© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
The oft-quoted Yogi Berra once said: “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not.” On Thursday evening in Mackey Arena, the Purdue Boilermakers experienced the truth of this little aphorism first hand. The team seemed to have a clear idea of what they needed to do in order to win their first Big 10 game of the season against the Wisconsin Badgers– win the rebounding battle, hit a decent proportion of three point shots, and run the visitors out of the gym in the final 5 minutes. The game came down to the final minutes, and the Old Gold and Black were all set to take advantage of there edge in depth, but were ultimately undone by the inability of inexperienced players to play with poise.
Both teams spend the initial minutes of the first half feeling each other out. Brittany Rayburn carried the offensive load for the home team, scoring 5 of the Boiler’s first 7 points. Defensively, however, the Boilers struggled to slow down the Badgers. They adjusted to Wisconsin’s ability to score in the paint by packing the lane. The strategy worked for a few minutes, and with 11:35 left half the Boilers were ahead, 14-13. The lack of perimeter defense allowed Taylor Wurtz, the Badger’s sharp-shooting guard to sink a string of three point shots. Purdue was able to score in response, but the Badgers were able to take a lead on the strength of their three point shooting. They went into the locker room up 6, 30-36.
Purdue came out of the locker room with a new dedication to defending the perimeter. Chantel Poston or Dee Dee Williams was plastered to Wurtz’s side, while Rayburn did a commendable job chasing Alyssa Karel around the court. Despite their defensive intensity, however, the Boilers had trouble getting through screens and playing consistently for 30 seconds. The Badgers’ lead see-sawed between 9 and 4 points for most of the second half. The depth of the Boilers began to play a role, as they appeared to be the team with more spring in their step down the stretch. Unfortunately, the team lost its poise as the minutes ticked down. Several forced shots resulted in “one and done” possessions, while lack of discipline defensively put the Badgers on the line. To their credit, the Boilers next stopped swinging. They fought back time and again, never quitting. Purdue was down 4 points with a minute to go. A Moses jumper pulled the home team to within 2 with 38 seconds left (66-68). A Badger turnover left the Boilers with 25 seconds to either tie or go ahead. The Old Gold and Black attacked the basket, getting 3 close shots. Those shots were taken by Moses and Howard, two players who had never been in this situation before, and they did not fall. Neither team scored in the final minute, and the final score remained 66-68. Wisconsin won its first game in Mackey since 1984, while the Boilers went back to the drawing board, looking for the key to playing consistent defense and executing on offense.
Comments on Specific Aspect of the Game.
The Boilers played quite well on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 41% on the night. Three point shooting, a big problem in previous contests, came around as the team connected on 6 of 12 attempts for 50% from the floor. Unfortunately, the team was not able to make shots when they really needed them down the stretch, but overall their offensive execution was fine.
The difference in the game was Wisconsin’s insane three point shooting percentage. The Badgers are not known as a great outside shooting team, but on Tuesday they connected on 11 of 18 attempts for 61%. The Boilers improved their defensive efforts to over the course of the game, but had no answer for the outside shooting.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers have enjoyed decent free throw shooting percentages this year, and Tuesday’s game was no exception. Purdue connected on 86% of their attempts as a team. Brittany Rayburn and Courtney Moses were both perfect from the stripe.
The Boilermakers have been working a great deal on their rebounding, and that effort is evident on the court. They pulled down 11 more rebounds than the Badgers, 39-28. It was a team effort, as many times the post players would box out their opponents so completely that the ball would to fall to the court. This allowed the guards to swoop in and grab the rock. As a result, 5’7” Courtney Moses led the team with 8 boards.
Passing/ Decision Making:
The Boilers had a good game plan, and, in most instances. executed well enough to get off a high percentage shot. When the shots fell the team did well. One consistent feature of post play this year is the decision to pass up shots. Time and again the receiving post player immediately looks to pass the ball back outside when it goes into the paint without even glancing at the basket. These should be some of the most automatic shots, and it hurts offensive flow when the posts refuse to contribute offensively.
Alex Guyton took a step backwards when compared to earlier games. She was able to play decent defense without fouling, but rarely looked for her shot and had trouble connecting when she did make an attempt. In all, Alex had no points, pulled down 3 rebounds, and recorded an assist and a steal.
Ashley Wilson played a quiet game. Her minutes were somewhat limited, perhaps due to the fact that she’s still working herself back into shape. She is not the headliner, but her solid contributions make an impact. Ashley finished with 4 points (2-5), 7 rebounds, a steal, and one turnover.
