In a rough and tumble first round NCAA match-up, Purdue outlasted the Green Bay Phoenix 74-62 Friday in South Bend. There were several story lines, but overall the sheer athleticism of the Boilers prevailed over the rugby styled physicality of the Phoenix. One thing I’ll say for Green Bay, they went all out with what they had to work with, which is a lot of grit and some good three point shooters.
The first quarter was all Boilers as they stormed out of the gate to a 17-3 lead. Green Bay has played some tough competition and had a stellar season, but they were not prepared for the lock down defense they were up against. Purdue did a masterful job of getting out on the three point shooters while at the same time denying anything much in the post. The game was a back and forth affair the rest of the way, but Purdue maintained a lead throughout.
Once again Ashley Morrissette played a masterful game, running the offense while pouring in 24 points, going 7 for 7 from the free throw line. The Phoenix just didn’t have a way to stop her. Dominique Oden drained two crucial three pointers, and finished with 13 points. Ae’Rianna Harris had perhaps her most outstanding game as a Boilermaker, going 6 for 6 from the field, skying for 7 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots. The Phoenix were definitely intimidated by her presence in the paint. She also made the shot of the game on an alley-oop lob from Andreona Keys. Speaking of Keys, she was solid with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals.
In the second quarter Green Bay scrapped their way back into the game, but Purdue managed to stay at least one step ahead, and went into halftime with an 8 point lead. At times in the second quarter, and for that matter in the entire game, the Purdue offense got bogged down in the half court game. Sometimes I wondered just what were they doing. However, Purdue managed to score enough to stay ahead, all the while playing outstanding defense.
There were some truly strange officiating calls, but then again it was a hard game to officiate, with Green Bay flinging their bodies all over the court on both sides of the ball. In one way that strategy was effective, leading to 23 Purdue turnovers. However, the refs decided to clamp down on the Phoenix hack-a-thon, sending Purdue to the free throw line to the tune of 30 attempts, with 26 of them converted. Green Bay only made 6 free throws in 7 attempts.
Purdue came out in the third quarter and played much better offensively than in the second. Then in the fourth quarter, Green Bay made a run with some clutch layups and three pointers, narrowing the margin to only 5 points. However, Dominique Oden hit a clutch tre and Purdue sealed the deal at the free throw line.
Next up is a formidable opponent in No. 1 seed Notre Dame on their home court on Sunday. The starting time has not been announced yet although there is some talk of a 1 PM start. It’s a tall order, but at least Purdue has not only made it to the Big Dance, but came away with a hard fought win to make it to the second round.