|OldGoldFreePress COLUMNISTS |
BACK TO Capri_Small'S COLUMNS|
PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Purdue 64, Michigan State 79
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Purdue’s final home game of the 2009-2010 season was emblematic of their troubled year. As with past games, the Boilers had a difficult time putting all the pieces together, and it seemed as if they could either score or defend but not do both at the same time. Also, as in past games, Team Boilermaker seemed unconcerned with the lost, and showed little evidence that it would be used to improve player performance in future games. There have been other years when Purdue lost its final game in Mackey. In those instances the first thing out of the senior’s mouths was an apology for “ruining” senior night. On Thursday, the game was forgotten seconds after the final buzzer. In past games this year, the Boilers played with fierce intensity in Mackey and like lost souls away from the friendly confines. Unfortunately, on Thursday the Old Gold and Black began with their away game lack of focus, not their home game desire.
The Boilers took on the Michigan State Spartans Thursday night, a team that has also had its share of ups and downs this season. The Spartans played like they understood that the point of playing basketball games is to try to win them by scoring more points than your opponent. The Boilers played as if they had not yet made that connection.
The less said about the first half the better. Perhaps the thing that best illustrates how pitiful those first twenty minutes were was the fact that the first half “highlight” on the Mackey screen shown at half time was of high scorer Brittany Rayburn shooting a free throw. When it was all over, Purdue found itself in a 12 point hole, 36-24.
KK Houser and Alex Guyton started the second half, replacing two seniors. Laura Garriga had been given a ceremonial start, and Jodi Howell is becoming increasingly limited as the season wears on. The Boilers spotted the Spartans another 3 point shot to go down 15 before waking up and making a game out of it. They ramped their defensive effort way up while aggressively attacking the basket. By the first media time out, Purdue has closed the gap to 8 points, 41-33. For most of the period, the Boilers climbed that hill, closing to within 3 or 4 points only to see Michigan State stretch their advantage to 8 or 10 again. MSU center Alyssa DeHaan helps them a great deal in that regard, as she tends to disappear in games, but can suck it up and deliver a key basket or defensive stop when she sets her mind to it. Things seemed to be turning Purdue’s way at the seven minute mark. Rayburn finally hit a shot from the field to pull the Boilers to within 2, 58-56. Two straight Kalisha Keane three pointers pushed the Spartans’ advantage to 8, and that was that. The final score was 79-64.
After the game, the team’s three seniors were recognized along with senior band members and student trainers and managers. In a moving ceremony, the seniors and then the coach addressed the audience and their teammates. These were the first players who played for Sharon Versyp all four years, and they appeared to share a special bond with the head coach.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
Purdue hit only 6 of their 27 shot attempts in the first half for 22%. Things improved considerably in the second, and they cracked the 40% barrier to finish with 33% shooting on the night. Purdue did finish with 4 double digit scorers, welcome balance from a team that can have trouble finding second and third scoring options.
The Boilers man to man defense in the second half was the key to getting them back into the game. The constant ball pressure disrupted the Spartans. When MSU got a shot off, however, they connected at a high percentage and ended up hitting 44% from the field.
MSU pulled down 39 boards compared to 35 for the home team. Alex Guyton came to play, pulling down 9 caroms for the home team.
Free Throw Shooting:
It was a good thing that Purdue was hitting their free throws at a decent clip, because at times that was their only offense. The team hit 21 of their 27 attempts for 77%. Chelsea Jones and Alex Guyton were perfect from the stripe.
Purdue players did a poor job adapting to the long arms of DeHaan, attempting lay-ups only to have them swatted away. In most instances a pull up jump shot would have had more chance of finding the mark. Overall the team committed 16 turnovers, an improvement from earlier games.
Laura Garriga was rewarded for 4 years of hard effort with a start in her final home game. She played 3 minutes, committing 1 turnover in that time.
Chelsea Jones is one of those players whose efforts are not reflected in the box score. Her biggest contribution is laying beef on opposing post players, pushing them off the block. The team could use a lot more offensive production from the center, and one hopes she looks for her shot a bit more. In all, Big Country finished with 4 points (1-4, 2-2 FT), 1 rebound and a block and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Jodi Howell’s play has been a good news bad news story lately. The good news is that she’s actively looking for shots, and Purdue is running more plays designed for her. The bad news is that her shooting touch is going downhill. It seems that the end of Jodi’s college career is a race between the Boilers final game and when her knees no longer allow her to play at all. Jodi finished with 3 points (1-6, 1-6 3 pt.er), 1 rebound, an assist and a turnover.