There is just enough scoring around Brittany Rayburn that other teams are forced to focus some of their defensive efforts on other players. In response, Brittany has been having a field day. Her confidence is at all time high, and she’s stepping up and hitting big shots. Rayburn also plays tough defense, and spent much of the night chasing Badger shooting guards. Brittany scored a game-high 26 points (7-15, 4-7 3pt.er, 8-8 FT), 5 rebounds, and 4 assists to 3 turnovers.
Typically, when starting players hit 100% of their shot attempts they are told they aren’t shooting the ball enough. This is particularly true if this 100% accuracy was achieved through a single shot. Chantel Poston has completely bought into her role as a defensive player. She still has a way to go in that department, as she often found herself on the wrong side of screens. To Poston’s credit, she buckled down in the second half and played much more closely to her defensive assignments. On the offensive end of the court, however, she disappears, forcing her teammates to try to score 4 on 5. What is most frustrating about this is that Chantel can create her own shot, and has good accuracy within 10 feet of the basket. Here’s hoping she continues to work to become a complete player. In the game Poston recorded 2 points (1-1), 2 rebounds, and a turnover.
Courtney Moses’ lack of experience showed against Wisconsin. As the minutes ticked down, the freshman began to rush her shots and demonstrated less poise than is typical. Moses has proven to be an extremely fast learner, and there is no doubt she will learn form the experience and get better. In the silver lining department, it is much nicer to watch a point guard who presses because she is acutely aware of time and score than one who appears oblivious to the team’s situation. Moses finished with 6 points (2-8, 0-2 3 pt.er, 2-2 FT), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 turnovers.
Antionette Howard began the second half, and she appears poised to enter the starting line-up. She plays solid position defense and looks to score. To date, she shoots like a freshman, missing many open shots by alternatively under then over shooting the basket. As she becomes more comfortable, the ball should find its mark. For the Boilers, that moment can’t happen a minute too soon. Howard recorded a total of 5 points (2-9, 1-1 3pt.er), 4 rebounds, an assist and 2 turnovers.
Like Nette, Drey Mingo is once again knocking on the starter’s door. She was the most effective post player by a huge margin on Thursday. It appears as if she still tires easily, but her aggressive play is a very welcome sight. Drey is seeing a few more minutes each games since her return, and in 21 minutes on Thursday she recorded 13 points (3-4, 1-1 3 pt.er, 6-7 FT), 5 rebounds, and a blocked shot to 5 turnovers.
Dee Dee Williams spent some time at point guard, but also saw action in the shooting guard and small forward role. In all instances, she was there to stop the Badgers offense. Despite her identity as a defensive player, however, Dee Dee takes enough shots to keep the defense honest. At the end of the night, Dee Dee had recorded 3 points (1-2, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a blocked shot.
Sam Ostarello picked up two very quick fouls in the first half. She saw very little action in the second as well, although she appeared to be effective when she was on the court. In 5 minutes SamO scored 1 points (0-1, 0-1 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, and one assist, turnover, and steal.
Chelsea Jones was build to bang up against the wide Wisconsin posts, and she had a very good game. Chelsea doesn’t look to score often, but at least she displayed good technique and connected on her attempts. Chelsea’s goose egg in the rebounding department is misleading as she did box out extremely well. In all Jones finished with 6 points (3-3), an assist and a blocked shot.
Sam Woods was in for 3 minutes. In that time she stood behind the three point line. As a legitimate scoring threat her presence dictated that a Wisconsin post come out to guard her. That allowed Drey Mingo to receive the ball with only one defender, and she scored easily. Mission accomplishled.
For the first time in recent memory, head coach Sharon Versyp called out her players. She made a point of complaining about the poor performance from the post players. Up until this point it has been all sweetness and roses from the coaching staff. One senses that the team is self-motivated and hasn’t needed a lot getting into. With her post game comments, Versyp as served notice that execution is expected in addition to effort and a positive attitude.
The crowd found plenty to boo about, but overall the officials did a credible job.
This was service appreciation day, although it wasn’t clear what that meant. There was no indication at half time that the game was out of the ordinary in any way. The crowd was reported to be 9161, and the audience was large and loud.
If the Boilers want to finish in the top half of the Big 10, they will need to play better than they did against Wisconsin. Many of the cupcakes of the past have improved a great deal over the past few years. The next two opponents, Northwestern and Michigan, used to be sure wins. Both are currently 1-0 in the conference, and will test Purdue. In order to win the Old Gold and Black will need to figure out how to play at a high level for 40 minutes.
Game Ball: Stanford’s Jeanette Pohlen.
Pohlen scored 31 points in the Cardinal’s victory over UConn, stopping the Husky’s winning streak at 90 games.