WBB Stopped By Salukis, Falls To 1-3
One more quick recap for another set of Thanksgiving games, complete with a turkey of a performance last Sunday. Purdue women's basketball struggled early against USC Upstate but found their rhythm late, cruising past the Spartans 71-41 last Thursday. Sunday's game was a different story, as Southern Illinois took the lead early and never gave it up, holding off Purdue run after Purdue run to win the battle of evenly-matched teams, 64-61.
Per Gold and Black, that matches Purdue's worst start ever - in fact, because the other two 1-3 starts date back to the AIAW era, it's their worst start ever as an NCAA program.
Gray uniforms on Sunday. blech. Old Gold, black, white. No need to wear any other colors.
Purdue (1-2) 71, USC Upstate (2-1) 41
Dominique McBryde (14/11) and Andreona Keys (11/11) both posted double-doubles, and Lamina Cooper chipped in 10, as the Boilers rolled. Ashley Morrissette added 9 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks; Keys had 5 assists, and Nora Kiesler had 3 blocks as well.
While it wasn't as evident on the scoreboard - Purdue never trailed against the Spartans - there were several indicators that Purdue might not have fixed the problems that Maine and Villanova uncovered.
In particular, the offense was stagnant against a zone, with too many possessions where there wasn't enough of a combination of passing and movement to open space, and too many times where a player was put in a location that didn't match her skills. The Boilers shot just .267 from three; if anything, that's going to encourage more teams to zone up against Purdue. (As you'll see shortly.)
The Good Gals found themselves in a bit of foul trouble early, with Bridget Perry, Tiara Murphy, and Dominique Oden all picking up 2 first-half fouls. Some of these were poor decisions - the reaction foul after missing a shot, that kind of thing - but some of them were simply bad calls. As usual, the officials did little to redeem their presence and generally indicated they were watching a similar game in an alternate universe that bore no resemblance to the action on the court in our dimension. (This will also be a theme.)
Ae'Rianna Harris was very effective inside, especially against Coco Ritter, USCU's solid post backup. Even without matching her size, Harris was able to use quickness and strength to score; that's a good sign, because I learned that Bree Horrocks is out for the season with a knee injury. With Kiesler not yet ready to take those minutes, Harris will be called on more, so it's good to see she's been able to contribute almost immediately.
Miracle Gray made her first appearance in a Purdue uniform; in four minutes, she grabbed a rebound and missed a couple of shots. She probably won't have to contribute much just yet.
Purdue 61 (1-3), Southern Illinois 64 (2-1)
This was bad.
Carlie Corrigan led the Salukis with 18 points, most of them from outside the arc (4 for 6). Not sure if the scouting missed the fact she has beyond-the-arc range, but she'd be open 2-3 feet back with no one near her, she'd swish another open three, and the next time down ... no change.
SIU, like the other Purdue opponents and every one in the future, showed plenty of 2-3 looks and even what appeared to be a 1-3-1 on occasions, and the Boilers struggled like they have every other game against zone. In response, Purdue did the same thing they've done the first few games, which is attempt to break it down through passing rather than using Tiara Murphy to help open up the zone. The Good Gals were remarkably bad in the paint, missing easy shot after easy shot, so there wasn't anything to make the Salukis drop back into man.
As on Thursday, the officiating was bad. Actually, it was worse. Two of the three officials acted as though they had never watched a college basketball game before, never mind officiating one; the calls were so bad that at one point McBryde picked up a technical, and I can't remember one game last year where she said anything to any refs. It certainly wasn't the cause of Purdue's loss, but it didn't help, either. (Except for the few times when they'd make a terrible call in Purdue's favor.)
The Salukis basically ran Purdue's game in the first quarter, making turnovers into transition baskets (how they get down court so quickly out of a zone is impressive), and from there it was just a matter of keeping the Boilers from catching up.
Morrissette had a career game in the loss: 28 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 1 block. That was about it: Perry added 10 points and 6 boards, but McBryde was 0 for 10, Keys 2 for 7, Oden 2 for 8, Murphy 1 for 4 ... .338 overall, .111 from three.
At least the free-throw shooting seems to have settled down. .846 and .800. Uh, beyond that ... we see the same problems over and over again, and it's hard to understand how Purdue constantly struggles to figure out a defense that's pretty common in college basketball.
Beyond that, it's hard to understand how Purdue can look so bad against bad opponents time and time again. At this point, the contract extension that Burke handed to Versyp on his way out the door looks more like a cruel trick on Purdue fans than anything else. Versyp's post-game comments after SIU made some reference to not playing as a team; oddly, there was no mention of her being unprepared for yet another zone.
The one saving grace so far is that this seems to be an off year for the Big Tenteen: Maryland's definitely a solid team again, but beyond that, Ohio State is the only other Massey top-25 team. A mediocre Purdue team - if that is indeed what we have here - might still break .500 in conference play, but they won't get into the tournament without picking up some non-conference wins, and suddenly the schedule that looked pillow-soft coming into the season is full of rocks.
Yes, I've turned my outlook around quickly - 40 minutes of dispiriting basketball will do that to you. (Credit to the Good Gals for hanging in there and doing everything they could to get back in the game; they should never had have to do that against SIU, though.)
Purdue's now #110, in Cancún for a three-game set and then off to Pittsburgh for the ACC/Big Tenteen Challenge. They'll face progressively tougher competition: #226 Wichita State today (right now, as I'm writing this), #153 Northeastern, and #15 Stanford. Massey has Purdue a 14-point favorite over the Shockers, 8 points over the Huskies, and a 15-point underdog against the Cardinal.
As is the case sometimes in these tournaments, there's actually a live feed available online. Unfortunately, there isn't any sound for today's game, and there may not be for the other two, but at least it's something, right? Links for Wichita State, Northeastern, and Stanford games for those of you who are interested.