Moving on Up:
Can Minnesota (3-6: 10th) Pass Purdue (3-5: 9th)?
At the end of June, Purdue received some depressing news: Boiler point guard, leading scorer and team heartbeat, Karissa McLaughlin, was undergoing reconstructive ankle surgery and would miss the 2020-21 season. The operation, originally scheduled for early April, was delayed to July by a Covid ban on elective surgery.
That meant the Boilermakers top three scorers and the only Boilers in double figures would not be returning for this season. Two graduated: All Big Ten first team and defensive ace, Ae’Rianna Harris, (14.7 points/game) and Dominique Oden (14.2/game). McLaughlin’s absence would remove her 13.5 points/game. That’s a total of 42 points erased from a team averaging 64 points a game-10th in the B1G.
Later, in September, veteran, reserve guard, Lyndsey Whilby opted out of both the season and the remainder of her Purdue career. Yes, quite a pile of points and experience were accumulating in the team roster outbox.
However, as the out box filled up; the inbox became active. 5’7” guard Brook Moore transferred from Auburn and 5’9” guard Rokia Doumbia transferred from Arkansas. Plus, there were two highly regarded inbound freshman recruits: 6’6” center Ra Shaya Kyle and 6’1” guard Madison Layden.
The newbies joined several returning players with starting experience; but, with limited scoring ability: 5’9” junior G Kayana Traylor (5.7 points per game); 6’0” senior G/F, Janelle Grant (5.3); 6’0” senior G/F, Tamara Farquhar (4.7); 5’10” Junior G, Cassidy Hardin (4.4) and 6’4” C Senior, Fatou Diagne (3.5). Combining this inbound roster with lackluster non-conference games performances (including a 47-52 loss to Valparaiso), it’s safe to say excitement was not palpable in West Lafayette.
Further dampening any hint of hysteria, Northwestern swaggered into Mackey Arena for the B1G season opener. The Wildcats, not caring a hoot about Purdue’s inbox and outbox contents, swaggered out with 70-54 victory.
And then, a Christmas present hit the inbox in the form of Karissa McLaughlin. The senior guard, recovered and rehabbed, returned in time for a trip to at Penn State. She played 5 minutes in a 91-87 Boiler win. Leading Purdue were Kayana Traylor with 28 points, Moore 19 and Fatou 13. Maybe something was afoot.
Next up was a visit from Nebraska. McLaughlin came off the bench for 13 points in 14 minutes in an 83-72 Purdue win. McLaughlin’s performance included going 3-3 from behind the arc in a game in which the Boiler were 10-22 from three. Once again Traylor led the way with 21 points. Things were looking up.
Then, along with a calendar change, came Michigan State. The Spartans kicked Purdue to the curb 71-64 initiating a Boilermaker four game, new year, tailspin. Purdue lost at Maryland 46-83, Indiana 45-66 and at Iowa 81-87. The streak could’ve been worse, but Rutgers postponed their game against Purdue in Piscataway. After the Maryland loss, McLaughlin replaced a struggling Brooke Moore in the starting lineup.
Fortunately for Purdue, they were blessed by a visit from the B1G’s worst team-Wisconsin. It wasn’t an easy W. Purdue required some late game heroics to win 56-55. Brooke Moore nailed a three pointer with 36 seconds remaining for a one point Boiler advantage. On Purdue’s next possession, Moore went one of two from the line upping the lead to two. The Badgers Imani Lewis quickly tied the game on a layup. After McLaughlin missed a three with two seconds left; Diagne was fouled by Hilliard on the rebound. Diagne missed her first shot and then nailed the second for the win. Purdue had a little more time to savor the victory, and prepare for the Gophers, because their next game (Michigan) was postponed.
Who Are The Black and Gold?:
Bottom line: Purdue has defeated the teams they’re supposed to beat. Which puts them one up on Minnesota which found a way to lose a game to Penn State. Offensively, Minnesota 70.44/points per game is 9th in the conference while Purdue is 11th at 65.00. Defensively, Minnesota 79.67 is 13th while Purdue 73.88 is 7th. Neither team is a notable threat from three. Minnesota is 9th .325 (78-240) and Purdue .327 (52-159) is 8th.
Will Thursday Evening Be a Slugfest or Shootout?:
If both teams play like they did in Iowa City, I’m guessing a shootout. The Hawkeyes give up a Gopher like 79.6 points/game. Subsequently, the Boilermakers and Gophers found ways to crank up the offense. In the end, both teams were disappointed with the result; but rather pleased with the effort. Purdue plan of attack would be repeatable against Minnesota.
