop without drawing iron. Jantel Lavender caught the weak-side rebound as time ran out and the ecstatic Boiler bench rushed the court. The final score was 63-61 in the Boiler’s favor.
Comments on specific aspects of the game:
The Buckeyes have a curious method of defending the paint. The radio announcers, Tim Newton and Jane Schott, reached the conclusion that the Buckeye post players do little more than stand with their arms up because they are needed on the court for 40 minutes and can’t afford to pick up fouls. Either due to this fact, or some other more obscure reason, the OSU post players do not rotate to cut off penetration or move at all until a shot goes up. Instead, the wing players and guards switch and mix it up down low against players with 6 or more inches on them. This resulted in miss-matches that Purdue exploited all game. It’s a very good thing they were able to find ways to score in the paint, because the Boiler’s three point shooting completely deserted them. The team cold only muster 1 triple on 16 attempts for 6% on the night. The team shot 39% for the entire game, which includes 45% in the second stanza.
Purdue won the game with their defense. Specifically, it centered on their ability to hold OSU’s stars in check with single defenders. Either Chelsea Jones or Alex Guyton handled Lavender, while FahKara Malone, KK Houser, and Ashley Wilson took turns staying in front of Prahalis. This did two things for the Boilers. First, the constant pressure held both players to within their scoring averages. The duo made 9 buckets and totaled 28 points between them, but it took them 31 shots to do it. This represented 58% of the Buckeye’s shot attempts, which brings us to the second thing not double teaming the stars did for the Boilers. It allowed the rest of the Buckeyes the opportunity to experience being guarded honestly rather than being hedged off of or left alone. They did not have the open shots they were used to seeing, so, by and large, they didn’t shoot. Overall the Buckeyes were held to 36 % shooting and committed 15 turnovers.
Purdue held their own on the boards, pulling down 35 caroms to 37 for the visitors. The Boiler rebounding was done primarily by post players, as the guards were needed to get back and prevent fast break opportunities. Chelsea Jones and Sam Ostarello led the way with 7 a piece.
Free throw shooting:
Free throws are like coin tosses – previous outcomes have no bearing on future results. Despite this, when the clock wound down and the charity tosses gained importance with each second, the Boilers perfect performance from the stripe seemed increasingly ominous. Sure enough, after hitting their first 14 attempts, Brittany Rayburn missed the front end of a one and one with 7.8 seconds remaining for Purdue’s only miss from the stripe all night. The several minute icing provided by the referees as they went over the video tape certainly didn’t help matters. KK, SamO, and Sam Woods were perfect from the line.
The word that best described the Purdue execution was patience. They had the patience to wait for scoring opportunities to develop on offense, and the poise to stick with their game plan, even after falling behind by double digits. The Boilers made excellent decisions, passing into the post and back out. Finally, when lanes to the basket opened up, Purdue didn’t hesitate to attack. The Old Gold and Black recorded 12 assists to 12 turnovers as a team.
Add Samantha Prahalis to the list of opposing guards who thought they could take Ashley Wilson off the dribble only to be stymied of the freshman’s quickness. Ashley had her share of jitters when she started, but soon settled down. She took advantage of the mismatches on the low post for some easy lay-ups and provided tough on ball defense when she was on the court. Ashley contributed 8 points (4-8), and 2 rebounds.
Chelsea Jones appeared to be a little star-struck when the game began. Her confidence grew with the minutes as she went toe to toe with three time Big 10 player of the year Jantel Lavender. Lavender got her points, but she took 18 shot attempts to do it. Chelsea’s offense never got on track, but her ability to guard Lavender with little help was key to the Boiler’s success. Big Country finished with no points (0-5), and 7 rebounds.
Jodi Howell’s knees seem to be catching up to her. The fifth year senior had trouble with her lateral mobility and getting her legs under her shots. Her transition triple was the only three pointer of the game for the Boilers. It came just as the Old Gold and Black were crawling back into the game, and gave the team a much needed boost of confidence. Howell recorded 3 points (1-3, 1-2 3 pt.er), 1 rebound and a turnover.