Like Jodi, Brittany Rayburn’s shot has deserted her. Like Howell, she could only hit one shot from the field despite having many open looks. Rayburn can find other ways to her team, however, getting to the free throw line by driving to the hoop, and mixing it up under the rim for rebounds. Rayburn was able to add to her point total by hitting two technical free throws, awarded to Purdue when an MSU player threw the ball at her. Brittany ended the night with 11 points (1-14, 1-8 3 pt.er, 8-9 FT) 5 rebounds, and a blocked shot to 3 turnovers.
Unlike her fellow guards, FahKara Malone’s shot was dropping after a long draught. Overall, the fiery guard made her final game in Mackey one to remember. She had one of her better efforts of the year on both ends of the court. FahKara finished with 11 points (4-7, 2-2 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 1 rebound, 3 assists, 2 turnovers and 4 steals.
KK Houser played with authority during her time on the court. She ran the team from the point guard position moving players around and setting up plays. She looked comfortable in that role, and her future at Purdue is without limit. When KK was on the floor, Purdue played with much more efficiency and looks its best. KK ended with a team-high 13 points (4-10, 1-4 3 pt.er, 4-6 FT), 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and a steal to 4 turnovers.
Sam Ostarello likes the rims in Mackey; she is a much more efficient scorer on her home court than on the road. Sam had another taste of playing against really, really tall and really, really physical post players, and it appears as if she is beginning to find her comfort zone. Sam still struggles to defend without fouling. On the offensive end, however, she used her speed to get easy buckets before defenders ccould react. Sam O ended the night with 9 points (4-8, 0-1 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal to 1 turnover.
Alex Guyton came to play. She competed every minute she was on the court, and was by far Purdue’s most effective post player. She doesn’t post up, she POSTS UP. She doesn’t just ask for the ball, she DEMANDS the ball. By and large the perimeter players responded by getting it to her, and she would make decisive moves to score. One can only think about what might have been if Alex had been able to start the season playing at the level she is now. In an excellent effort, Alex recorded 10 points (3-8, 4-4 FT), 9 rebounds, and one apiece of assist, turnover block and steal.
Ashley Wilson played within herself. As usual, she did not force shots, just competed and took what the defense gave her. She finished with 3 points (1-1, 1-2 FT), 2 rebounds, and an assist.
Sam Woods is a player that can space out during games, and on Thursday she had one of her weaker efforts. What is odd is that she is currently Purdue’s best three point shooter, yet she stuck to the low block when she was on the floor. One wonders why the team doesn’t run the same plays they use to get the ball to Jodi for Sam. In seven minutes Woods pulled down 2 rebounds and committed a turnover. She is not credited with a shot attempt, although her missed lay-up on a Purdue 2 on 1 break.
In every interview she gives, Sharon Versyp speaks about not caring about winning and losing so much as improving every day. It’s not clear that she believes the team has improved this year, but it does seem that she’s fine with them losing. In the post game interview she shrugged off the loss as just a case of Michigan State being a better team. It is clear that she loves her players as her own daughters, but she doesn’t appear to expect too much from them on the court this season.
This was a very physical game, and the officials did a good job keeping things from getting out of hand. The technical foul seemed to help keep some of MSU’s more physical players in check.
First and foremost, the Black and Gold Sound deserves an enormous amount of credit. They came to play every game. (Ha ha). Their spirit and enthusiasm was infectious, and they are a main source of the Mackey atmosphere.
The announced crowd was 8881. Many had seen enough with 3 mintues left to play and left early. This points to one of the sad realities of sports. There are many fans that won’t stick around to celebrate the careers of 3 wonderful seniors unless the team competes in the preceding game.
During their speeches, both Jodi Howell and FahKara Malone assured their tearful teammates that they have “lots more games” to play. One hopes they understand this will only be the case if they win a few of them. If they lose in Ann Arbor Sunday and fail to win their first game in the Big 10 tournament, they may only have 2 more games to play this season. The enduring promise of sports is that there is always another day, but if this year’s edition of the Purdue Boilermakers don’t finally understand that the team needs to put forth 40 minutes of effort to get where they want to go, the season is going to be much shorter than anyone would like.
Game Ball: Alex Guyton
Thank you seniors! FahKara Malone, Jodi Howell, and Laura Garriga