Walker-Kimbrough Torches WBB As Terps Roll, 87-67
Is it safe now? Can we come out? Man, NSD was rough. Let's sweep the dust away and get back to talking basketball. On Tuesday night, the defending Big 14 champs came to Mackey in the first of four February meetings between the two schools (the men play Saturday and 2/27, while the women travel to College Park next Thursday), and Maryland star Shatori Walker-Kimbrough put on a show, tying a record set by Minnesota's Lindsay Whalen in 2002 by putting up a career-high 41 against the Boilers on a red-hot 17 of 21 from the field, leading them to a comfortable 87-67 win that kept them squarely on track for another conference title and possibly a return trip to the Final Four.
It might surprise you to learn that Maryland isn't particularly deeper than full-strength Purdue: like the Boilers, they have a fairly consistent starting lineup plus 4 regular bench players and then a handful of minutes beyond that. Of course, with Purdue missing half of their normal reserves, things were going to be tough anyway, but Walker-Kimbrough's presence made it even more so, and the Terrapins got off to a start that basically iced the game before it was 10 minutes old.
Maryland's talented junior had scored in double figures in every game coming into Tuesday's meeting, and she got started almost immediately, stealing the ball from Andreona Keys and laying it in for a 2-0 lead after a missed Bridget Perry three. The Boilers fought back and actually took a 4-2 lead, then forced a second straight Brionna Jones turnover, but April Wilson missed a shot, Walker-Kimbrough scored at the other end, and that was pretty much that. SWK scored Maryland's first 11 points as they ran up a 13-4 lead; Purdue finally passed her on an Ashley Morrissette three that drew them within one of Maryland, and then a Dominique McBryde free throw tied the game at 15. Jones quickly got the Terrapins up 17-15, and a Morrissette miss ended the first quarter.
A Wilson steal and McBryde layup earned Purdue its last tie at 17, and from then on, Walker-Kimbrough took control. Her 13 second-quarter points matched Purdue's team total, as the Boilers again struggled to create open shots and could not get rebounds against the nation's #1 team on the boards. Maryland was +7 in Q2, leading to 6 more shots and 11 more points - the halftime score was 41-28, but the margin felt much larger. With a shaky offense and no transition game (only 5 points off turnovers in the first half, none of them via fast break), Purdue had too many possessions that only served as breaks from trying to keep the ball out of SWK's hands.
Q3 was better on the court but not on the scoreboard: Walker-Kimbrough added 11 more points, pushing her total to 35, and while Purdue took better care of the ball (+3 in turnovers) and controlled the glass on offense (8 boards for a .615 OReb%, +4 overall in the quarter), even a perfect 3 for 3 from behind the arc couldn't get them much closer. Time and time again, Purdue would convert on their end, get back on defense, and watch helplessly as SWK hit another tough shot. The Boilers did go on a 9-0 run to cut an 18-point lead in half, but Walker-Kimbrough scored on each of Maryland's last two possessions to get the lead back to 13 before Morrissette cut it to 11 as the quarter ended.
The Boilers threatened yet again in Q4, getting the lead down to 7 on a Wilson three, but Maryland responded one more time, outscoring the Good Gals 10-1 to put the game safely out of reach. The only remaining question was whether SWK would break 40, and she answered that with her only made three of the game, a basket that also turned out to be the final points of the game. The Terrapins closed with seven straight points to set the final margin at 20, a score that was probably about right if you saw the game. (Some might say it was closer than the score made it seem, but then Maryland spent most of the second half with a double-digit lead ...)
Maryland had a clear target in this game: April Wilson. They obviously knew Purdue's offense struggles coming into the game and correctly figured that if Wilson couldn't take shots, the Boilers would be in a real bind. The plan worked very well, as she scored just 5 points on just 6 shot equivalents, her second-lowest total of the season (she had 5 in 26 minutes against Louisville). With Wilson unavailable for key shots to keep rallies going, Purdue relied heavily on Morrissette and Perry, and they couldn't carry the load themselves, combining to shoot 10 of 31 overall, 4 for 11 from three. The rest of the team wasn't bad - everyone took at least two shots (Nora Kiesler was the only player to shoot fewer than four times) and made at least two - but Maryland effectively neutralized the majority of the Boiler offense, and with Jones and Malina Howard inside, Keys had a difficult time attacking the basket.
Morrissette did end up with a team-high 19, joined in double figures by Keys (11) and McBryde (10). Purdue also deserves credit for doing a solid job on the offensive boards (13 of 34, .382) and overall (-3). On the other hand, they ran into trouble time and again when they made careless passes. It's something we've seen on a regular basis, only it usually doesn't end up costing them points. Maryland scored 12 fast-break points and allowed only 2, numbers that are usually reversed for the Boilers ... and if they had been, well, there's your 20 points. For as well as Purdue can move the ball, they frequently attempt passes that are unwise at best, and against good teams, those become turnovers. It's not a coincidence that they've dropped from a top-20 spot in turnovers per game (13.1 in non-conference play) to 43rd (14.0 overall). If Purdue is going to make a postseason run, they're going to have to cut down on silly turnovers.
Still no news about Horrocks or a date for Hamby's return. With one of the top hits for "Hayden Hamby injury" being the last recap here, it's safe to say there's precious little news about the status of either player. As long as neither player participates in warmups, I'd expect their returns to be a ways off - Hamby was estimated to be out 3-4 weeks, but that was an estimate, and it seems to be a little short. (Either that or Versyp wisely figured it wasn't worth testing her in this game.) This actually isn't a bad time to be a little shorthanded, because the Boilers should be able to handle a struggling Wisconsin team in Madison, and even at full strength, Maryland in College Park is a real challenge. (The last time the Terrapins lost at home to a team outside Massey's top 10 was 2012 against #15 Miami, who swept Maryland that season; the last non-top-25 winner was #65 Virginia in 2011.)
However, after that comes a key four-game stretch that could keep the Boilers off the 8 line or plunge them even further down (with an RPI at 34, Purdue's near the spot where they'd be playing at a #1 or #2 if they make it to the second round). They can probably hold off Michigan at home, but an old-style traveling weekend at Iowa and Nebraska is one where they'll desperately need bench strength. If Hamby isn't ready by then, the Boilers could end up with a disappointing end to the season ... such is the cost for raising expectations. (Remember, this was a team that finished 14th in the conference last year; 6th or 7th would still be significant progress.)
#26 Purdue (7-4, 16-6)
L vs #5 Maryland
Mon at #150 Wisconsin
2/11 at #5 Maryland
2/14 vs #68 Michigan
#7 Ohio State (9-1, 17-4)
W at #127 Illinois
Today vs #150 Wisconsin
Mon vs #5 Maryland
2/11 at #43 Iowa
#5 Maryland (9-1, 20-2)
W at #25 Purdue
Fri vs. #13 Michigan State (rescheduled from 1/23)
Mon at #7 Ohio State
2/11 vs #26 Purdue
#13 Michigan State (8-2, 17-4)
W vs #74 Michigan (rescheduled from 2/4)
Fri at #5 Maryland (rescheduled from 1/23)
Sun at #43 Iowa
2/11 vs #120 Penn State
#31 Nebraska (7-4, 16-6)
W vs #120 Penn State
Sun at #55 Indiana
2/11 at #80 Minnesota
2/14 vs #13 Michigan State
Feature image from Purdue Athletics