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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Second Round WNIT Tournament: Purdue 79 Toledo 66
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Time lapse photography is the technique that allows you to “watch” a seed sprout, turn into a plant, form a bud, and then open into a beautiful flower in the space of 30 seconds. On Monday evening in Mackey Arena, the Purdue Boilermakers put on their own version of time lapse photography. Over the short span of 40 minutes they morphed from a collection of 5 people who had just been introduced to the game of basketball into a pretty darn good team. The Boilers aren’t inspiring fans to run out and book their trip to the Final Four just yet, but by the end of the contest against Toledo in the second round of the WNIT they were beginning to look like a talented and cohesive team.
The Boilers began the game in the most vanilla of zoned defenses. Each player was rooted in her spot, challenging opponents that wandered into her area, but otherwise remaining immobile. The team seemed tight on offense, something that translates into players passing up open looks and hoisting up brinks when they get the courage to make an attempt. The Rockets aren’t as talented as the Boilers, but they execute efficiently and took advantage of their strengths. Toledo scored 4 unanswered points to open the contest. Two minutes in, Versyp had seen enough of the team’s “7th Grade Open Gym Pick-Up Team” imitation. She substituted in Antionette Howard and Alex Guyton and switched to a straight man to man. Howard proceeded to do what she does best – take the ball to the hoop. She scored 2 quick buckets to even things up at 4 a piece by the sixteen minute mark. At the first media time-out the Boilers were up one, 7-6.
The Old Gold and Black went through some more stages as the first half wore on. They responded to every Rocket play and strategy as if it where the first time they had ever seen it. This improved as the minutes ticked down, and the Boilers gradually tightened up their defense. The team could never find the range offensively to sustain a run, however. The teams punched and counterpunched through the majority of the half. Toledo spent most of the half in a match-up zone, packing the paint and daring the Boilers to shoot them out of it. The Old Gold and Black went 0-5 from behind the arc, and the poorer the outside shooting, the more crowded the paint became. Offensively, Toledo made up for its relative lack of height and athletic ability by running efficient plays and getting the most out of their star, Naama Shafir. At the 3 minute media time-out the Rockets were up by one, 32-31. The visitors then beat Purdue down the court to hit back to back triples, pushing their advantage to 7 points. Mingo scored her first field goal of the night to cut the advantage to 5, but a last second Shafir bucket extended the lead again. The score at half was 35-42 in Toledo’s favor.
After the game, Coach Versyp stated that she “challenged” the team at half time. In addition, she started her most productive 5 players – Sam Ostarello, Drey Mingo, Antionette Howard, Courtney Moses and Brittany Rayburn. Whether it was her half time speech or just a continuation of the team’s rapid skills acquisition, the Boilers demonstrated some abilities after intermission that they had not displayed at all in the first stanza. For the first time that night the team trapped and helped out on defense, slowing down the penetration of Toledo guards. The post players, particularly Drey Mingo, posted up and scored. The team also rediscovered the weak side and competed for rebounds. Purdue’s new-found ability to play both harder and smarter stopped the Rockets. All those easy penetration lanes were gone, and the visitors were forced to attempt poor percentage jump shots. Purdue had one more intermediate stage to go through, however, before they finally emerges as beautiful flowers. In the first several minutes of the second half, the team became impatient. In an attempt to find that elusive 6 or 7 point play they forced the action rather than letting the game come to them. The string of missed shots and turnovers that resulted allowed Toledo to remain in the lead.
The Boilers kept clawing, and were able to tie the contest three times in the first 12 minutes of the half. Most of the scoring came from Mingo, who came alive on the low post. A jumper by Drey knotting the game at 51 all with 11:27 remaining. A quick answer by on the other end put the Rockets back in front. On the next offensive possession, Brittany Rayburn tossed the ball SamO who was standing at the top of the key. Initially, she looked like she was going to pass the ball around the perimeter as Purdue looked for an entry pass. Noticing that she was being ignored by the Toledo defense, she knocked down Purdue’s first triple of the night, putting the Boilers up by 1 with exactly 11:00 remaining. On the Boilers next possession Nette Howard put in a triple of her own. When the ball went through the net, the entire Purdue team exhaled. Even though Toledo was able to answer and pull back to within 2, 61-59, the Old Gold and Black finally appeared to be in control. For next seven minutes it was the Drey and Sam show as they easily scored over their shorter opponents. As the final seconds ticked down the ball went to Brittany Rayburn. She calmly waited to get fouled and then added points to the final margin from the free throw line. The Boilers went from allowing 42 points in the first half to holding the Rockets to 24 in the second as they emerged victorious, 79-66.
Comments on specific aspects of the game:
The Boilers had a difficult time finding the net in the first half. They missed all 5 of their three point attempts on their way to shooting 42% from the field. They upped their percentage to 50% in the second behind the post play of Drey Mingo and Antionette Howard who went a combined 14-20 from the floor in the second stanza.
At the beginning of the game the Boilers were a step slow on defense. When in a zone there was little motion, and in a man to man there was little help. This left Courtney Moses with the assignment of stopping Shafir all by herself, and Naama had her way on the court. The Rockets finished the first half hitting 52% of their shot attempts. In the second stanza larger players were used to guard the Toledo star, and the post players hedged out and helped in the efforts. This strategy was able to hold the team to 33% shooting in the second half. The Rockets committed 17 turnovers, of which 11 were credited as Purdue steals.
