© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Good news Dr. Jekyll fans, Dr. Jekyll is playing better than ever. Typically, one can look at a team’s progress over the course of a season and use it to forecast continued improvement. When a freshman point guard goes from being tentative to running a team with authority, one can expect the improved performance to “stick” as time goes on. Ditto a transfer who has finally gained confidence in her ability to play within a new system, or an injured player who is once again finding her stride. When Purdue took on Illinois in Mackey Arena, however, it was difficult to get too terribly excited about the performances of Courtney Moses, Antionette Howard, and Drey Mingo despite the fact that they (and the rest of the team) played at a very high level. That is because, to date, they and the rest of the team have shown no signs that they will be able to take any of it on the road. Unless the Big 10 and the NCAA decide to hold their respective tournaments in Mackey Arena, Purdue’s complete inability to play well on the road makes their home-court dominance a moot point. There’s no question that despite the Mr. Hyde who appears to be lurking the locker rooms of away venues, the Boiler’s ability to dismantle an opponent on their home floor Sunday was fun to watch.
The Boilers appeared a bit shell-shocked when the game started. They had been run out of the OSU Buckeye’s gym the past Thursday. A large foul discrepancy was blamed for the loss – it sent the Buckeyes to the line early in the game and sat most of Purdue’s players on the bench. On Sunday, the Old Gold and Black picked up 3 quick fouls by attempting to rebound with their arms over Illini players who had boxed them out. By the 15:36 mark of the first half the home team had committed its 6th infraction. With every whistle the Boilers appeared increasingly tentative and discombobulated. Because Illinois was not playing defense, however, the Boilers also enjoyed a very healthy early lead, 12-5. Principally behind ‘Nette Howard’s dribble drives, Purdue was scoring lay-ups at a very high clip. Purdue responded to the prospect of 15 minutes worth of Illini bonus time by joining their sisters in Orange and Blue and throwing any pretense of defensive effort out the window. The two teams raced up and down the court for the rest of the half. The Illini reaction to Purdue’s lack of defensive by putting the ball in Karisma Penn’s hands and letting the mobile post get to the bucket. The visitors pulled even as the minutes ticked down, and even managed a one point lead, 30-31 with 5:37 minutes remaining. It was then that Purdue really went to work and went on a 17-8 run in the final 5 minutes. The Boilers poured in a total of 51 points in the half to lead by 10, 51-41.
The Boilers made a key defensive adjustment in the second half – they played some. Specifically, they double teamed Penn when she got the ball. By doing so the Illini were held to 22 points in the final 20 minutes. The Illini were not able to muster any increase in defensive intensity to match. The Old Gold and Black were able to turn their defense into offense. They turned just about everything else they tried into offense as well. The home team added another 41 points to their total in the second 20 minutes to record the most ever scored in the Versyp era- 92. This was 29 more points than the Illini managed. The final score was 92-63.
Comments on Specific Aspects of the Game:
Purdue’s offensive statistics are otherworldly, and sent radio announcer Tim Newton and Jane Schott scrambling to their notes to see if they had ever been matched in Boilermaker history. The Boilers shot 61% from the floor for the game, including making 20 of 30 field goal attempts in the first half. Three point shooting was strong as well, at 53%. It would be tempting to argue that these numbers are misleading and ultimately meaningless because such a huge percent of the attempts were at point blank range, made against a team playing essentially no defense. Purdue has competed against worse teams than Illinois many times, however, and failed to achieve this level of efficiency. On Sunday they were really that good.
Purdue didn’t play any in the first half. In the second they ramped it up to their customary levels. This resulted in allowing the visitors to connect on 48% of their shot attempts in the first half, then a mere 22% in the second. The Illini committed 15 turnovers of which 10 were credited as Purdue steals.
Here is my entry in the “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics” competition: Purdue made 35 of their 57 shot attempts, giving the team 22 opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. Illinois made only 20 of their 56 shot attempts, giving them 36 opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. Thus, if both teams could rebound equally well, Illinois would have grabbed 14 more O boards than Purdue. However, the Orange and Blue only came up with 8 more offensive boards (15 vs. 7). Thus, Purdue was the superior rebounding team despite the Illinois’ 35-29 edge in the box score. You’re welcome.
Free Throw Shooting:
Purdue was uncharacteristically poor at free throw shooting, making only 14 of 23 attempts for 61%. Drey Mingo was perfect from the stripe while her teammates struggled.
