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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Purdue 63, Penn State 59
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
It is mid-February and we are in the final stretch of conference play. Every team has been scouted and broken down by their opponents. With one or two exceptions teams are facing opponents they have already played. In short, there are no more secrets or surprises. How does a team find a way to win when their opponent knows their plays and has a pretty good bead on the strengths and weakness of their players? The best way is to be flat out better than your opponents. Everybody knows that Ohio State is going to try to beat you with Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis, but that doesn’t mean you can stop them. Like Ohio State, Penn State is essentially a two player team. Senior Tyra Grant and Freshman Alex Bentley are their heart and soul. To judge from Penn State’s record, they have not done a very good job in responding to the adjustments other teams have made. The Lady Lions raced out to a 15 and 3 record and were ranked #23 when Purdue beat them in overtime for their first road win in the Big 10. Since that time the Lady Lions have stumbled, losing 4 straight contests (including 2 loses against teams they had beaten earlier) and entered Mackey Arena Sunday desperate for a win. Purdue, meanwhile, was still looking to score consistently by improving their shooting and limiting turnovers.
Purdue experienced one of their patented slow starts Sunday afternoon, as they stumbled out of the gate. In the first minute the Lady Lions scored on two transition buckets while the Boilers turned the ball over. The home team finally dented the score board with a Sam Woods jumper with 2 minutes elapsed. Purdue had trouble finding the basket, and at the first media time out was down by 3, 3-6. At the 9:18 mark with the score 9-17 in Penn State’s favor Versyp had seen enough. She called a time out and lit into her charges. This resulted in more defensive effort on the court, although the offensive execution remained sketchy. The score at the 7:32 time out was 11-17 in Penn State’s favor. Two minutes later Purdue had crawled into a tie, 17-17. An Ashley Wilson lay-up at the 4:24 mark gave the Boilers their first lead, 19-17. Penn State was able to answer, however, and matched the Boilers basket for basket as the half wound down. A pair of free throws in the final 7 seconds gave Penn State a 1 point lead heading into the locker room, 27-28.
The Boilers reverted to their early first half form at the beginning of the second, with spotty defense and painful offense. They fell behind by 5, 31-36 with 2 and one half minutes elapsed. Like the first half, Purdue regained their bearings and came back. They repeatedly took advantage of Penn State’s tendency to hack and bump shooters by getting to the line. At the 15:59 time out the Boilers had regained the lead, 39-36. The Boilers clung to a small lead for the next 4 minutes, but the Lady Lions weren’t about to go away. A three point shot at 11:13 put them back up by 3, 46-49. Purdue came back to regain the lead 50-49. Two straight Alex Bentley three point baskets put the visitors up by 4, 50-54 and forced another time out by the Purdue bench. Versyp responded by switching the defense to a box and one with FahKara Malone blanketing the super freshman. Malone was very effective at preventing her from catching the ball. Because Tyra Grant was on the bench with 4 fouls, it was up to some other Lady Lion to step up and make some shots. That was not to be, and Purdue reeled off 10 straight points. The final three of those points was a Jodi Howell coffin nail with 1 minute left in the game to give Purdue a 60-54 lead. Penn State needed to foul, and the Boilers made their free throws. They enjoyed a 7 point lead, 63-56 with 5 seconds remaining. A last second Penn State three pointer resulted in the final score, 63-59.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
Sunday’s game was yet another example of Purdue’s shooting woes. The team only connected on 33% of their shot attempts, while attempting 14 fewer shots than their opponents. It is remarkable that Purdue has gone 3-1 in their last 4 games while never shooting above 40% from the field.
Between FahKara Malone, KK Houser, and Ashley Wilson, Purdue has the speed, strength and height to keep PSU’s stars, Tyra Grant and Alex Bentley, in check by guarding them straight up. Penn State’s studs reacted to one on one play by taking lots of shots, recording 33 of PSU’s 59 attempts. The remaining Lady Lions took few shots – 26- and made only 6 of those attempts. Overall the Lady Lions shot 32% from the field and committed 16 turnovers.
Purdue was the decisive victor on the boards, pulling down 13 more rebounds than Penn State at 44 to 31. This is a rather surprising statistic as they certainly didn’t appear to be dominating as the game was playing out. Sam Ostarello led all players with 13 caroms.
Free Throw Shooting:
Despite hitting at a rather average 76% clip, Purdue won the game at the free throw line. They got to the stripe by going aggressively to the hoop. This resulted in a remarkable 38 attempts, which netted 29 points. In contrast, PSU only attempted 18 shots in the game. FahKara Malone was perfect from the stripe.
Purdue committed 20 turnovers, and many were unforced. The entry pass that was apparently intended to get past 2 defenders in order to get to the ankles of the post players returned after several weeks’ absence. The large positive was that the number of turnovers decreased as the game wore on. In the second half Versyp finally found the right combinations of players that worked well together and executed on the court.
