Technically, there is no such thing as a “good” loss. But if there were this would have been it. Purdue was up against a team with more depth, more height, an All-American guard, and number 11 national ranking in Ohio State. In addition, the Buckeyes had extra motivation coming off of a surprising loss to Michigan State.
The Boilers were up to the task, both physically and mentally, with a solid game plan. Unfortunately, Senior Captain Bridget Perry was unavailable due to concussion symptoms from practice, and we could have really used her height and experience in this one. On the flip side, Nora Keisler was finally cleared to play, which helped out greatly in the post against the Buckeye bigs.
Purdue flat out put it on the Buckeyes in the first quarter, with pressure defense, intensity at every position, and great ball movement. This led to a Purdue advantage of 20-6 after one quarter. Ohio State was shell-shocked. Ashley Morrissette was playing with her hair on fire, pouring in 9 points and playing great defense on Kelsey Mitchell, the do everything leading scorer for Ohio State, all while doing a great job running the point.
Things began to change in the second quarter, with the most significant event being Morrissette picking up her 2nd foul and having to sit. This really took the Boilermakers out of their “zone” and ball movement wasn’t as good without Morrissette running the show. Then Purdue began to foul a great deal, which led to 12 of 14 shooting for the Buckeyes in the second quarter at the foul line. They also began to use their height more effectively, and poured in 28 points leading to a slim 2 point Purdue lead at halftime, 36-34.
The third quarter was showtime for Dominique McBryde as she made some great moves in the post leading to 6 points, 5 rebounds, and a steal. It was a defensive battle the entire quarter, ending in a one point Purdue lead, 48-47. With Purdue having been ahead for the majority of minutes, it was looking like the Boilermakers could pull off the monumental upset.
After some back and forth intensity, the last 4 minutes of the game happened. Ohio State closed out on an 11-2 run to pull away for the 5 point win. It wasn’t that Purdue didn’t have their chances. We just could not get a single 3-point attempt to fall. Even one could have swung the game the other way. Ohio State only shot 5-15 in the final stanza to Purdue’s 3-13, but it was just enough to squeak out the win.
While it was a disappointing loss, Purdue played like a tournament worthy team, but failed to add to a tournament building resume. This would have been a great signature win for the program. But Purdue showed they could hang with the big dogs, and there are a lot of positives coming out of this game. Purdue held Ohio State to their worst shooting of the season, and played them toe-to-toe for all but the last 4 minutes. Considering Ohio State is one of the two best teams in the conference along with Maryland, this should give the Boilers some confidence for the rest of the conference season. If we can hang with the best, we should be able to beat most of the other teams in the conference. It may or not turn out that way, but to me this was a confidence building effort all the way around for our team. In fact, Purdue came into this game with a swagger of sorts, and the team did not play intimidated in the least against the mighty Buckeyes. This is a testament to intestinal fortitude and a lot of hard work in practice.
Morrissette led the Purdue scoring with 13 points, but also played a great game running the offense and the floor, making 6 steals, and for the most part shutting down Kelsey Mitchell, one of the best players in the country, holding her to 14 points on 3-17 shooting from the field. Dominique McBryde was awesome and played for the entire 40 minutes, getting a double double with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 steals. She was just simply fearless among the trees. Ae’Rianna Harris finished with 10 points and 4 blocks. She had a few freshmen moments in the second and third quarters, but gathered herself together and even made a long jump shot. Andreona Keys filled up her stat line with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and a steal. She was all over the court and backed down to no one. Dominique Oden hit the only tre for the game, scored 12 points, and did her best to run the point when Morrissette was sitting with fouls.
Next up is at Indiana on Thursday night, a game to be televised on BTN at 8 PM. Purdue needs a big road win there in a big way to stay in the running for a top half of the league conference finish. This isn’t the pushover IU of old, but come on, Purdue should be able to manhandle the Hoosiers after playing this well against Ohio State. Look for some smothering defense on Tyra Buss, as Purdue tries to leave it for IU to have other players do the bulk of the scoring. With great defense against Tori Jankoska of Michigan State, Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State, and Teniya Page of Penn State, Purdue has shown the ability to limit the opponent’s best scorer. Let’s keep up the good work, ladies and take down our intrastate rivals.