What a coincidence. Our arguably 2 best players, Morrissette and Wilson both picked up 2 fouls early in the game. However, it probably didn't matter. Not when our opponent shoots 13 for 23 from 3-point land, and almost 60% from the field overall. Only UConn would have been able to overcome shooting like that. The Buckeyes just threw it up and it went in. OK, that is an exaggeration, but it seemed like it.
We knew the conference winning streak could not last forever. Losing to a #5 team on their floor should not cause a team to drop in the rankings. Oh well, our team is not ranked yet anyways. We'll see this week if that happens but I am not holding my breath. There is still a lot of conference basketball to be played leading up to the B1G tournament. The Boilers are still in a three-way tie for first place in conference play at 5-1. A close look at the schedule will show that Purdue has a lot of games left against the upper tier of teams in the conference. So the team needs to learn from this game, shore up the turnovers, get better at working the ball inside, and do a better job of blanketing jump shooters. The defense will continue to be a strength overall, but opposing jump shooters should not be that open for large portions of the game.
Unfortunately this game did expose some of the areas of our game that could be a lot better. McBryde put up a fight, but our centers got outplayed by Alexa Hart and Shayla Cooper (who made all 4 of her 3-point attempts after making only 4 so far all season). We missed too many layups and other point blank shots. Kelsey Mitchell went off, which is not exactly a surprise considering how she must have felt after the loss to Northwestern on Thursday. A lack of depth at the guard position also played a part. With the departure of Hall, the injury to Hamby, and the continued recovery of Murphy, this can make it hard to sustain a tough man-to-man defense for most of the game. A 1-2-2 zone was employed for a while, but it didn't seem to stop the shots from going in.
Purdue came out early and looked pretty good. At one point we were leading 14-12. That proved to be the only time. I won't give a quarter by quarter analysis, as that can be seen on the official website for the team. I'll just give my overall impression.
This game came down to just a few things. First was turnovers. Purdue had too many, and quite a few of them were the worst kind that led to run outs and easy layups. Second, and this one really surprised me, the Buckeyes played better defense than our Boilermakers. Didn't see that coming. Third, they were faster. That also surprised me. Fourth, they simply shot lights out. Sometimes a team just hardly misses and this was one of those times. Fifth, they have a top 5 recruit in Kelsey Mitchell. We have Dominique McBryde as a #30 recruit, Tiara Murphy at #31, and next year Ae'Rianna Harris at #20, which is trending in the right direction. That being said, if Purdue is to return to an elite team, as in return to the Final Four, we need to start with a top 5 or top 10 recruit. That is just the way the women's game goes. In this game, Purdue spent so much energy trying to stop Mitchell, that it allowed the Buckeyes to get some wide open shots from other players.
Not that Purdue played a bad game. Morrissette and Wilson made some really nice shots and good plays. McBryde got down low and did her best. Other than the turnovers, Purdue did have some decent ball movement. The Boilers also won the rebound battle. However, rebounds don't matter quite so much when most of their shots go in. Keys did her best to shadow Mitchell, but that is a tall order. Mitchell does move very quickly and has a lot of help. Not sure why Perry did not have a better game. Perhaps part was mental, or the Buckeyes were keying on her to not let her get any kind of momentum going. Sometimes the team goes as Perry goes.
So what can be taken from this game? One, if the Buckeyes had not had one of those games where seemingly every long distance shot went in, the score would have been closer. Two, if the Boilermakers had not turned the ball over too many times and in bad ways, the score might have been even closer still. Given those two aspects, that means that our team would have played a close game against what has to be considered an elite team. Yes it kills me to say that. We figured this year's women's team would not be an elite team. But certainly even with this loss, they have outperformed about everyone's expectations. Our team does not look like an Elite 8 team yet, and probably not a Sweet Sixteen team. Maybe a slight chance but not likely. However, our team will have a winning season, probably win over 20 games, and it is looking most likely that we will return to the NCAA tournament. Our chances of finishing in the top half of the conference at the end of the regular season are also looking pretty good.
Now it is time to return to Mackey and take advantage of lessons learned in the next two games against Nebraska and Iowa. Both of these opponents are having up and down seasons, but neither should be taken lightly. If our Boilers bounce back and take these two games, it will bode well for the rest of the season. As I usually watch on BTN Plus or BTN, I will be making it to the Iowa game. I'm looking forward to seeing this year's team in person. Let's bounce back and stay in the upper tier of teams in the conference!