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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Big 10 / ACC Challenge, Follow-Up
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
2009-10 BIG 10 / ACC CHALLENGE
Now that the 2009-10 Big 10 / ACC Challenge is over, what have we learned? From a conference perspective, the ACC continues to exhibit more overall strength relative to the Big 10.
Last year, the ACC came out on top with seven wins against only four defeats. Again this year, losses at the top for Ohio St. (vs. Duke), Purdue (vs. Virginia), and Minnesota (vs. Maryland) provided the ACC with top tier dominance, as the Big 10’s lone upper level victory was Michigan St. over North Carolina. Additional Big 10 victories by Wisconsin (vs. NC State), Michigan (vs. Virginia Tech) and Illinois (vs. Wake Forest) were not enough to offset defeats for Penn St. (vs. Georgia Tech), Iowa (vs. Boston College), Indiana (vs. Florida St.) and Northwestern (vs. Clemson), thus giving the ACC the same overall results as last year with seven wins against only four defeats.
What else did we learn? Predicting individual games is more difficult than predicting overall trends. While my overall prediction of 6 ACC wins / 5 Big 10 losses was only off by one game, and one last second shot at that, my individual predictions did not fare so well, as I missed on seven predictions, while getting only four correct. I also learned that one should go with one’s first impressions. Between my first draft and what I actually posted, there were four games that I changed my prediction on, and I missed on all four: Ohio St over Duke, UNC over Michigan St., Wake Forest over Illinois and Georgia Tech over Penn St. So remember, boys and girls, betting on sporting events is a losing proposition, and the more you think you know, the more you are likely to lose. Better to just be a fan.
Without question, the most disappointing game from the Big 10’s perspective was Ohio St.’s loss to Duke, 83-67. Up until this game, the Buckeyes looked solid, athletic and aggressive, getting contributions from multiple sources, while Duke lacked consistency, beating Marquette, for example, but looking less than impressive after a horrendous shooting night against a very good Texas A & M squad. For Duke to be successful, the key is the emergence of Jr PG Jasmine Thomas. She scored 24 of her career-high 29 points during the second half as her aggressiveness dictated the tempo of Duke’s 24-8 run during a 6-minute stretch of the second half. Thomas, who had a triple-double against Marquette, started a decisive burst with a 3-pointer, scored 10 points during the run and went coast-to-coast for the layup that gave the Blue Devils their first double-figure lead, 59-49. Samantha Prahalis, who played most of the game in foul trouble, finished with only 10 points. For the Buckeyes, Jantel Lavender had 20 points and 18 rebounds, but Duke countered with Allison Vernerey and Krystal Thomas. Vernerey finished with a season-high 13 points, while Thomas grabbed 13 rebounds "I just think they came at us, with just an attitude, like, 'We were going to win this game.' For whatever reason, we didn't come back at them,” Prahalis said. Hmmm.
The most surprising outcome had to be Illinois’ 65-50 win over Wake Forest, not for who won, but for the way it was won – with Illinois erasing 33-17 halftime deficit and staging a huge comeback during the second half creating a 31 point swing in less than 20 minutes. Offensive struggles proved to be the Achilles Heel in Wake Forest’s game plan. After connecting on 52 percent in the first half the Demon Deacons shot just 17 percent in the second, while Illinois was on fire in the final 20 minutes, hitting 13-for-19 (68 percent) from the field. "We dictated the first half completely and they dictated the second half completely," said Wake Forest head coach Mike Pedersen. Reminds one of the memorable Purdue Michigan St. game at Mackey Area in February 2007, when Purdue led by as many as 17 points in the first half, only to lose the game, 54-52 on a Mia Johnson game-winning 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left. The Illini held a 44-40 advantage with 8:40 to play, but took all the mystery out of the game, outscoring Wake Forest 21-10 in the final stretch. As Illini head coach Jolette Law said, “We came out in the second half and we dictated on defense and simply refused to lose.” Jenna Smith, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, had 18 points and eight rebounds in the second half alone and finished the game 9-of-14 from the field and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe for a game-high 27 points. Fr Karisma Penn and Sr Lacey Simpson also helped propel the Illini. Penn had all 15 of her points after the break, hitting 9-of-10 from the free throw line, while Simpson also did most of her damage after the break, finishing with 11 points and 6 boards.
Purdue, Indiana, Penn St. and Iowa all battled against higher ranked opponents and kept things surprisingly close in their respective games, staying within striking distance well into the second half. The outcomes in each game were not decided until the final minutes. The Northwestern / Clemson game was even closer, with the outcome decided in the final 6.2 seconds on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Clemson’s Kristyn Wright.
The interesting thing coming out of the Challenge and going into conference play, both preseason favorites, Ohio State and North Carolina, have been pulled back a bit to the rest of the field. It still looks like a two horse race in both the Big 10, Ohio State and Michigan State, and the ACC, North Carolina and Duke, but at least now, opposing coaches have some informative game film to study.