Purdue recorded 25 assists on 35 made baskets. This is a phenomenal level, and indicates that this year’s team works well as a unit and, at least under the proper conditions, can manufacture offense to burn. The team only committed 10 turnovers, well under the year’s average of 17 per game. Overall, the Boilers played as efficiently and effectively as they have all season.
The one facet of Drey Mingo’s game that was most obvious against Illinois was just how quickly she can get up and down the court. Multiple times she scored in transition because she was flat able to beat every other post to the block. Drey dominated in all facets of the game, making 80% of her shots from the field (8-10, including all 4 three point attempts, and 3-3FT), leading the team in rebounding with 6, and adding 4 assists to the mix to only 2 turnovers.
Alex Guyton was en fuego at the beginning of the game. She took the first 3 shot attempts for the Boilers and made all three. The officials allowed her to play a physical game, and she used her presence to block shots and force opponents out of the paint. In all Alex recorded 10 points (5-9), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocked shots, and 3 steals to 2 turnovers.
Brittany Rayburn looks her best when she’s either leaking out to start fast breaks or looking to run with her team mates. After being hacked and pushed, it must have been a pleasant relief to be able to move on the court without being mauled. Brittany attempted fewer shots than has been typical, but remained the person with the ball in her hands during the rare offensive possessions when the shot clock was ticking down. At the end of the afternoon Rayburn finished with 13 points, a blocked shot, and a steal.
Ironically, the better Courtney Moses plays, the less likely it will be that she is named the Big 10 Freshman of the year. As Moses has improved, she’s moved towards setting up teammates rather than attempting to score all the points. Season end awards are all about points scored. If it means winning games, Moses will surely pass on the hardware. Courtney created several lovely assists by running fast breaks. Her ability to get the ball to someone running full speed down the court so that they can finish is what sets her apart from play makers in the recent past. Moses was the 4th starter to score in double figures with 10 points (4-11, 1-5 3 pt.er, 1-2 FT), and also recorded 4 rebounds, a career-high 7 assists, and 2 steals to 3 turnovers.
Chantel Poston played with energy while on the court. She scored the one time she attempted a shot for a total of 2 points. To date, Poston only appears to look for the basket as a last resort. She did pull down a rebound and record 3 assists.
Antionette Howard keeps improving every game. After having trouble finishing earlier in the season, she is now going to the hoop with authority and finishing. Nette is also one of Purdue’s best passers, particularly in traffic. Illinois certainly had no answer for the transfer, and she had what was easily her best game in a Purdue uniform. Howard finished with a game high 21 points (7-10, 1-2 3 pt.er, 6-9 FT), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals to 1 turnover.
Dee Dee Williams had a tough prior week on the road, and one hopes her excellent performance on Sunday helps the freshman to regain some confidence. Williams is a very deceptive scorer. Since she is defensively minded, opponents forget that she will take it to the hoop if she’s given an open lane. In a very solid outing Williams recorded 6 points (3-3), 2 rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Sam Ostarello only played 9 minutes. In that time she managed to play with her signature pedal to the metal style while still remaining a positive influence. In one notable sequence, she got the ball on the baseline and willed herself to the hoop. She got the shot off as she was being tackled to the ground, scoring the field goal. SamO looks for all the world like a player who is just about to turn the corner and really contribute. Here’s hoping it occurs sooner rather than later. SamO finished with 4 points (2-2, 1-3 FT), 4 rebounds, and 2 assists to 1 turnover.
Chelsea Jones can be counted on to provide a steadying influence on the low block. She goes where she is supposed to go, doesn’t hurt her team, and keeps the offensive flow going. Jones held her own against the Illini’s speedy posts, finishing with 2 points (1-2), 3 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a turnover.
Sam Woods came in for the final three minutes and did not dent the box score.
In a rare moment of candor during the broadcast of Purdue’s collapse against Ohio State, SID Sara White shared the coaching staff’s frustrations with the team’s poor performances on the road. The coaches have tried everything in their power to address the situation. Ultimately, as with virtually every other aspect of the game, it’s up to the players. There were no such worries on Sunday. Versyp sat back and watched her team cruise to an easy victory.
If a player touches the ball in the front court, losses control of it so that it goes into the back court, and then touches it again it is an over and back violation. Just saying….
It was Project Perfect day and Mackey was filled with a lot of younger fans. The official attendance was 10118, and most stayed until the very end.
The Boilers’ next test is against Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Gophers have improved lately, but are still a team that Purdue should be able to knock off. The end of the season is looming now, and this is the time the Old Gold and Black will need to find a way to play consistently if they want to determine their own destiny.
Game Ball: Antionette Howard