WBB Rolls Past Hawkeyes, Earns Sunday Split
Coming off a disappointing loss in Mackey to Nebraska on Thursday, the Boilers badly needed to turn things around at home before a rough five-game stretch that includes two games against Maryland and one at East Lansing against MSU. Sharon Versyp's team did exactly that, using solid defense and timely post play to defeat Iowa, 90-73, posting their highest total of the season against a competitive foe. (Incarnate Word isn't quite ready for DI play yet.) Yes, I know, 73 is a lot if your defense played well. Bear with me.
The game got off to an inauspicious start like Thursday's did, as Logansport native Whitney Jennings hit a 3 to give the Hawkeyes an early 3-2 lead ... but even then, things weren't quite the same, as the Boilers got two quick layup opportunities, with Torrie Thornton hitting the second to go back in front. Ashley Morrissette blocked an Iowa shot, but the Hawkeyes got a lucky bounce on the rebound and scored on what was essentially a putback to lead 5-4 ... and that was it. April Wilson ran the court for an easy two, and the Boilers would not trail again (they were tied once in the second before a Bridget Perry three put them in front for good).
As is usually the case, defense keyed a run that got Purdue up safely in quarter 1. The Boilers forced 6 turnovers and committed none of their own, scoring 10 points on those and hitting enough of their other shots that even at 28-15, you got the feeling they weren't playing their best. The one warning sign was that they shot no free throws because they didn't draw any Iowa fouls - yeah, some of it was the usual see-no-evil officiating, but most of it was that Purdue either drove to the basket with ease or settled for jump shots, and at .650 for the quarter, it was hard to find fault with that approach. The one odd thing was the deviation in substitution: Dominique McBryde came in early, but only played a minute in Q1, and Tiara Murphy got 5 minutes, running the offense well and going 1 of 2 from behind the arc, but only played one minute the rest of the game.
Defense can't always keep offense down, though, and in Q2, Iowa showed why they're one of the better-shooting teams in the nation (.437 coming into Sunday, tied for 42nd), hitting 9 of 12 from the floor to cut the lead to 43-40 at halftime. With both teams red-hot from the field, both inside and outside the arc (Iowa was 5-5 at halftime; Purdue was shooting .600 overall and 5 for 7 from outside), you'd think there would be more scoring, but turnovers did play a significant factor on both sides, as the Boilers coughed it up 7 times in Q2, mostly on lazy passes (stop me if you've heard that before).
Those who'd watched the second half of the men's game in Iowa City probably were expecting some of the same, but unlike in that game, Purdue came out in this one with significant second-half adjustments. As many teams might, Iowa decided that perhaps a zone would help to cool off the hosts ... but Purdue shot .688 in Q3, including 2 of 3 from three (both from Wilson). Iowa also topped the .600 mark, hitting 8 of 13 (.615), but notably, they missed all three 3s they shot. It's possible that the turning point came when an Iowa buzzer-beater was reviewed and determined to have been shot after the horn, changing a 69-65 game to 69-63, but really, it was more about Purdue's approach to breaking the zone.
Instead of settling for bad jump shots, the Good Gals regularly drove inside, using screens from Thornton and Bree Horrocks to attack the basket. If Wilson and Andreona Keys couldn't find a lane, they'd dump it to Dominique McBryde at the top of the key, or work it around to find an entry pass to Horrocks ... and today, every touch by the sophomore was a high catch-and-shoot, and her stats reflected that: 4-4 from the field, 1-1 at the line for 9 points in 24 minutes. (It's too bad some of her teammates are still doing that one-dribble-too-many thing. Iowa blocked or prevented a few paint shots because of that, and a few more opportunities were lost when the Boilers tried to make one pass too many.)
At this point in the season, it's hard to picture a team with a shorter bench than the Boilers, but Iowa played only seven players for the majority of the game (freshman Hannah Stewart played 3 minutes), so you knew with all the running that something was going to give, and it was Iowa's shooting. As their legs tired, Iowa's shots stopped falling, and even though Iowa changed up their defense again in Q4, Purdue methodically broke them down, going to the line 7 times and putting together a 21-7 run that made a 6-point game into a 20-point laugher; only a late three-point play by Ally Disterhoft got the Hawkeyes in double figures for the quarter.