Ashley Wilson was inserted into the starting line up for her defensive prowess. The freshman made the most of her opportunities. She was able to stay in front of Tyra Grant, frustrating the All-Big 10 senior. Ashley doesn’t take a bad shot, and has the strength to muscle in baskets despite being knocked around. She uses her quickness to get to rebounds despite her relative lack of height. If Ashley can develop an outside shot she will be unstoppable. In an excellent game, Wilson recorded 10 points (3-8. 4-6 FT), 9 rebounds, and an assist to 2 turnovers.
Samantha Woods minutes have see-sawed along with her effectiveness. She regained her starting role after a string of strong games, but had little impact on Sunday. When Samantha struggles, it is on the defensive end and on the boards. One hopes she improves in this regard as Purdue sorely needs her scoring punch. She is one of the team’s best three point shooters and most consistent jump shooters. On Sunday the red shirt sophomore scored 2 points (1-2, 0-1 3 pt.er), 2 rebounds, and a turnover in 9 minutes play.
Chelsea Jones’ game is the mirror opposite of Woods. Jones provides solid position defense, but has trouble finding the net. Improving her shooting technique would help, but when her attempts draw as many fouls as Jones did Sunday, any move towards the basket is a plus. Jones finished with 6 points (0-2, 6-8 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 blocked shots and a steal.
Brittany Rayburn’s shooting touch left her as quickly as it returned. She had plenty of good looks, but could net find the mark. The physical play agreed with the Attica native, and she repeatedly was rewarded for her aggressive moves to the basket with trips to the free throw line. Rayburn took her turn defending Tyra Grant, and held her own against the Penn State star. Rayburn recorded 12 points (2-10, 0-3 3 pt.er, 8-10 FT), 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal to 5 turnovers.
FahKara Malone has struggled this year, but her game Sunday was one of her better efforts this season. Her shot was dropping, and she hit some key buckets. Malone’s defense on Alex Bentley was the key to the win, however. She is fast enough to stay in front of the talented freshman, and savvy enough to cut off the passing angles. One hopes FahKara’s keeps hold of her shooting touch for the remainder of the season. The one cloud inside the silver lining was the high number of silly turnovers the senior still commits. Malone finished with 8 points (2-5, 2-2 3 pt.ers, 2-2 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals to 5 turnovers.
Jodi Howell came off the bench due to her poor mobility compared to Wilson. She was knocked to the court on two separate occasions after putting up three point shots, and made the Lady Lions pay from the line. Howell did what she does best, hit shots and make free throws. Jodi’s three point dagger at the end of the game was pure joy. The best thing about the shot was that Howell was looking for the ball and knew that the shot was hers before she received the pass. A great, senior play. In an efficient 21 minutes Jodi recorded a team-high 13 points (3-5, 2-4 3 pt.er, 5-6 FT), 1 rebound, and an assist.
KK Houser came back to earth a little bit, forcing too much when she was on the court. That and Malone’s excellent play limited the freshman’s minutes. In all KK failed to score with one shot attempt, and committed 2 turnovers but pulled down a rebound.
Sam Ostarello owned the boards, and her strong presence in the paint was one of the keys to the win. Her team mates still have not adjusted to the speed at which she sees the court and passes the ball. When she is in more in synch with the other players, the team will be much more difficult to defend; right now it is more likely to result in a turnover than a home run. Sam’s “not in my house” block brought the loudest cheer of the afternoon. In an excellent effort, the South Dakota native recorded 6 points (3-11, 0-1 3pt.er, 0-1 FT), 13 rebounds, and 2 steals, 2 assists, and 3 blocks to 4 turnovers.
Alex Guyton moved very well on the court, and she appeared to be quite comfortable. For perhaps the first time this year, Guyton played within herself and did not appear to be forcing anything. It helped that she was hacked almost every time she touched the ball, and she made hay from the free throw line. In all, Alex had 6 points (1-1, 4-5 FT), 1 rebound, and an assist, block, steal, and turnover.
Versyp ran players in and out quite a bit, looking for effort and consistent play. A dumb turnover or lack of effort on the boards was sure to land a player some time on the pine. Switching to a box and one on Alex Bentley in the second half was an inspired move, as it shut down the speedy freshman and ensured the win.
The audience hate, hate, hated the job down by the zebras. They were booed on multiple occasions. Yet, somehow they awarded the Boilers 20 more free throws than their opponent. Hopefully, all the officials in Purdue’s remaining games will be just as terrible in the crowd’s estimation.
It was the WBCA Pink Zone game, and there was plenty of pink both on and off the court. There were 9654 in attendance, and they were vocal and engaged throughout the contest.
With the win, Purdue cemented second place in the Big 10 and no worse than a .500 record in conference. They still have some very tough games left, including only one more in the friendly confines. For Purdue to get where they want to go, which is something within shouting distance of the NCAA tournament, they are going to have to play as hard and compete as fiercely on the road as they do at home. For that to happen, the team’s freshmen and sophomores will need to find the consistency that is usually seen in upperclassmen.
Game Ball: Ashley Wilson