Shorthanded Boilers Fall to MSU Women, 68-56

I missed most of the first half and didn't enjoy much of what I saw the rest of the way, so this will be short. Sharon Versyp's bench, shortened by the departures of Justine Hall and Erica Moore, was even lighter in East Lansing with the absence of Bridget Perry (for reasons unknown, at least to my knowledge). Massey had MSU as a 7-point favorite even with Perry, so there was little reason to expect a good result tonight. Wooden List midseason candidate Aerial Powers made sure things went according to form, dropping 25 on the beleaguered Boilers as the Spartans cruised, 68-56, in a game that wasn't really that close. (Massey had it as 68-61, pretty accurate.) Powers managed that in 27 minutes on just 19 shot equivalents, too. If I weren't a Purdue grad and an Ann Arbor native, I'd be able to appreciate that more, I think.

Game Recap

Combine the offense the Boilers showed against Nebraska with only three players available on the bench, and you get a game that Purdue's coaching staff likely has already removed from their libraries. The Good Gals managed just 35 points through three quarters and ended up trailing by as many as 26 before Purdue ran off 10 straight who-cares points, finishing on a 16-2 run. Well, they were unimportant to the outcome of the game, but important to the women who continued to play hard even in the fourth quarter of a game that was well out of reach ... especially to those who normally don't get much PT at all.

Dominique McBryde obviously isn't in that group, as you know if you've been reading these recaps. She was part of a trio of Boilers leading the way, such as it was, with 9 points, and she did her usual stat-sheet filling in a season-high 33 minutes: 7 boards, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. Nora Kiesler played 21 minutes and posted 8 and 6, Tiara Murphy played 11 minutes, and Bree Horrocks played 19. 

There was another factor that played into that rotation: auto-benching. April Wilson picked up 2 fouls in the first quarter and played just 12 minutes in the first half; granted, Versyp did rest her starters in the fourth, but she effectively fouled out Wilson by keeping her on the bench at a point when the outcome was still in doubt. If you won't trust your senior PG to play through foul trouble ... well, you're like pretty much every other DI coach in both MBB and WBB, I guess. It's still frustrating, especially in a situation where there are few alternatives, to watch players sit down with 2 fouls. 

At least the freshmen got plenty of playing time (well, other than Murphy; I hope that's because her leg's still working toward 100%, because if she can't get PT in this game, she's not going to get it at all). Other than that, there isn't much good to say about this game. You need your A game to win on the road against a good team, and I don't think Purdue had their C game. 

More Thoughts

Purdue's defense on players not named Powers was actually pretty good. MSU shot .413 from the field, but Powers' teammates were just 16 of 47, and .340 is a pretty tough number to be lugging around. Tori Jankoska hit 4 of 8 from outside the arc, but the other Spartans (including Powers, 1-4) hit 1 of 13. As in losses to teams other than OSU, it was offensive struggles that hurt the Boilers, which makes sense when you see 20 non-Wilson minutes in the game. Ashley Morrissette in particular had another tough game: 4 for 15, 0 for 5 from three, 1 of 2 at the line, 3 assists, 2 turnovers.

Perry isn't the engine that makes the offense go, but she provides needed energy at both ends of the court, and she can hit an outside shot when Purdue needs to open up a defense. With Perry out and Wilson in foul trouble, there was nobody left to do that. (Well, Torrie Thornton did hit a 3 to close out the scoring, but that's different.) It's hard to be critical of a team in that situation against this kind of opponent. 

Let's not think about this one anymore. The good news is that two of Purdue's next four games are against Penn State and Wisconsin, two of the worst teams in the conference. (Oddly, the Boilers beat the other one, Illinois, by just 4 in Mackey.) Even though they're road games, Purdue should be able to win both, unless Perry's absence is extended.

The bad news is that the other two games are against Maryland. There's little reason to believe Purdue is in the same class as the Terrapins, so it may be best simply to mark those as Ls and look ahead to a closing stretch that should boost the Boilers to 21 wins and a top-4 seed in Indianapolis. They won't get a top-4 NCAA seed without some upsets, as at this point, they're clearly not part of the top two Big 14 teams (OSU/Maryland in some order) and have lost to each of the other two teams in the next group (MSU and Nebraska). The conference is tough, but not that tough.

Upcoming Games

#22 Purdue (6-3, 15-5) 
L at #15 Michigan State
Sat at #113 Penn State
Tue vs #5 Maryland
2/8 at #142 Wisconsin

#7 Ohio State (7-1, 15-4) 
Thu vs #57 Northwestern
Mon at #122 Illinois
2/4 vs #143 Wisconsin
2/8 vs #5 Maryland

#5 Maryland (7-1, 18-2) 
W at #113 Penn State (game played Wednesday)
Sat vs #58 Indiana
Tue at #22 Purdue
2/5 vs. #15 Michigan State (rescheduled from 1/23)

#15 Michigan State (6-2, 15-4)
W at #22 Purdue
Sun at #142 Wisconsin
2/3 vs #67 Michigan (rescheduled from 2/4)
2/5 at #5 Maryland (rescheduled from 1/23)

#31 Nebraska (6-3, 15-5)
W vs. #142 Wisconsin
Sat at #41 Rutgers
Tue vs #113 Penn State
2/7 at #58 Indiana

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