© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Thursday’s match-up with the Iowa Hawkeyes in Mackey Arena was easily the Purdue Boilermaker’s most important game to date. The teams were tied in 5th place in the Big 10 standings. Because they only play each other once this year, a win gave the team the tie-breaker for the season. Like every other team in the conference, the two team’s most pressing goal was to ensure that they remained in the top 5, thus securing a first day bye in the Big 10 tournament. To make matters more pressing, the current 6th place team, Ohio State, is a sleeping giant. At any moment, last year’s regular season and tournament champions might rekindle the chemistry that has powered them for the past 3 years and run the table. Both Purdue and Iowa needed every precious W to stay in the hunt. Typically, these sets of circumstances lead to games that are have “post-season” intensity and are heatedly contested from start to finish. As it turned out, the home team was ready to play, but their intensity was not matched by the visitors.
Iowa drew first blood, but a Guyton lay-up pulled the Boilers even before a minute had elapsed. The teams were matched up with defensive ace Dee Dee Williams on Iowa high-scorer Jamie Printy, Brittany Rayburn covering Kachine “the Machine” Alexander, and Courtney Moses on last year’s B10 freshman of the year Kamille Wahlin. Courtney immediately took advantage of the match-up as she is a stronger and quicker player. She used two easy buckets to put the Boilers up, 6-4 by the first media time-out. Iowa attempted to run their offense through Printy, but Williams had her blanketed. With the Boilers filling the passing lanes and pressuring the ball, the Hawkeyes became increasingly tentative as the minutes ticked down. As they are a team that relies on lightning quick passing and precise cuts to get off their shots, they were essentially shut down. It didn’t help that even their relatively open shots would not drop. Purdue’s defense was stellar. Dee Dee Williams followed two separate break-away lay-ups, patiently waited for the Hawkeye player to go up with the shot, and then blocked it out of bounds. Meanwhile, Moses was alone against 2 defenders on a break away, blew by both of the, and put up a difficult left-handed shot. To make matters worse for the visitors, Brittany Rayburn regained her shooting touch and answered every Iowa score with a bucket. Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder called a time out when the Boilers had increased their lead to 10, 21-11, but it had no effect. Purdue entered the locker room up by 13, 30-17.
The Hawkeyes began the second half with a sense of urgency. They put the ball in Alexander’s hands and the athletic senior tried to create some offense. She was able to keep Iowa from falling further behind for the first 5 minutes, but could not trim the deficit. The Bluder-coached Hawkeyes have had trouble getting stops ever since she arrived in Iowa City. This pattern was repeated against Purdue, as they did not match their second-half increase in offensive focus with any improvement on the defensive end of the court. This resulted in the Old Gold and Black scoring at a steady pace. The Boilers also maintained the level of defensive intensity that they had demonstrated in the first half, the intensity that was causing the Hawkeyes to miss shots and turn the ball over. Half way through the second stanza the Boiler lead had increased to 19 points, 47-28. By this time, the entire Iowa contingent was deflated. The coaching staff looked on in horror as their team basically quit on the floor. Not a single Iowa time-out was taken in the second half, and their body language said “Warm up the bus, we want to go home” long before the clock hit zeros. The score was 60-41 in Purdue’s favor.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game
The Boilers did an excellent job taking what given. When it was post play, the ball went into the low block. When lanes opened up, Courtney or Brittany would penetrate. And when Rayburn was left alone behind the arc, she’d sink the triple. Overall, the team connected on 43% of their attempts, including 44% from behind the arc. What was most impressive about the offensive effort was the patience and maturity the entire team exhibited.
Defense might not win every game, but it sure won this one. The Hawkeye’s offensive statistics were horrendous. While it would be nice to give Purdue all the credit for the total of 12 made baskets in the game (22% from the field, 12% from behind the arc), the Hawkeyes missed lots of relatively open shots. For some unknown reason, the team became rattled early in the game, and never regained their composure. The visitors committed 21 turnovers. Although only 9 steals resulted from those turnovers, most were due to Purdue’s pressure defense. This was easily the Boiler’s best team defensive effort of the season.
If one misses 3 shots out of every 4 taken, there are a lot of opportunities to collect offensive rebounds. This explains the Hawkeyes domination on the boards, 42 to the Boiler’s 29. They had a lot more chances to collect offensive rebounds, and they grabbed 17 to Purdue’s 7. It also explains why total rebounding numbers can be very misleading. The Old Gold and Black actually boxed out very well. Courtney Moses led the way for the Boilers with 9 caroms.
Free Throw Shooting:
The Boilers kept up their blistering pace from the line, sinking 10 of 12 attempts for 83%. Alex Guyton, Brittany Rayburn, Courtney Moses, and Chantel Poston were all perfect from the stripe.
