WBB Roars Back From 17 Down, Stops Lady Lions 88-78 In 2 OT
Bree Horrocks went down with an injury in the first quarter and did not return. Dominique McBryde fouled out with 0 points. April Wilson had 4 points after three quarters. Penn State led by 17 at halftime. Purdue missed 10 free throws. Penn State played a zone for significant parts of the game. If I told you all those things and then said "It's OK, because by the end of the game, Purdue will have a comfortable lead and win by double digits," you would have checked my cup for traces of whiskey (nope, that's J's cup, try again).
What I'd tell you next is that Bridget Perry had a monster game - career-high 27 points, 12 rebounds, 8-10 from the line plus a key three late in regulation - and Wilson came alive late, as she so often does, finishing with 22 points, 6 assists and 4 steals, as the Boilers used a 23-11 third quarter to get back in striking distance, capitalized on a couple of mental errors by Penn State freshman Teniya Page, and dominated the second overtime with an 11-0 run to come away with an important road victory, 88-78.
Yes, this wasn't a great position to be in: road games are difficult, but Penn State was 8-12 coming into the game, so it shouldn't have been that difficult ... but with Horrocks out, McBryde neutralized by solid Lady Lion inside play, and Ashley Morrissette cold from the arc (1-4 in regulation), the first half turned into the kind of game we've seen all too often from the Good Gals, where inability on offense coupled with defensive lapses built a hole for the Boilers to dig out of. Once again, something would have to change significantly in the second half to create a different outcome.
Yeah, that guy sure knew what he was talking about. In the third quarter, Perry and Morrissette carried the load, with 7 and 6 respectively, while the entire team turned on defensive pressure and forced 9 Lady Lion turnovers (when your A:TO ratio is 2:9, that's ... not great, Bob), keyed in part by two steals each from Wilson and Torrie Thornton. Blocks aren't a big part of Thornton's game, but her quick hands are often overlooked - this was the fourth straight game in which she recorded a steal and third with two or more (well, one was against Incarnate Word, but the other two were Iowa and Penn State).
It also helps when you can bring a 6'6" freshman off the bench: maybe Thornton doesn't block as many shots, but Nora Kiesler can, and today she tied a Purdue freshman record from nearly 30 years ago, blocking 7 shots in just 14 minutes of playing time. With Horrocks out (the announcers mentioned knee, PurdueWBB tweeted leg, no news yet), Kiesler came in and blocked two shots in five seconds, keeping the Q1 deficit at 1. She added one more in limited minutes in Q3 and Q4, and after Thornton and McBryde fouled out, she blocked 3 more shots in the overtime periods, with one block leading directly to a fast break. Kiesler's still raw on the offensive end, but she's rapidly developing into the kind of post defender Versyp's badly needed to help balance the aggressive perimeter defense that's produced so many transition baskets.
In the fourth quarter, it looked for a while like Purdue had thrown away too many opportunities to catch up: a missed layup by Thornton, 3-6 from the line by the team, and a turnover by Morrissette following a Wilson steal off Page (who had 4 TOs in Q4). Then the big mistake happened: with a 4-point lead and the ball, less than a minute remaining, and Purdue coming off a scoreless possession following an ill-advised layup attempt by Brianna Banks that missed, Andreona Keys knocked the ball away from Page at the top of the key. I was watching the ball slowly roll toward the sideline, but the Penn State announcers (very good, I might add; instead of the usual BTNStudent, we got the actual PSU feed, so for a change players were identified correctly and more insight was available) pointed out that Page was a) apparently asking for a foul and b) not going for the loose ball. The Boilers scooped it up, raced downcourt, and eventually found Perry open for a three that cut the lead to 65-64. After another huge steal by Keys, Wilson missed a shot at 0:03, but somehow Keys got the rebound, forced it up to draw the foul, and hit one of two to send the game to OT.
In the first OT, neither team led by more than 3, but the Lady Lions did swing a three-point Purdue lead to a three-point Penn State lead with 1:07 remaining, fouling out Thornton and McBryde on consecutive possessions and watching as Morrissette missed two threes. On what proved to be Purdue's penultimate possession in the period (possibly), Perry missed a layup and Page intercepted a horrible pass by Wilson, leading to a layup for Lindsey Spann ... who missed it. The Boilers got the ball out of bounds, and after a missed three by Wilson, Morrissette finally found her range, and Page missed a shot at the buzzer to send the game to OT2.
