© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
In the artificial world of coach-speak, every game is important and every opponent worthy. Despite all the fluffing of each and every challenger that steps on the court, however, some games are obviously played just to give a team a confidence-building break after a string of tougher foes or to help a team fine tune its play without having to worry too much about the final outcome. Such was the case in Mackey Arena on Tuesday night when the Purdue Boilermakers took on the Western Illinois Bulldogs. The game was played two days after a holiday break and two days before Purdue’s first Big 10 game. The Old Gold and Black needed to shake off their holiday torpor, and the Bulldogs are the kind of team that would allow the Boilers to make mistakes without putting the final outcome in jeopardy.
From the opening tip, the Boilers appeared to be primarily focused on running specific plays. The passes within a play were made even if the recipient was not ready to catch the ball or was well guarded. This resulted in a very large number of turnovers and many empty possessions. To their credit, the Bulldogs were scrappy and not afraid to shoot the ball. As a result, they remained within a few points of the Boilers in the opening minutes. With 13 minutes left in the first half, the teams were tied, 12-12. Over the following 8 minutes, Purdue employed some traps and became more aggressive on defense. This allowed the home team to open up a little daylight, and they led by 8, 30-22 with five minutes left. It was at that point that the Boilers became REALLY serious about defense, trapping the Bulldogs as they attempted to bring the ball up the court and hounding them in the half court. Purdue was able to use this defense to generate offense through fast break points. The result was a 10-2 run, and the Boilers went into the locker room up by 16, 40-24.
The players on the court when the second half started were Antionette Howard, Drey Mingo, Chelsea Jones, Brittany Rayburn, and Courtney Moses. They took up right where they left off before the break, and continued to stretch the lead. Half way through the second the difference had increased to 22 points, 54-32. The final ten minutes comprised of Versyp playing mix and match with the line-ups and trying to find some consistent three point shooting. The final score was 76-44 in the Boiler’s favor.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
One of the points of emphasis for the Boilers was hitting jump shots and outside shooting. The team did fairly well in this regard, hitting 46% of their shots for the game including 37% from down town. It’s hard to tell if the Boilers got back into the offensive groove or if the Bulldogs merely got tired, but the team looked much more fluid in the second half.
It is clear that defense is where this team’s strength lies, and the Boilers did a very good job on the defensive end for most of the night. The Bulldogs were held to 33% shooting and only 2 of 14 three point attempts found their mark. Western Illinois committed 23 turnovers, 10 of which were credited as Purdue steals.
Free Thow Shooting:
Purdue hit 66% of their attempts from the stripe. Brittany Rayburn hit all five of her charity tosses. To date Brittany has hit 52 of her 57 attempts and is 20th among NCAA Division 1 basketball players in this category.
Versyp made rebounding her largest point of emphasis prior to the game, and the team responded in decisive fashion. The Boilers pulled down 27 more rebounds than Western Illinois, 48-21. They even managed to pull down more offensive rebounds (22) than the Bulldog total. Sam Ostarello led the way with 10 boards.
It appeared as if the decision making was made from the sidelines. There appeared to be very little free lancing on the floor, even if this meant passing up the open shot in order to force the ball to a well-guarded player. As a result, the team committed a ghastly 22 turnovers to only 13 assists.
After going with the same 5 for several games, Versyp shook up the line-ups again. Sam Ostarello was one of the players who began the game after coming off the bench in the last several contests. Sam was up to the task as she played hard without getting out of control. Sam is “this close” to being an excellent passer in the paint, but she still needs to learn to make sure the intended recipient is in a position to catch the ball. Despite some hiccups, SamO looks much better now than she did at the beginning of the year. In all, SamO scored 4 points (2-5, 0-1 3 pt.er, 0-1 FT), a game-high 10 rebounds, and an assist to 3 turnovers.