Our freshmen are not playing like freshmen. Both Courtney and Dee Dee ran the team with authority. The Boilers had 18 assists on 23 make baskets, a phenomenal number. Even better, the team had fewer turnovers (15) than assists.
Here’s the best illustration of how far Drey has come since her illness; on the Big 10 Network broadcast of the game, her bout with meningitis was relegated to a second half featurette that ran as the game became more and more of a yawner. Drey’s level of play is certainly the picture of health. She had Iowa’s 6’5” center to contend with, and she more than held her own in the paint. Drey finished with 6 points (3-7, 0-1 3pt.er), 6 rebounds, a block and a steal to 3 turnovers.
Alex Guyton played with authority. She spent much of her time on the court on the high block. That freed her up to take jump shots with little defense, although it did have a negative effect on her rebounding numbers. In all, Alex recorded 8 points (3-4, 2-2 FT), 1 rebound, and a steal to 3 turnovers.
Brittany Rayburn and the athletic trainers have found a way to manage her sciatic pain, and she once again appears comfortable on the court. This translates into being an extremely accurate long distance shooter. Rayburn began the night being posted up by Alexander, who had little luck taking advantage of the junior. Rayburn finished the night with a game-high 23 points (8-15, 4-5 3 pt.ers, 3-3 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals to 2 turnovers.
Courtney Moses took this game by the neck and never let go. Her aggressive play set the tone for her teammates. The one characteristic that is the most un-freshman-like is her fearlessness on the court. Moses has the ability to swarm around under the basket, zipping in to grab the ball away from taller players. It resulted in a career-high 9 rebounds on the night. That stat was joined by 12 points (5-11, 0-2 3 pt.ers, 2-2 FT)and 6 assists to 4 turnovers.
More than any other player, it was Dee Dee Williams who sucked the spirit out of the Hawkeyes. Her ability to disrupt the other team’s offensive flow is uncanny. Dee Dee spent most of her time guarding Printy, but took time off to run the point. Even when she was playing the wing, her ability to deliver the pass to the right player at the right time shows a maturity beyond her years. Dee Dee had trouble connecting on her shots, but, to her credit, she won’t hesitate to take one when she’s supposed to. In a dominant performance, the Indianapolis native scored 1 point (0-5, 1-2 FT), 1 rebound, and 5 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocked shots and zero turnovers.
Antionette Howard had a hard time getting into the flow of the game. She played very tough defense when on the court and took the ball to the hoop with authority. She scored once on 4 attempts for two points, pulled down a rebound, blocked a shot and dished out an assist.
Sam Ostarello is quietly putting together some very good performances. On Thursday she did a very good job covering her opponents and staying within the frame of the offense. She scored on her only shot attempt, a sweet turn around jumper, pulled down a board and blocked a shot.
Chelsea Jones took a baby step backwards during her first time on the court. She, Drey Mingo, and Courtney Moses were on a 3 on zero fast break. Chelsea was given the ball on the low block. Rather than go up for the shot, she played hot potato; shoveling the ball to Mingo who was out of bounds. Jones seemed to realize that such play was not appreciated, and she made a very nice little turnaround shot the next time she was in scoring position. Chelsea finished with 2 points (1-2), 3 rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot.
Chantel Poston was named the Hotel Six sixth player of the game by the Big 10 network announcers. She received this recognition for her play during a crucial stretch in the first half. As the Boilers were pulling out to an insurmountable lead, Poston scored 4 straight points. In addition, she maintained the Boilers defensive pressure when on the court. Poston ended the night with the aforementioned 4 points (1-4, 2-2 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assist, 2 blocked shots, and a steal to 3 turnovers.
Samantha Woods dished out an assist during her time on the court, but otherwise had little impact on the game.
The game plan was inspired. There is a natural tendency to put one’s most athletic player on Iowa’s best athlete – Kachine Alexander. Focusing on Printy instead is on the one hand a great big “Duh” (she is the Hawkeye’s leading scorer) and on the other an inspired move. Excellent job by the coaching staff.
The officials doled out quite a few penalties that were termed “tough” calls by the Big 10 announcers. They use the term “tough” because “bogus” and “just plain wrong” make the officials look bad.
The attendance in the box score was given as 8311, but Mackey was fairly empty. Credit the odd starting time and the horrible weather. Because the game was not in doubt after the first 10 minutes the crowd wasn’t inspired to be particularly loud, but the hardy souls who made the trip completely enjoyed the route.
Purdue goes from one of its most important games of the season to two of its most difficult. Unlike Iowa, neither Michigan State nor Ohio State is likely to fold on their home courts. The Old Gold and Black are not only going to have to play better on the road than they have all season, they are going to have to find a way to play was well on the road as they do in Mackey in order to pull out a win at either venue. This is a team that is rapidly improving and maturing, so stealing a W or two on the road is certainly possible.
Game Ball: Dee Dee Williams