McBryde was the fourth-quarter star, scoring 12 points on 3-4 from the field and 6-6 at the line, mostly on plays where Wilson or Morrissette would get her the ball down low and watch her punish whoever drew the short straw. McBryde's become a major part of Purdue's post game during Big 14 play, and it's shown in her results, as she's hit double figures in 5 of the last 6 games and has been either above .500 or within one shot of it in every game since Stanford. Her 18-6-3 line in 24 minutes was another outstanding effort, and paired with Wilson's 24 and 12, the Boilers were able to turn in an excellent offensive game and set themselves up well for the key part of their schedule.
.586 overall, .583 from three, .750 from the line. Morrissette (15) and Keys (10) also hit double figures, and I was really hoping for one more basket to get Horrocks into the club as well (9 for her is a sort-of-career high, topped only by 15 against Incarnate Word). Her development inside was apparent today, and if she can keep playing that way, defenses will have to play off Wilson and Morrissette to defend her and McBryde, which should get the outside shooting up where it needs to be. (That might also improve if Murphy sees more minutes, but it's hard to figure out where they'd come from.)
Jennings got a nice round of applause during introductions and when she sat down after fouling out late. Her line doesn't show her contributions to Iowa - 7 points, 1 assist, 5 turnovers vs. her averages (8.7 pts, 3.5 boards, 3.1 assists) - but that's a testament to Purdue's defense ... and besides, a 5'5" woman isn't going to get a lot of playing time unless she's a solid player, and Jennings is averaging 31 minutes. (I can see why she didn't end up at Purdue, though. There simply aren't any minutes for guards - see my comment one paragraph up about Murphy's minutes.)
It's interesting to see that Purdue's philosophy is to push the ball whenever possible, but not to shoot threes whenever they're open. The Boilers turned the ball over several times on fast breaks that just didn't come together (but did score on a couple of really nice plays that I would link to if there were video of them), and that's kind of a regular thing - Versyp seems to prefer up-tempo mistakes to threes from non-shooters. McBryde's emergence as a post presence is huge in part because it removes the weakness of a Wilson-Morrissette-Keys-Perry combination: while Perry will shoot on occasion, in that lineup, she's really a 4, so if a big is on her, then the defense can follow Wilson and Morrissette, because everyone knows Keys won't try a three. Break up the inside defense, though, and Andreona's specialty - the slashing drive - is available again.
I put two and two together today and discovered that a number of parents sit in my section - this may account for part of my impression of officiating, but it also explains why I see different uniform numbers in the section that simply aren't available. (While the NCAA is generally a bunch of asshats that take money from players and put it in the pockets of bowl executives and other odious people, occasionally they stumble into reasonable decisions, like allowing players' families to buy customized uniforms. They're still asshats to the rest of us, which is why there are so few uniforms on sale (for now; change is in the offing, and frankly it can't come fast enough).)
Wilson was recognized before the game for joining the 1000-point club against Nebraska. She's the 29th woman to reach four figures, and her 24 today moved her into 26th place with 1043. Wilson isn't likely to make up much more ground; she'll probably squeak into the top 20, but no further (her coach is safely ahead of her in 13th with 1565) ... and that's just fine. You don't need your PG to score a lot, normally. (This season's an exception.) She's also the sixth-shortest member of the group; the shortest, 5'1" Sue Bartz, scored 1032 points and is now in 27th.
#26 Purdue (6-2, 15-4)
W vs #45 Iowa
Wed at #15 Michigan State
Sat at #113 Penn State
2/2 vs #5 Maryland
#7 Ohio State (7-1, 15-4)
W at #41 Rutgers
Thu vs #49 Northwestern
2/1 at #118 Illinois
2/4 vs #143 Wisconsin
#5 Maryland (6-1, 17-2)
vs #21 Michigan State, postponed (no date set)
Tue at #113 Penn State
Sat vs #74 Indiana
2/2 at #26 Purdue
#16 Michigan State (5-2, 14-4)
at #5 Maryland, postponed
Wed at #26 Purdue
Sun at #143 Wisconsin
2/4 vs #62 Michigan
Feature and inline images from Purdue Sports