As with most teams, Purdue is increasingly guard oriented. On the other hand, I’m not certainhead coach Sharon Versyp has truly embraced guard oriented offense. I am certain Versyp watched Penn State’s Johnasia Cash go off for 22 points and 15 rebounds and thought, “Hey, I’ve got two of them. Let’s pound the Gophers inside”. The 6’4” Fatou Diagne, a physical presence in the lane, had 16 points (8-11) and 10 rebounds against Iowa. And she was backed up by 6’6” Ra Shaya Kyle with 7 points. That’s a strong combined outing against the Hawkeye bigs.
Gopher defenders will have their hands full with quick and speedy, lefty, Kayana Traylor. The junior, who leads the Boilers in scoring (14.5), had 14 points versus Iowa. However, the scoring story for the Boilers in Iowa City was freshman Madison Layden 19 points, 4 assists and 6-7 from behind the arc. She is Purdue’s leading three-point threat 15-35 (.441). Layden has started since the opening game and was this week’s B1G Freshman of the Week.
As noted above, McLaughlin returned to the starting lineup; but has not returned to form. She is 10-35 (.286) from beyond the arc. Against the Hawkeyes she had 9 points and 7 assists. In addition to McLaughlin, there is another starter returning to form. Senior wing Tamara Farquhar is coming back from a season ending knee injury that occurred three games into last season’s conference play. Against Iowa, Farquhar scored 5 points in 19 minutes.
In their Iowa City shootout’s, Purdue scored 81 points versus Iowa and Minnesota 79. It will make for an entertaining late Thursday afternoon contest in Williams Arena and bring some much needed juice to the victor’s season.
Last Season’s Matchup with Minnesota:
On January 19, Minnesota traveled to West Lafayette accompanied by a five game losing streak. After defeating Penn State in the conference opener, the Gophers lost by 3 to Ohio State, 14 @ Nebraska, 2 to Northwestern, 3 @ Illinois and 2 to Iowa. Competitive; but no cigar. The first quarter at Mackey Arena ended 16 all. Then came the streaks. Purdue, trailing 41-33 rallied to a 43-43 tie with 3:52 remaining in the 3rd quarter. The Gophers buckled down and launched a 19-0 run fueled by six points each from Powell and Scalia. The six minute run buried Boiler hopes and gave Minnesota a 72-59 victory.
For the game: Scalia scored 18 points in 40 minutes, Hubbard 17, Brunson 13 points and 5 steals, Powell 10 points and Taiye Bello 10 points and 10 rebounds. For Purdue: McLaughlin 10 points and 7 assists, Traylor 3 points and Hardin 6 points
Purdues Conference Record:
B1G Wins: @ Penn State 91-87, Nebraska 83-72, Wisconsin 56-55
B1G Losses: Northwestern 54-70, Michigan State 64-71, @ Maryland 46-83, Indiana 45-66, @ Iowa 81-87
Postponed: Rutgers, Michigan
Kayana Traylor’s Last Six Games Games
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul Michigan State 16 3 2 29 3 Maryland 12 5 3 33 3 Indiana 8 3 1 33 0 Iowa 14 0 2 28 4 Wisconsin 8 2 0 29 3 Michigan PPD
Fatou Diagne Last Six Games:
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul Michigan State 6 5 2 18 0 Maryland 3 4 0 16 0 Indiana 2 5 4 18 4 Iowa 16 19 1 31 3 Wisconsin 11 12 1 25 4 Michigan PPD
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 5’9” G Jr Kayana Traylor 32.1 14.5 2.9 6’4” C RSr Fatou Diagne 23.8 9.1 8.9 6’1” G Fr Madison Layden 29.3 8.0 2.8 5’7” G Sr Karissa McLaughlin 23.4 7.6 1.3 6’0” G/F Sr Tamara Farquhar 27.3 6.0 5.0
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 5’7” G Jr Brook Moore 18.4 8.1 1.1 6’6” C Fr Ra Shaya Kyle 10.5 4.8 3.8 5’10” G Jr Cassidy Hardin 13.0 3.5 1.4 6’0” G/F RSr Janelle Grant 13.0 2.6 2.9 5’9” G Jr Rokia Daumbla 9.3 1.9 2.9