One would have a hard time describing anything the Boilers did in the first half as rebounding. When a shot went up they stood and watched the ball bounce off the rim. Very occasionally it landed in a Purdue player’s arms, and they were credited with a carom. When the first twenty minutes ended, Toledo had pulled down 5 more boards than the Boilers, 13-18. While the players didn’t actually box out, they did make a concerted effort to get the ball in the second stanza, and when the game ended they just nipped the visitors in the rebounding category – 35-36. Mingo recorded a game-high 9 boards.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers found a good time to gain their free throw shooting touch, as the discrepancy from the charity stripe was the winning margin of the game. Purdue hit 20 of 22 attempts for 90%. Brittany Rayburn, Courtney Moses, and Chantel Poston were all perfect from the line.
Even at the team’s worst – and they looked pretty bad at times on Monday– the Boilers played better than they did last year. Despite the iffy execution at times, they committed just 10 turnovers to 18 assists. One factor that greatly improves these numbers is having a large number of excellent ball handlers on the court. It’s one factor that mitigates the effect of losing KK at the point.
Sam Woods was unceremoniously yanked two minutes after the start of the game and did not return. Sam attempted a shot in that time although it did not connect. If Sam gets another shot at a starting role, she’ll need to find a way to help the team get off to faster starts.
Drey Mingo is earning a reputation as second half player. She made little impact in the first half, and she reported that Versyp called her out on it during half time. Drey responded in a big way. Mingo took over the game in the second half – posting up strongly. If she caught the ball within 10 feet of the hoop she’d make the jumper. When she was forced to the top of the key, she put the ball on the deck and blew by her defenders on the way to the hoop. Drey played effective, physical defense without picking up fouls. The Atlanta native finished with a game-high 21 points (7-12, 0-2 3 pt.er, 7-8 FT), a game high 9 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 4 assists.
Brittany Rayburn’s outside shot wasn’t falling, but she still found a way to rack up the points. She made most of her hay from the free throw line and by attacking the basket. Brittany ran the point when Moses was off the court, and did a very good job running the offense. Ironically, Brittany may have her best year as a Boiler because she will be playing along side more credible scoring threats than in past years. In all, Rayburn scored 18 points (4-12, 0-2 3 pt.ers, 10-10 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal to 1 turnover.
Chantel Poston is still working on finding her place in the team. One role she filled very admirably was as defensive stopper. She is not going to be out jumped or out juked by anyone, and she did an excellent job shutting down Shafir when she was given that assignment. Chantel’s inability to find the range on her shots made her visibly frustrated. One hopes she doesn’t stop taking shots. More than anything, Chantel needs court time so that she can learn how to best harness her enormous athletic talents. Poston recorded 2 points (0-4, 2-2 FT), and 2 rebounds to 2 turnovers.
Courtney Moses stepped into the starting role in KK’s absence. Moses has all the ability and instincts to be a great point guard, but there’s no substitute for experience. Courtney was schooled by Toledo’s more experienced players, but one senses that she’s not going to make the same mistakes twice. Perhaps Courtney’s most egregious freshman moment was when she thought she was being subbed out and ran off the court very much to Versyp’s displeasure. Courtney finished with a total of 7 points (3-8, 0-2 3 pt.ers, 1-1 FT), 2 rebounds, a steal and 3 assists to 3 turnovers.
Antionette Howard was the team’s Steady Eddy. Luckily for Purdue, Howard is steady at a very high level. When everybody else struggled in the first half, Howard scored with authority; keeping the Boilers in the game. She plays hard on both ends of the floor, and never gives up on a play. The three point field goal she made in the second half was the turning point in the game. In all, Nette recorded 15 points (7-8, 1-1 3 pter), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and a block to one turnover.
Dee Dee Williams didn’t impact the box score, but played excellent defense when she was on the court. There is no substitute for experience when playing at the collegiate level and Dee Dee is destined to have some learning moments. She did not connect on her one three point attempt, but did record a steal to one turnover.
The new, improved Sam Ostarello that emerged against Austin Peay returned on Monday. Sam is playing with her teammates, rather than throwing the ball to a spot on the floor where she expects them to be. Her three point baskets were the difference makers, but she played well every second she was on the court. Perhaps her best play of the night was recognizing that Chelsea Jones had sealed her defenders a millisecond after Sam received the ball and making a controlled pass that allowed Jones to score. Sam was the fourth Boiler in double figures with 10 points (4-7, 2-2 3 pt.er), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks to 1 turnover.
Chelsea Jones will need to become more aggressive and look for her shot if she’s going to see much time on the floor. She scored 2 points in 1-2 shooting.
Alex Guyton had a better outing than in the first game of the season, and one hopes she continues to improve as she works herself back into shape. Alex is an aggressive presence in the paint and she closes to the ball extremely quickly. Alex recorded a total of 4 points (2-6), 2 rebounds, a blocked shot, a turnover, and a game-high 5 steals.
At the beginning of the game Versyp shuttled players in and out rapidly, no doubt looking for combination that would provide a spark. Once she found some combinations that worked, she stuck with them, trusting them to deliver the win. Versyp’s next task is to find a combination of players that can get the team off to a fast start.
When your team makes 20 of 22 free throws to 9 for17 from the opponents it is best to take Jack Nicholson’s advice from A Few Good Men – just say “thank you” and let them go on their way.
The announced crowd of 8320 made a tangible difference during the game. The band’s sudden shouts rattled Toledo’s free throw shooters, while the cheering and noise gave the team some needed energy during their comeback. The band and many folks sitting around the band waved KK signs, showing their support of Purdue’s most recent redshirt.
With so many new faces and roles, the players and coaching staff spent most of the Toledo game learning how to best play with each other. As the opponents get tougher, they’ll need to continue to improve and gain consistency. The Boilers will next face the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits on Thursday. If the Old Gold and Black play at the level with which they finished their contest on Monday for all 40 minutes, they’ll have a good chance of making it to the WNIT finals.
Game Ball: Antionette Howard