WBB Struggles In Maine, Opens 0-2
When Sharon Versyp last roamed the sidelines in Bangor, Maine, she was wrapping up a third straight season with 16+ conference wins and 20+ wins overall for the Black Bears. Friday, she returned to the school where she was first an NCAA coach - and where she was the first NCAA coach in the sport - as part of the Maine Tip Off Tournament; unfortunately for the Boilers, Maine once again prevailed with Versyp coaching (on the other bench this time), 47-67. Purdue's slow start continued Saturday as they fell to Villanova, 44-58, in a game that wasn't televised, which may in retrospect not be such a bad thing. (To make matters worse, Maine was crushed by Mississippi State in the tournament final, 87-43.)
Purdue (0-1) 47, Maine (1-0) 67
I watched the replay of this game on Saturday, and it wasn't pretty. You'd have thought Purdue hadn't had a full-speed practice yet, never mind an exhibition game. The Boilers committed 5 fouls and 10 turnovers - in the first quarter. That was more than enough to give the hosts all the cushion they'd need, and the Good Gals never really cut into the lead much; it was down to 14 early in the third, but Maine pushed it back to a 25-point lead, and from that point on it was just a matter of playing out the string.
Versyp used a veteran two-guard starting lineup, with Ashley Morrissette at point, Andreona Keys at the two, Bridget Perry at SF, Dominique McBryde at PF, and Bree Horrocks at C. Five more Boilers saw reasonable playing time: two freshmen, guard Dominique Oden and forward Ae'Rianna Harris, played 24 and 20 minutes respectively, with sophomore guard Tiara Murphy playing 22, freshman guard Lamina Cooper getting 13, and sophomore center Nora Kiesler playing 8.
I'm putting these here because I didn't see the Villanova game and it's really early, so it's a great time to overreact to everything. Let's do it!
Perry scored just 2 points, both at the line, in 21 minutes, and committed 3 fouls and 5 turnovers. She was guilty of a few of those out-of-control drives that cropped up from time to time last season, ones where she commits to driving the lane whether or not that's a good choice. In this case, I suspect it's mostly from first-game jitters ... it always takes some time to get back into the rhythm you want to have in live action.
Well, unless you're Oden. Despite an 0-for-5 mark from outside, she led the team with 11 points on 4-for-6 from two and 3 of 4 from the line. That's a pretty good line from a true freshman whose team got hammered. Harris had solid contributions as well, with 6 points and 4 boards.
Other than that, well, Purdue shot .306 from the field, .176 from three, and a surprising .583 from the line. There isn't much more that can be said about a game like that.
Purdue (0-2) 44, Villanova (1-1) 58
This time, Versyp went with her usual three-guard lineup, tabbing both Oden and Harris as starters in place of Perry and Horrocks. The same ten players got minutes (which basically says Miracle Gray will redshirt this season, a luxury Versyp hasn't had recently), although Kiesler had 8, Cooper 7 and Horrocks only 1, partly because this rotation worked and partly because Versyp's approach to non-conference play is definitely the Purdue standard: figure out what you got and worry about Ws and Ls when conference play rolls around.
The new lineup worked a bit better against the Wildcats, getting Purdue as much as a 9-point lead before Villanova cut it to 2 at halftime, 28-26. The third quarter was ... well, it wasn't as bad as the first quarter against Maine, but the Boilers did score just 6 - this time it was 3 for 10 shooting that caused the problem. The Wildcats pulled away further in the fourth, and the Good Gals were left with nothing but thoughts of lobster and losses from their trip to the Northeast.
Morrissette and Oden repeated their double-figure performances from game 1, with Harris adding 8 points and a team-high 6 rebounds; the one noticeable difference was a drop from 24 free throw attempts to just 3 (Morrissette made both of hers and Oden missed her only attempt). It's rather odd to see a team focus on what appeared to be just mid-range shots: with only 7 three-point attempts, you'd think there'd be more drives to the basket, so either Keys just expected contact every time and didn't get it (2 for 7, no FTs) or these were the usual group of bad refs, hard to say without watching the game.
With neither Maine nor Villanova looking quite like an NCAA team at this early, early point in the season, the trajectory for the Boilers is a bit ominous right now. Unfortunately, it'll be a while before we get a better feel for their ability against decent teams, as a set of creampuffs will come to West Lafayette and Cancún ... well, until the Boilers face Stanford there on the 26th.
Before the Mexico trip, Purdue will open with two easy home games, with South Carolina Upstate on the schedule for Thursday night and Southern Illinois arriving Sunday. The 2-0 Spartans are in their 9th season as a DI program, with all but one of those spent in the Atlantic Sun. They're coming off a 22-12 season that included a trip to the WBI, where they knocked off Northern Kentucky on the road and Western Illinois at home before losing at Weber State. Like Purdue, SC Upstate has juggled their lineup in their opening games, with seven players getting at least one start and 11 playing 15 minutes or more. In the early going, they've been led by senior guard Raven Jefferson, who's averaging 14.5 PPG, and sophomore guard Vanessa Agrusa, who's right behind her at 13.0. Freshman center Riley Popplewell, from Union Mills, IN, has a team-high 14 boards (10 on the offensive end), while sophomore guard Tamera Thorpe has 7 assists and shares the team lead in steals with Jefferson at 6.
SIU had a more taxing opener, dropping an 80-48 game at Oklahoma; they'll play Murray State at home Thursday before heading to West Lafayette. The Salukis are also coming off a 20-win season - 20-13, to be exact - and WBI appearance, where they lost at Western Illinois in a game that would have had them facing SC Upstate if they'd won. It's hard to read much into one game, but redshirt senior guard Rishonda Napier scored a team-high 14 against the Sooners (hitting 6 of 22 from the field, 2 of 10 from three), so the Boilers can expect her to have a green light Sunday, as will junior guard Kylie Giebelhausen, who had 12 points on 5 for 18 (2 for 8 from three). The Salukis will likely be much more interested in challenging Purdue's interior defense than they were Oklahoma's, and they did hold the Sooners to 1 for 16 from three, so this game may contain a couple of unpleasant surprises for the Good Gals. (We likely won't learn much from their game against Murray State, as the Racers are likely to be terribad; Massey has them #284 in DI.)
The Boilers are #88 after that 0-2 start, but Massey sees a 17-point win on Thursday and a 12-point win on Sunday, so hopefully some good offensive quarters will ease the pain of the woeful ones from last weekend. BTN+ will be carrying both games, so it'll be similar to the volleyball matches (only without the AM radio option): 7:00 PM Thursday against SC Upstate on BTN+ and the cranky old CBSi GameTracker, then 2:00 PM Sunday against Southern Illinois on BTN+ and GameTracker.
Hey! Pictures from road games! Courtesy of PurdueWBB on Twitter