Even the second OT started off ominously, as Keys had a layup blocked by Ashanti Thomas, but once again Penn State lost the ball, with Morrissette stealing it from Banks at one end and draining a three at the other, giving the Boilers a lead they would not relinquish. Kiesler blocked a Page layup on the next possession, Banks lost it to Keys, and Page was forced to foul, with Keys' FTs putting the Boilers up 5. Kiesler then blocked Spann's layup straight to Perry, who laid up a Wilson pass to make the lead 7. Two Wilson free throws after a Page foul made it 9, and Kiesler's third block in two minutes led to another Page foul on Wilson, and the game was over. Thankfully, Coquese Washington elected not to foul in the final minute (the announcers were puzzled by this; apparently they hadn't seen that the Boilers were 21st in the nation at .756 - even with an off night, Penn State would still be fouling to catch up, and Kiesler would still be blocking shots), and the Boilers ended up with an important 10-point road win.
Perry did an outstanding job attacking the basket, forcing taller Penn State defenders into foul after foul. Two frontcourt players fouled out, and Penn State's entire starting backcourt ended up with four fouls each, many of those courtesy of Purdue's renewed second-half effort to attack the basket. There were at least two occasions where I assumed the blond head working inside and scoring nicely was Kiesler, only to realize that it was Perry. (You'd think it's obvious, because when you're 6'6", you're not going to be clearly shorter than anyone else on the court, unlike Perry in these situations ...) With McBryde outplayed and not even putting up a shot, someone had to help out, and Perry and Keys (7-11, 17 points) did that in spades.
The foul shooting was a concern until it wasn't. Keys 3-7, Horrocks 1-2, Morrissette 0-2 ... at one point I thought I'd be writing about that being the big problem (that, plus one possession late where Wilson passed up an open three to give to Morrissette, who missed one). It turned out not to be much of a factor. (Penn State was 18-19 from the line.)
Purdue's ability to attack the zone inside, especially without Horrocks, was impressive. It isn't the same as having a laser shot outside to open up a zone, but that's not going to change this season, so it was good to see the offense working to get shots for Perry and Keys ... and if Horrocks is out for an extended period of time, that will have to continue. Kiesler isn't going to develop into a skilled Big 14-level post scorer in a week, and Thornton doesn't have the size to draw over-the-top feeds (not that it stopped Purdue from trying them - pass selection was not impressive in Q2).
With Horrocks and Hayden Hamby out for some time, a break in the schedule would be most welcome, and after the upcoming Maryland game, there is one - five days off before the road trips to Wisconsin and Maryland. After that, it's the usual grind all the way through to the Big 14 tournament. Injuries this season haven't crippled the Boilers like they did last season, but Purdue's short bench is shorter now, so conditioning's going to be a big factor. It's impressive to see the Boilers continue their fast-paced approach even with so few people available to help ... they just need to keep things together until someone comes back. (My money's on Hamby. It would not surprise me if Horrocks doesn't return this season - if it was a knee, well, there isn't much that keeps a player out for a game but lets her come back days later. I should also note that PSU guard Sierra Moore, who's out this season with a torn ACL herself, helped Horrocks off the court toward the locker room after she went down. With the prevalence of knee injuries in women's sports, it's not surprising to see one injured player helping another, but it still deserves notice and credit when it happens.)
#25 Purdue (7-3, 16-5)
W at #115 Penn State
Tue vs #5 Maryland
2/8 at #145 Wisconsin
2/11 at #5 Maryland
#7 Ohio State (8-1, 16-4)
W vs #58 Northwestern
Mon at #123 Illinois
2/4 vs #143 Wisconsin
2/8 vs #5 Maryland
#5 Maryland (8-1, 19-2)
W vs #57 Indiana
Tue at #25 Purdue
2/5 vs. #13 Michigan State (rescheduled from 1/23)
2/8 at #7 Ohio State
#13 Michigan State (6-2, 15-4)
W at #22 Purdue
Sun at #143 Wisconsin
2/3 vs #74 Michigan (rescheduled from 2/4)
2/5 at #5 Maryland (rescheduled from 1/23)
#31 Nebraska (6-4, 15-6)
L at #41 Rutgers
Tue vs #113 Penn State
2/7 at #57 Indiana
2/11 at #72 Minnesota
Feature image from Purdue Sports