For the first time in two years, Purdue women’s basketball moves to 3-0 to start the season after a 76-64 win Wednesday evening against Illinois State.
In a year that was filled with uncertainty throughout the summer and early fall, Purdue has been able to get take care of business to start the season. They have knocked off two teams on the road already, which is an increase over the 1-7 away record from all of last year.
This was a different type of game for the Boilermakers after two straight blazing hot starts allowed them to build an early lead. While Purdue led for much of the game, it showed their ability to fend off those inevitable runs from teams that come in college basketball.
They stepped up in the fourth quarter when the Redbirds cut the lead to just 6 points and ultimately extended it to as much as 17 points. It is expected to win by that differential against a lower-level team like Illinois State, but things are going in the right direction.
Katie Gearlds’ one-two punch of Madison Layden and Abbey Ellis continued their early-season success by putting on a show tonight. Ellis led the way tonight with a new season-high of 20 points on a clean 9-12 shooting performance from the field. Ellis bounced back after a subpar scoring game, that still saw her dish out 11 assists. Layden, as always, showed up once again in her own right. She dropped 18 points while grabbing a team-high 7 rebounds and leading the team with 5 assists as well.
If the first handful of games are any indication, these two are in for a very special season together. Through three games, Ellis and Layden are averaging a combined 31.6 points, 9.3 assists, and 9 rebounds per game.
Ra’Shaya Kyle has now turned in back-to-back impressive performances, finishing with 14 points herself. Last season she was stuck behind Fatou Diagne and had some struggles getting adjusted to the college game. She has taken a big step forward with her ability to slow the game down, be more disciplined on defense, and take over when her number is called. When all of those are working together, it will be tough for anyone in the country to stop her.
Purdue still needs to get more output from their role players for when Layden, Ellis, and Kyle all have off nights and need to be picked up. Brooke Moore hasn’t had the same role as last season but is more than capable of stepping up when needed. She pitched in for 7 points tonight and played an amazing game defensively as well. I would expect her role to keep growing as the year continues to be the main spark off the bench for Gearlds.
Up next for Purdue is the Dayton Flyers at home on Saturday evening. Dayton is 2-1 on the season with wins against Alabama A&M and Toledo, while also dropping their contest against Duke. None of these opponents have jumped off the page at you, but it is giving these Boilermakers a chance to find themselves and get some momentum going early in the year. Saturday’s game will be televised on Big Ten+ at 6:00 pm from Mackey Arena.