Purdue has one of the best defenses in the Big Ten this season, but Maryland just has too many weapons on offense, and also has the best post player in the country in Brionna Jones. Despite being over-matched, the Boilers showed a lot of fight and grit in staying close in the first half. After Jones picked up a second foul in the second period, Purdue closed the gap heading into halftime down 40-35, when super freshman Destiny Slocum drained a 30+ foot shot as time expired in the half. She has got to be the best freshman point guard in the country. Then there is Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, an All-American candidate who only had a quiet 12 points, after going off for 41 in Mackey last year. Then to top it all off, Brianna Fraser came off of the bench to lead all scorers with 18 points for the Terrapins.
No one expected Purdue to win this game. However, there were some positives that came out of the game. Purdue was scrappy on defense and at times very effective on offense, getting more points in the paint than would have been expected. Bridget Perry, Dominique McBryde, and Ae’Rianna Harris all fought and clawed their way in the paint, along with Andreona Keys. Ashley Morrissette did a solid job of running the offense and did hold Slocum to only 10 points, as well as contributing 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Harris looked a bit nervous at times in the first half, but other than that, Purdue threw all they had at Maryland and refused to back down. The third quarter was the time when Maryland blew the lead wide open, up to 21 points, as Brionna Jones was doing her thing after sitting with 2 fouls for about 8 minutes of the second quarter. Purdue just had no answer for her, but then neither has anyone else Maryland has played this year. This game was definitely a learning experience for the Purdue players, especially for Ae’Rianna Harris, as they experienced first hand what it is like against a truly elite team. Giving up 85 points was a bit humbling, but at least it was below their average of over 90 points per game. Losing by 15 was a little better than Maryland’s average margin of victory of over 22 points per game. I thought the effort was totally there for the Boilers in this game. In particular for McBryde, who really gave it her all. Wearing a mask, she got hit right in the face by Harris and went down, but after being attended to, came back into the game and continued to play hard. That is one tough player. She finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal. Harris also contributed 3 blocks, giving her 43 for the year as she approaches the freshman single season record. She also put in some highly contested shots close in once she settled in.
Next up is a road game at Illinois on Sunday, a game Purdue better win. Hopefully there isn’t a letdown from such a challenging game Thursday. After that will be a big challenge in a surprisingly good Michigan team, but at least it is in Mackey. As well as Purdue has been playing, they should finish somewhere in the top half of the league standings. Whether it ends up being enough to get into the big dance still remains to be seen. In the meantime, Coach V has stated that she really likes this team. They really do play as a selfless team, and the blend of upperclassmen and highly athletic freshmen has come together and come a long way from early season disappointments.