After losing to IUPUI at home and Northwestern on the road, the Lady Boilers were in dire need of a conference win. This came to pass on Wednesday evening as the Boilers rolled over Michigan State 66-54. This was definitely a quality win as MSU is considered one of the best teams in the Big Ten this year behind Ohio State and Maryland. The Spartans were trying to overcome one big obstacle as their head coach Suzy Merchant couldn’t make the trip due to medical reasons.
It all starts with defense and ball control, and Purdue was very good in both after lapses in both at Northwestern in the conference opener in Evanston last Saturday. In that game, Purdue was undone by unforced turnovers, inability to hit contested shots, and dealing with the size and experience level of the Wildcats. Northwestern has been in a longstanding building program under coach McKoen, and now are most likely the third best team in the conference. After a strong first quarter by Purdue, the Wildcats asserted themselves in hitting 5 of their first 7 three point shots. Purdue led 19-14 late in the first quarter, but a disastrous second quarter led to a 25-9 run by Northwestern to finish the half. This caused Purdue to extend the defense in the second half, and Wildcat superstar Nia Coffey made hay in the second half with a lot of help from her teammates.
Back to the game with the Spartans, Purdue is now dealing not only with season ending knee injuries to Murphy and Horrocks, but Keisler has also been sidelined due to undisclosed medical reasons. This leaves the Boilers without their regular back up point guard and the two centers with heights of 6-5 and 6-6. This makes the play of McBryde, Harris, and Perry that much more important as the three solid forwards for Purdue. That being said, the active players have no control over injuries, so that means they have to execute that much better and without the depth the team had at the beginning of the season. Basically the team is playing a 7 player rotation with Miracle Gray putting in a few minutes here or there. So Harris and Cooper are the mainstays off of the bench, and they do an admirable job. Our 3 super freshmen of Oden, Harris, and Cooper, however, are getting their first taste of Big Ten play and it is definitely a big adjustment from the non-conference season. They will continue to make steady progress with their outstanding athleticism, but for now they are having to adjust rapidly as the conference season is already two games in.
So it was no big surprise that the scoring in the MSU game on Wednesday was led in a big way by players experienced in Big Ten play. In particular, Morrissette and Perry combined for 41 of the 66 points, with Keys adding in 9 points and McBryde with 10 points. Morrissette was really impressive, finishing with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Purdue had 10 steals which ties the record in a single game for this season. This contributed to the 20 turnovers committed by the Spartans which lead to 23 Purdue points. After a 20 turnover game against Northwestern, it was good to see the Boilers hold their turnovers in this game down to 11. Winning the turnover battle, along with some fine shooting, are what overcame a big disparity in rebounds, with Purdue being outrebounded 47-30.
Purdue mixed up their defenses, playing various zone packages and perhaps what could be called a hybrid kind of like a box and one, with Keys ballhawking the Spartan’s best player in Tori Jankoska. Jankoska still got 16 points, but turned the ball over 6 times and was frustrated most of the game. Michigan State was able to rotate in 11 players, but none of the other players gave Jankoska the kind of backing she needed to pull out a Spartan win. Michigan State was picked in the preseason to end the conference season in 3rd place, so that makes this win all the more satisfying. Of course there is a long way to go in conference, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with Penn State coming into Mackey this Saturday. Purdue is definitely missing the services of reserve center Nora Keisler, who is still being held out for undisclosed medical reasons. There is no timetable for her return but Coach V did hint that it might be between the middle and end of January.