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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Purdue 53, Illinois 48
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Thursday evening’s contest between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Illinois Fighting Illini in Mackey arena was a half a glass of water affair for those who followed the Boilers. If you were a glass half empty type, you could note that many of the issues that were apparent in November are still with the team. The Old Gold and Black still have trouble executing half court offenses and shooting the ball with any accuracy. The team is poor at rebounding the ball, and repeatedly loses momentum by making careless turnovers. For those who see the glass half full, Thursday’s game represents a step up, showing how the team can ramp up the defense and gut out a win even when their shots aren’t falling. No doubt the truth is somewhere in the middle. The team now has the mental toughness to persist when things aren’t going its way. However, much of their trouble scoring is not just bad luck of the “good shots just weren’t dropping” variety, but due to poor technique both in getting the ball to the shooter in the proper position and with the mechanics of shooting.
Despite the Boiler’s wish to start the game on a positive note, they once again allowed their opponent to develop a large lead before competing. While the players in Old Gold and Black looked like they had yet to enter the gym, the visitors jumped out to a 10 to 3 lead. At the 15:09 time out, the Boilers were shooting at a 14% clip. What is more, the 70% shooting success of the Illini and their 6 to 2 advantage on the boards reflected how out of sorts the Boilers appeared. Led by Brittany Rayburn’s tough defense and Jodi Howell’s shooting touch, Purdue came back over the next several minutes. Howell’s fourth 3 pointer of the night produced Purdue’s first tie,16-16 with 7:30 remaining. The Illini quickly answered to go ahead, but a SamO bucket and one gave the Boilers their first lead at 19-18 with a little less than six minutes left in the half. The Illini adjusted to Howell’s hot hand and got out on her quickly enough to block her shot. Sam O and Rayburn were able to put just enough points on the board to allow Purdue to maintain the lead. In the final minutes Sam Woods and Chelsea Jones got into the act as well to push Purdue’s half time lead to 6, 29-23.
The Illini looked pretty shaky in the second half. They had trouble holding onto the ball, and their star center, Jenna Smith, never got on track. The Boilers could not score consistently enough to put any real distance between the two teams, however. For most of the second half they were able to maintain a 4 to 8 point lead. Ashley Wilson’s lay up and one at the 4:49 mark gave the Boilers their largest lead of the night at 47-35. The Illini went on a min-run of their own and cut the lead to 4 with 3:24 remaining. The Boilers hit their free throws down the stretch, and hung on for the win. The final score was 53 48 in the home team’s favor.
Comments on Specific Aspect of the Game:
When the game started, Jodi Howell represented Purdue’s offense. She was able to put in 4 quick three point shots in the first half. After that she went as cold as her teammates. For the game the team made 27% of their attempts from the floor. It’s amazing that a team that is so sub-artic could pull out a win against anyone.
The Illinois back court is not a great ball handlers, and Purdue took advantage all night. They forced the visitors into 23 turnovers, 14 of which were recorded as steals. The best thing the team did defensively is double team Jenna Smith, the Orange and Blue’s All-Big 10 center. She was double teamed whenever she received the ball, and held to single figure scoring, 10 points below her average.
Illinois pulled down 43 rebounds to 38 for the home team. The Boiler’s rebounding efforts did improve over the course of the game. In the initial five minutes the players in home whites stood as shots went up, neither attempting to box out or get back on defense. By the second half, however, most of the Boilers on the court were trying to establish position.
Free Throw Shooting:
Luckily, the Boiler’s free throw shooting remained in an acceptable range despite their poor showing from the floor. The team connected on 13 of their 18 attempts for 72%. KK, Ashley Wilson, and Alex Guyton were perfect from the line.
The Boiler passes appeared to be a beat slow all night. There were many instances when a post player had her player sealed and was calling for the ball, only to see the pumpkin go back around the perimeter or to anther player. Generally the team took care of the ball, however, and it is evident that the players are more comfortable with each other on the court. The only glaring exceptions were several telegraphed perimeter passes that were picked off for easy break away lay-ups.