Brittany Rayburn struggled in the first half. She was “bodied up” by the Buckeyes, and was never left alone on the court. In response, the sophomore began to force things, picking up the first charging foul in quite some time. In the second half, OSU was forced to play her honestly, and she responded by going off for all but two of her point total. Rayburn was the only starter in double figures with 11 points (4-12, 0-4 3 pt.er, 3-4 FT), 3 rebounds, and an assist to 2 turnovers.
FahKara Malone’s primary responsibility was to dog Prahalis every second she was on the court. Without the scoring pressure, FahKara was free to be the consummate pest, grabbing loose balls and pressuring the passing lanes. Perhaps her best play of the night was when she closed in on a three point shooter late in the game and knocked the ball out of bounds. FahKara finished with 2 points (1-5, 0-3 3pt.er), 2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
Welcome to the KK Houser era. The Buckeyes were completely unprepared for the speedy freshman, and she scored several easy lay-ups by beating the opponents down the court. By game’s end she had visibly rattled the opponents, as they’d either all stand and watch her penetrate for the lay-up or all collapse onto her, allowing her to make the easy dish to a post player. When Malone was out of the game, KK switched over and hounded Prahalis. There were times when OSU’s steal machine, Shavelle Little, was sicc’ed on her, but KK was able to hold onto the ball without any trouble. Perhaps the best thing about the freshman’s performance was the poise she exhibited. She ran the team like a pro, calmly nailed all her free throws, and played up up up tempo without losing control. Here’s hoping she only continues to improve after this break out game. KK finished with a game – high and career best 18 points (5-13, 0-6, 8-8 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal to 3 turnovers.
Like KK, Sam Ostarello had a break out performance. She was the beneficiary of OSU mismatches on numerous occasions – it was a little comic to watch the Buckeye guards attempt to stop her from posting up. Purdue’s guards found her, and Sam nailed most of her shots. Sam competed with OSU’s tall trees for rebounds, and took great care of the ball. Sam’s best play, and arguable the most important play of the entire evening, was when she zipped in front of Lavender and grabbed a missed shot for an O board and put back with a minute left to play. This pushed the Purdue lead to 5 points, and as it turned out, the Boilers needed every one. SamO ended up with 14 points (6-10, 0-1 3 pt.er, 2-2 FT), 7 rebounds, and assist and 2 steals.
Alex Guyton more than held her own in the paint against OSU’s posts. She picked up 4 fouls in 16 minutes, but two were “wrong place at the wrong time” type infractions and not indicative of any loss of control. Alex’s block of Lavender’s shot was the biggest factor towards unnerving the visitor. Alex continues to look more comfortable around the basket. Alex finished with 4 points (2-4), 5 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots to 1 turnover.
Samantha Woods helped get the Boilers on track. Her quick put back – and one – of a missed shot seemed to be the thing that finally woke the team up. Alex’s gain is Sam’s loss, and she gave up quite a few of her minutes to the recovering sophomore. Sam ended up with 3 points (1-1, 1-1 FT), 2 rebounds, and an assist to 2 turnovers.
Versyp further cemented her reputation as a big game coach with the win. There was no question that the staff had scouted OSU and knew exactly how to beat them. Excellent job.
No home cooking here. Purdue was whistled for 19 fouls to Ohio State’s 13. From this biased perspective, the Buckeyes hacked and pushed with impunity while little touch fouls were whistled when the player was wearing Old Gold and Black.
The Gold and Black Sound positively outdid themselves on Monday. In addition to their full numbers they wore costumes, face paint, and seemed to be involved in an increasing number of choreographed dances and routines. They energize Mackey with their spirit, and they are very much appreciated. The overall crowd number was reported in the box score as 8669, no doubt a reflection of the fact that many season ticket holders didn’t brave the winter weather. The brave few were loud and engaged throughout the entire contest. It was truly a magical atmosphere.
While this game gave a tantalizing glimpse of seasons yet to come, there’s still 2009-2010 to take care of. This is the team’s signature win, and one hopes it provides the boost needed to propel the team’s fortunes. As wonderful as the win was, it was just 40 more minutes of play for a group that needs lots and lots of experience before they can become a team that plays at a high level consistency. The next step for the Boilers is to take some of the energy and focus on exhibit Monday night on the road. They get a chance on Thursday when they take on #23 Penn State in Happy Valley.
Game Ball: KK Houser