"Operation 14K" turned into "Operation Fill up the Lower Bowl" in a lack-luster performance by both teams.
Going into Mackey just a few minutes before the game started, I was expecting a great game from both teams, but that didn't happen. I know Penn State is good and expected to be in the Final Four this year, but I didn't see that from them. I expected Purdue to come out on fire behind a larger crowd wanting to defeat Penn State, but that didn't happen.
Penn State played alright, but Purdue played worse.
Penn State finished the match with 12 service errors and 12 attack errors. Purdue finished with 8 service errors and 32 attack errors.
You read that right. 32 attack errors, 40 total. 11 of them came in the 3rd set, while 10 came in the 4th set. Purdue lost both of those sets by 6 and 4 points respectively. I don't think I need to go any deeper into the game or the stats to show why Purdue lost this game (Anna Drewry, Catherine Rebarchak and Katie Griffin finished with a negative hitting percentage)
Throughout the game, Penn State was seriously gifting Purdue up to 7 points a set, yet Purdue just gave up more points. In the 4th and final set, Penn State only hit 0.152, but Purdue hit 0.075 in that set. It seem like any attack Purdue had would just fly over the court out of bounds or just hit the top of the net and fall back down. Penn State certainly did not live up to its #2 ranking tonight and could have been beat by almost any Big Ten team, including the Purdue we are used to seeing. Tonight though, Purdue may have just been caught up in the moment of the game and failed to capitalize on a weak Penn State team and now must face the fact of losing home court advantage of the 1st 2 rounds of the NCAA Tournament, and maybe not even playing in Mackey Arena for the West Lafayette Regional.
Many things have to be fixed on this team, to the typical problems in the back court, to correcting all these attack errors. The one thing this team is missing is consistency. I am beginning to wonder if this team has too much talent, so much so that Coach Shondell can't seem to find that right line up. Almost all of these players deserve playing time, and so it seems as if most players get rotated in at some point throughout the season. Every game the starting line up has changed in some way, like Val Nichol starting at setter today instead of Davis.
Though this team has more talent than last year's squad, they just don't have the chemistry that the 2011 team had. Last year, you knew who to expect to be starting, who would come in at what time, and you know they would find a way to win. Granted, some teams could see it coming and the team relied on Ariel Turner too much, but Purdue still ended up with 29 wins at the end of the season. But now, the line up changes almost every game, players are being taken in and out consistently, and no one seems to be able to become consistent outside of Turner and Cramer (and even Turner did not play that well today).
Maybe that made absolutely no sense to you, and I'm not surprised since I've only thought it over for the last 30-60 minutes. But personally, this is why I think Purdue has not played that well recently: too much talent on the team leading to everyone wanting and deserving playing time leading to no one becoming consistent and getting in motion leading to multiple errors costing the team games.
There are only 2 games left in the season with Indiana and Wisconsin at home during the Thanksgiving holiday, and Purdue sits at 19-10 and 10-8 in the B1G. Purdue HAS to win these games if they want to be safely in the NCAA Tournament and contend for home court advantage the first 2 rounds of the tournament. It may be a little too late to find that consistent line up that this team needs, but it could also give Purdue the chance to go into the NCAA Tournament with positive momentum.