After a close loss to Ohio State and a bad loss at IU, Purdue got back to winning ways in the conference season with a solid win over the Spartans. This was the first sweep of MSU since the 2003-4 season and the first road win at the Breslin Center since 2013.
Both teams really needed this game, but the hot shooting Boilers prevailed, shooting a blistering 59 percent from the field and 87% from the foul line. The team needed to get the bad taste out of their mouth after a bad and (fill in your own negative adjective here, mine would be “pitiful”) performance against the Hoosiers on Thursday. The defense gave up the ghost in the 2nd and 4th quarters in that loss and our team played an offense that I simply could not recognize against an average at best defense. It was a real let down from the previous effort against Ohio State, but Sunday’s victory got the team back on track for the time being.
Ashley Morrissette tied her career high of 31 points, adding in 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals, in an all Big Ten type of performance. Dominique McBryde flirted with a double double once again with 10 points and 8 rebounds. The three freshmen have grown up fast in meeting the challenge of the conference season, as Oden, Harris, and Cooper put in 7, 8, and 9 points respectively. Cooper also added 3 assists, Oden had 5 assists, and Harris had 4 more blocks. While the offense was clicking, the defense was also good for the most part. In particular, holding the Spartan’s leading scorer Tori Jankoska to 16 points, only 5 in the second half. She had put up 42 points against Ohio State in a surprising upset just a couple of weeks ago, so this was a challenge well met.
The game was a turnover fest with a combined 41 turnovers, but Purdue’s were generally more of the dead ball variety, while Purdue was able to get a lot of run-outs off of steals, other turnovers, and rebounds, to the tune of 22 fast break points.
After the IU loss, things were really looking dim for the future of this team. So it was nice to see a bounce back win, especially on the road. MSU was without their head coach due to an indefinite medical leave, so that probably hindered their effort. We wish a speedy recovery to Suzy Merchant, one of the better head coaches in the B1G. Purdue now sits in the top half of the conference standings with a 4-3 record. The next game up is in Mackey on Thursday against Nebraska, a team in disarray this year after the tumultuous resignation of former coach Connie Yori. Purdue needs to finish out the conference season to the tune of at least a 10-6 record, and put in a good showing at the B1G tournament, to have a chance at making it back into the NCAA tournament. If the selection was today, this team would not make the tournament. We will see how the rest of the conference season goes. Whatever happens, it is encouraging to see the speedy growth of the three freshmen Harris, Oden, and Cooper. Their maturity, basketball smarts, and athleticism are what is leaving room for optimism going forward.