© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Imagine a sunny meadow on a beautiful spring morning. A fuzzy little bunny hops from flower to flower while birds sing and a dappled fawn cavorts besides its mother. The rabbit sees a succulent clump of clover between two logs. It jumps up and begins to nibble on the leaves. Suddenly, the birds fall silent and the sound of distant thunder can be heard. The sound rapidly grows louder and louder, like a rushing tornado. The rabbit looks up and realizes that it is sitting smack in the middle of train tracks, and a huge locomotive is bearing down on it at breakneck speed. The bunny tries to get out of the way, but the train is too fast. With a mighty WHAM! the train hits the rabbit full force and then races out of sight. Peace returns to the meadow, and the birds begin to chirp once more. All that is left of the little rabbit is a stain on the trestle and a few tufts of fur gently floating to the ground. That, in a word, describes the WNIT semi-final match-up between the Purdue Boilermakers and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in Mackey arena on Thursday night.
Purdue set the tone for the game from the opening tip. They were in man to man defense and pressure the ball constantly. The Jackrabbits were completely unnerved by this and turned the ball over on multiple offensive possessions. Their inability to execute on offense took a toll on their concentration, and the opponents failed to defend as well. As a result, there were easy lanes open to the basket for Purdue players all night. By the first media time out the score was 12-5 in the Boiler’s favor due to 75% shooting by the home team. The Boiler slashers, particularly Rayburn and Howard, had little trouble scoring at will. It took a little more effort for the Purdue post players to receive the ball in a scoring position, but when they did they usually cashed it. As the half elapsed the Jackrabbits went into full panic, missing wide open free throws in addition to their wretched play when the clock was running. At the half the Boilers had built up a 17 point lead, 37-20.
For the first time all season, the same 5 players that started the game began the second period. Any thought that South Dakota had regrouped during the intermission were quickly put to rest as the Boilers ran off 8 unanswered points to begin the half. By the eleven minute mark the Boilers lead had extended to 36, 60-24. During the final ten minutes the Boilers spent most of their time giving extended minutes to bench players and working on new offensive sets. As a result their efficiency went down and the turnovers went up. The Old Gold and Black scored enough to maintain a very comfortable cushion, however. Only a last second three pointer allowed the Jackrabbits to average a point a minute for the contest as the final score was 73-40.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boilers made over 50% of their shots in both halves, finishing with a 55% average for the night. The high percentage of makes could be expected as the vast majority of shots were either lay-ups or short jumpers. The only dark spot was the team’s 1-7 performance from behind the arc. There is little doubt that DePaul and many other teams will pack the lane in a zone until the Boilers become more efficient from behind the arc.
The Jackrabbits were rattled by Purdue’s pressure defense. The Boilers did not go for steal or attempt many low-yield/high-payoff type plays. Rather, they kept in front of the ball for 40 minutes. Both Dee Dee and Courtney did a very good job setting the tone as they harassed the South Dakota ball handlers when they were bringing the ball up the court. Overall the opponent was held to 34% shooting and committed 23 turnovers.
The Boilers did their best boxing out of the year, getting in front of the SDSU players. Often the guards would nab the weak side rebound, available because the post players kept their men away from the ball. Brittany Rayburn, Antoinette Howard, and Dee Dee Williams shared team-high honors with 6 a piece.
Free Throw Shooting:
This was not a particularly physical game, and a relatively low number of free throws were shot on either end. Purdue was able to connect on 14 of 18 attempts for a 77% success rate. Courtney Moses and Chantel Poston were both perfect from the line.
Credit where credit is due, Sharon Versyp should be assigned one of Moses’ turnovers. She called a play to Courtney as she was bringing the ball up the court. As the freshman turned to listen to her coach, a Jackrabbit nabbed the ball and went in for a breakaway lay-up. The team played very well for the first 30 minutes of the contest. As Boilers got more creative in the final minutes, attempting new plays and formations, the play got more than a little sloppy. The end result was a total of 17 turnovers, although by virtue of recording 18 assists they still emerged with a positive assist to turnover ratio for the contest.
Drey Mingo had an extremely efficient game, either scoring or moving the ball in the post when she was on the court. Her speed getting up and down the court rivals any guard’s, and she used her ability to get out and pressure the ball on defense extremely effectively. Drey’s most welcome skill is her ability to corral just about any entry pass and put herself in position to score. Mingo finished with 17 points (7-9, 3-4 FT), 2 rebounds, and 3 assists to 2 turnovers.
After the game, Versyp stated that she started Chelsea Jones because she knows which types of teams the junior can excel against. Perhaps her coach’s faith in her abilities played a role, because Chelsea looked extremely confident on the court and played with authority. Her box outs allowed other Boiler players to grab weak side rebounds, and her passing in the key resulted in many positive offensive possessions. In one notable sequence, Chelsea cut to the free throw line and received a pass. She calmly faked out her first defender, used a dribble to get closer to the hoop, and then sunk a short jumper. In all, Chelsea ended the game with 6 points (3-4), 1 rebound, and 3 assists to 2 turnovers.
