The Games Go On
With Purdue alum Teri Moren building the Indiana program into a consistent winner, Purdue, a one-time national power, has slipped to third in Hoosier Hysteria power rankings. Trailing Notre Dame and the Hoosiers isn’t sitting well in West Lafayette. Nor is head coach Sharon Versup’s often remarkably stodgy, grind it out offense exciting the fan base. Sharon Versyp is in her 14th season in West Lafayette and has taken Purdue to 9 NCAA’s. But, after missing the Big Dance the last two seasons, Versyp obviously thought it would be nice, if not essential, to spice things up.
Enter Melanie Balcomb:
Balcomb was hired last spring as “Senior Associate Head Coach” replacing former Purdue star Lindsay Wisdom-Hilton who “left to pursue other coaching opportunities”. Balcomb, the former head coach at Xavier and Vanderbilt, is known for her offensive savvy. She served as a non-coaching “Director of Offensive Analytics” for South Carolina when the Gamecocks won the National Championship. During her 14 seasons at Vanderbilt she led the Commodores to 12 NCAA tournaments before being jettisoned for former Purdue star, Stephanie White.
While this season’s Boiler team lacks the usual height in the starting lineup, it doesn’t lack experience. Senior guard Dominique Oden and senior forward Ae’Rianna Harris are joined by junior guard Karissa McLaughlin as both 33+ minutes a night players and 1000+ point career scorers. With the season ending injury to Tamara Farquhar, Jenelle Grant, forward and red shirt junior transfer from U of Pacific, has joined Kayanna Traylor in the starting lineup. Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp uses her bench; but the bench minutes are spread around.
Purdue started the B1G season well with an opening win in Columbus over the Buckeyes 66-50. Yes, there was some concern about the Boilers 23 turnovers compared to OSU’s 19; but they out rebounded OSU 45-26. Plus everyone wanted to celebrate Purdue’s first win in Columbus since 2004.
This was followed by a rather workman like win at Mackey Arena over Wisconsin 72-61. McLaughlin led all scorers with 22 shooting 5-8 from three. Hmm, with the offense putting up 66 points and 72 points; perhaps the Melanie Balcomb hire was working.
Then the offense started tripping over itself.
In the next game, at Mackey, Rutgers ran off to a 17 point lead with 7:01 remaining in the 2nd quarter. But Rutgers can revert to Rutgers and the Scarlet Knights only scored 4 second quarter points. So the Boilers only trailed 28-19 at the half. A slow as molasses comeback eventually tied the score at 51 with 1:17 remaining before an 8-2 Rutgers run closed it out for The Scarlet Knights.
In Bloomington, the Hoosiers made short work of the Boilers. A 14-6 Indiana run at the end of the first quarter propelled the Hoosiers to a 66-48 victory.
Against Northwestern, Purdue had another single digit quarter, the second, when they were outscored 16-8. However, an 11-2 Boiler run in the fourth helped bring Purdue within three; but Jennelle Grant missed a triple try with :05 seconds remaining and Northwestern escaped 56-61. So, three losses with an offensive output of 53, 48 and 56 was at least a couple of steps backwards.
Enter Doctor Illini with the magic potion for offensive ills:
Purdue evened their B1G record at 3-3 with an 81-67 win in West Lafayette. All five Boiler starters were in double figures; McLaughlin 23 points, Traylor 15, Harris 13, Oden 12 and Grant 11. It wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Despite holding Holesinska to 9 points (she had 28 versus Minnesota), Purdue had some trouble with the Illini’s height early and more trouble with the Illini’s aggressive defense later. Illinois, 6-15 from the line, left more than a few points on the court. For the Boiler’s the game was a mixed bag of offense and defense which pretty much defines Purdue’s season thus far.
In the B1G:
Purdue is 12th in offense with 62.7/game (Minnesota is 7th with 67.0/game)
Purdue is 2nd in defense with 60.7/game (Minnesota is 10th with 69.7/game)
Purdue is 14th in turnover margin with -4.8/game (Minnesota is 9th with -0.3/game)
Common non-conference opponent: Purdue defeated Arizona State 59-52 in Estero Florida and Minnesota defeated the Sun Devils 81-66 in Minneapolis.
B1G Wins: @ Ohio State 66-50, Wisconsin 72-61, Illinois 81-67.
B1G Losses: Rutgers 53-59, @ Indiana 48-66, @Northwestern 56-61
The Bad News:
Purdue has owned the Gophers at Williams Arena. The last Gopher home victory over the Boilers was 74-47 on January 1st, 2010. Since that win a decade ago, Minnesota has dropped seven straight home contests to the Boilermakers including last season’s 53-64 loss. Minnesota led at the half 27-26 before Purdue took control. In last year’s game the Boilers spread out the scoring among players we will see this year. McLaughlin had 17 points, Oden 14, Harris 13 and Cassidy 10. For the Gophers, who were still starting two posts at that time, Pitts had 19, Bell 17, Lamke 9 points and 8 rebounds and Taiye Bello 6 points and 18 rebounds.
The Good News
We are playing in West Lafayette where we’ve won three times in the last decade including last season’s Gopher 65-45 rout. The sad news, for some of us at least, is that our leading scorer was Destiny Pitts with 27 points and 7 rebounds.
Minnesota led 45-43 at the end of three. Purdue’s only score in the fourth quarter was two free throws by Whilby at the 4:45 mark in the quarter. Meanwhile the Gophers went on a 20 point scoring spree. 14 of those points were by Pitts. Just another example of Purdue’s offensive woes.
Probable Starters (B1G Stats):
Bench (B1G Stats):