It’s not often that a player control foul is considered a good thing, but Samantha Wood’s called charge was nice to see. It indicates that she is becoming more aggressive on the court. Sam started as slowly as everyone else, but gained in confidence as the game wore on. She is a very reliable three point shooter. To date, opposing post players have not followed her to the perimeter, but when they do it will open up the paint for other players. Sam finished with 9 points (3-9, 2-2 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 4 rebounds, and 2 turnovers.
Chelsea Jones’ defense against the Big 10’s marquee post players has been a difference maker for the Boilers. Thursday it was Jenna Smith who was forced to deal with the Arkansas native. Now Chelsea’s offense must catch up. For a person who is her height to hit only 25% of her shot attempts without drawing any fouls is not going to get it done. Chelsea ended the night with 4 points (2-8), 6 rebounds, and 2 turnovers to 1 steal.
Jodi Howell did not practice earlier in the week in order to rest her knees. At the beginning of the game, she demonstrated how well she shoots when she’s feeling good. She nailed 4 straight shots from behind the arc. Then the Illinois defense guarded her aggressively and Jodi was man handled. To her credit, Howell will mix it up with opposing players despite her frail health. Jodi finished the night with a team-high 12 points (4-11, 4-9 3 pt.er), 1 rebound, 2 assists and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Brittany Rayburn’s outside shot has left the building. The sophomore had several very good looks but failed to connect. She scored by attacking the rim. Brittany seemed to flourish in the physical style of the game, and she is an extremely physical player when the referees allow her to be. Brittany ended the night with 9 points (3-13, 0-4 3 pt.er, 3-5 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals to 2 turnovers.
FahKara Malone is now in second place on Purdue’s all time steals list. She added 5 to her total on Thursday, mainly by victimizing the Illinois’s weak ball handlers as they attempted to bring the ball up the court. Malone’s shooting touch has completely deserted her, most of her shots were not even remotely close to the basket. The only bright note along those lines was that, unlike the Iowa game, she did not try to force the issue. The feisty senior finished with 1 points (0-6, 0-3 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals to 2 turnovers.
KK Houser regressed a bit as she looked to be forcing things rather than letting the game come to her. Her lone field goal was a beauty, as she was fouled in the process of attempting a lay-up and flicked the ball into the net while being shoved out of bounds. In all, KK recorded 3 points (1-3, 1-1 FT), 1 rebound, and 1 steal to 2 turnovers.
Sam Ostarello enjoyed another solid outing. She had a few defensive lapses against the Illinois posts, but played hard and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Sam O finished with 6 points (2-6, 2-3 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Alex Guyton played fewer minutes than in recent contests. This may be a reflection of the fact that Purdue didn’t need her and she should see limited action. Her time on the court was well spent. Alex appears to be becoming frustrated with her troubles finding the basket, and one hopes her shot will start falling more consistently. Alex recorded a total of 4 points (1-3, 2-2 FT), 2 rebounds, and a turnover.
Alex Wilson has the strength to muscle the ball up into the net despite having defenders hanging onto her. She’s also an extremely good rebounder for her height. In a solid performance, Alex scored 5 points (1-4, 3-3 FT), 3 rebounds, and a steal.
One wonders if the post players aren’t feeling the absence of Martin Clapp. Many times, the players on the low block would not be balanced or set before attempting a shot. This resulted in a large number of fade away and hook shot type attempts that usually failed to even find iron. Chelsea Jones now has an almost shot put type release that appears to be poorly controlled, and her shooting percentage is suffering. No doubt she will be very glad to see his return.
The officials appeared to be operating under “no blood, no foul” rules as they allowed extremely physical play from start to finish. As is typically the case, this benefited the Boilers as they can be a very physical team.
The announced audience was 8729. The numbers were down due to the concurrent men’s game in Bloomington. Many of the folks who did make the trip wore portable radios and earphones, and one could just hear “The Cliz” as he was broadcast from numerous devises. The fans paying attention were treated to a gold old fashioned defensive struggle, and most seemed to appreciate it.
They don’t give style points in basketball and a win is a win. Purdue needs every one it can get, and the victory keeps them solidly in the top tier of the Big 10 standings. They are going to need to be able to score a little more if they want to go on a winning streak, however. They next get a chance to exact a little payback when Wisconsin comes to town this Sunday.
Game Ball: Jodi Howell