Chelsea Jones also saw a start after coming off the pine for several contests. Perhaps Versyp was warming her up to bang against Wisconsin’s massive posts later this week. Chelsea is turning into one of those “all the little things that don’t show up in the box score” type players as she’s quite mobile in the paint and is very good at rotating on defense. She doesn’t look to score very much, however, and this limits her ability to help her team. Chelsea finished with 2 points (1-3), 3 rebounds, an assist and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Brittany Rayburn scored her 1,000th point in the first half of the game, and finished with a career-total of 1,006. This makes her the 26th Boiler to have achieve this milestone. Brittany took up where she left off before the holiday, scoring easily from the floor. The Attica native could always fill the nets, but what is nice to see is that the other components of her game improving as well. In all, Brittany scored a game-high 14 points (4-11, 1-5 3 pt.er, 5-5 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals to 2 turnovers.
It’s easy to forget that Courtney Moses is a freshman. She runs the team with confidence and is a fearless and capable scorer when the team needs points. Then Courtney picks up a silly touch foul and you remember that she still has a lot to learn. Moses was the second Purdue player in double figures, scoring 10 points on 5-9 shooting (0-2 from 3 point range). She also pulled down 3 rebounds and dished out 3 assists to 2 turnovers.
Chantel Poston’s jump shot didn’t fall on Tuesday. Her defense never wavers, and Poston did a very good job on that end of the floor. In all, Poston recorded 3 points (0-2, 3-4 FT) and 3 rebounds.
Antionette Howard was locked into the game plan, taking outside jumpers rather than just taking the ball to the rack. This may have resulted in fewer points for the transfer, but resulted in an improved offensive flow overall. Nette is one of the team’s better defensive players, and covers open court very quickly to close out on opposing players. In all, Howard recorded 7 points (3-7, 1-2 3 pt.er, 0-2 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal to 2 turnovers.
Dee Dee Williams saw a great deal of time at the point. She had some trouble with telegraphed passes, and committed more than her share of turnovers as a result. The extended minutes should reap dividends over the remaining year. On one possession, Williams went strongly to the hoop evidencing impressive speed with the ball. Dee Dee recorded a career-high 10 points (3-3, 4-5 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal to 7 turnovers.
Drey Mingo is quickly returning to form. Her three point shooting has officially returned, and she is once again one of the team’s better players. When Drey stepped on the court there was a flurry of applause, but by the second half the crowd had returned to treating her like any other player. Drey was the fourth Boiler in double figures with 10 points (3-5, 2-3 3pt.er, 2-4 FT), 4 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals.
Alex Guyton had trouble hanging onto the ball in the first half, but settled down and player extremely well in the second. Silly fouls appear to be a thing of the past, as Alex played a very strong defensive game while only recording one infraction. Alex finished the night with 8 points (2-5, 4-6 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and a steal to 2 turnovers.
One wonders if Ashley Wilson had a setback with her stress fractures or ankle. She only played 6 minutes, 8 less than the next lowest player. On the court she did a fine job and was very effective both scoring and playing post defense. Here’s hoping she’s ready to bang with the Badgers as the team will need her. Ashley recorded a total of 2 points (1-2), a steal and a turnover.
Samantha Woods looked for her shot, and several plays were run for her that ended up with good three point looks. Sam is one of Purdue’s best outside shooters, and if she can continue to punish defenders that sag off her she’ll help the team a great deal. Sam finished with 6 points (2-4, 2-3 3 pt.ers), 2 rebounds, and an assist, turnover and steal.
It appeared as if all of Sharon Versyp’s goals were met. First of all, the team won. The Boilers also rebounded very well and everyone gained valuable minutes. Versyp allowed out of control play to happen more than she typically does, and did not yank players after they committed silly turnovers. After the game she was extremely upbeat with the results of the “tune up.”
The officials on Tuesday were certainly not the NCAA’s A team, or even it’s B, C, or D teams. They made a large number of crazy calls, which were balanced out by their equally nutty no-calls.
The attendance was surprisingly good for a non-conference game played during winter break. The crowd was “treated”, as it has been every game this season, to the same half-time entertainment. For whatever reason, the powers that be believe that watching small kids put on over-sized clothes never loses its appeal.
The Boilers begin Big 10 play against Wisconsin on Thursday. They will begin that game with a healthy 9-3 record and they look like a team that will make some noise in the conference. The Boilers will have the advantage, at least initially, of being overlooked due to their poor showing last year. The conference games have yet to be decided, but the Boilers have already clearly shown that last year was truly a fluke, and that better days once again lie ahead.
Game Ball (with 1,000 Career Points written on it in gold letters): Brittany Rayburn