Brittany Rayburn can always be counted on to score. On Thursday she had one of her most complete games as a Boilermaker. She remained in control at all times, knifing through the Jackrabbit defense to get to the hoop. When she met resistance, she never forced the issue, but instead pulled up for the short jumper. Rayburn also drew 2 charges and ran the offense effectively when she played the point. Perhaps the best thing Brittany did was talk to and encourage her teammates. She is not usually a very vocal player, and it was nice to see her take a more active role in this department. Rayburn finished with a game-high 19 points (7-9, 1-2 3 pt.er, 4-5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal and a blocked shot to 3 turnovers.
It’s hard to remember that Courtney Moses has only played in 4 collegiate games as she runs the point with such authority. Courtney’s shot wasn’t falling, and she failed to connect on several lay-ups and other easy looks. It was surprising to see that she was not credited with any assists as she was involved in the offense when she was on the court. Moses drew her first charge on Thursday. This is sure to be one of many as most players instinctively push her off because she guards them so closely. Courtney finished the night with a total of 6 points (2-8, 0-2 3pt.er, 2-2 FT), 2 rebounds, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
This game was just what the doctor ordered for Chantel Poston. She didn’t look to score very often, but when she did she either made the bucket or drew the foul. Mainly she used extended minutes to gain comfort on the court and fine tune her defensive abilities. Chantel was singly responsible for forcing two traveling calls, and her ability to get to the right spot will only improve with time. One hopes Poston builds on a very good outing. In all, Chantel recorded 4 points (1-1, 2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, and 2 assists to 2 turnovers.
There was nobody in a blue and yellow uniform that could slow down Antionette Howard, and she took the ball to the hoop with authority all night. Nette is not a head-down player; however, she’s a good passer and uses her drives to set up her teammates as well. Perhaps Howard’s best sequence was when she went in for a lay-up. She missed the initial shot, but caught the rebound. As she was being dragged to the ground, barely standing on one leg, she tossed the ball back up towards the net. It went in – and one.
The Florida State transfer finished with 15 points (6-11, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals to 1 turnover.
As was the case with Chantel, the extended minutes that Dee Dee Williams enjoyed should pay big dividends for the Boilers in the future. Dee Dee is a living illustration why coaches love to recruit players from excellent high school programs. Her foundation is rock solid and she does many, many things right on the court. Williams spent much of her time on the court running the point, and redeemed herself extremely well in this role. The one area the still needs work is in the scoring department. At the end of the night, Williams had no points (0-2, 0-1 3 pt.er), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals to 1 turnover.
If there was any doubt that Sam Ostarello is an emotion player, that question was answered Thursday night. Sam knew and played with many of the SDSU players, and the importance of the game undid the South Dakota native. Two quick fouls kept her from seeing the court in the first half. At the beginning of the second half, her most notable play might have been her “pass” to Brittany Rayburn. Rayburn didn’t see it coming, and the ball hit her square on the nose. Sam finally settled down and played well and with great effort in the final minutes. Ostarello finished with 2 points (1-4, 0-1 3 pt.er, 0-1 FT), 5 rebounds, and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
Alex Guyton didn’t see many minutes, and looked a bit gimpy when she was on the court. The longer she played, however, the more comfortable she appeared. Perhaps the best statistic for the junior was that she only picked up one foul. In all, Alex had 4 points (2-4), 1 rebound, and a single blocked shot, steal, and turnover.
Sam Woods took a step back. She did not look for her shot and had little impact during the game. She knows the plays well enough to keep the offensive flow going, but will need to be more of a scoring threat. Sam ended the night with no points (0-1, 0-1 3 pt.er), a steal and a turnover.
In the post game interview, Sharon Versyp seemed as surprised as anyone at the ease with which her squad cruised to victory. The high number of turnovers gives her something to work on as the team prepares for DePaul, but she was clearly delighted with the team’s defense and overall level of play.
The officials must have had planes to catch. Through most of the second half they swallowed their whistles and allowed a great deal of physical play to go without stoppage. The crowd didn’t agree with most of their calls anyhow, so their lack of contribution might not have been that great a loss.
The game was not part of the regular season ticket package, and the attendance suffered as a result. The announced crowd was a mere 1580. Even the band suffered, with only 8 tubas doing their dance, down from 14 in the season opener. It must be stated that the one group whose numbers held steady or increased was the Gold Block student support section. This wasn’t a game with much suspense, so the crowd was fairly sedate throughout the evening.
Purdue has certainly had its share of games in which nothing goes right, so one has to have some sympathy for the SDSU program. Regardless of the situation, the win was a great confidence builder for the Boilers. It appears as if the Purdue players got over a mental hurdle when they were able to come back and beat Toledo decisively. They were ready to play from the opening tip on Thursday, and they gave a glimpse of just how good they can be when they play together. Purdue will compete for the WNIT crown on Sunday against DePaul, a very solid Big East team. The Blue Demons gutted out a close win over Florida to get to the final game, and should provide the Boilers with their toughest competition of the young season.
Game Ball: Brittany Rayburn