In the first game of the St. Pete Showcase, Purdue fell to No. 22 ranked West Virginia 65-57 in what was their toughest test to date. It seemed like West Virginia was certainly in the giving mood tonight by handing the Boilermakers a silver plater to slide in for the upset win, but Purdue failed to take advantage of said offerings.
This was a frustrating game for the Katie Gearlds-led Boilermakers as they had the chance to make a statement early on in the season, get a little more national exposure, and set a standard for themselves. Another tough game that will indeed help the Boilermakers grow as they mature, but winning that would have been awfully nice.
Since their win over Illinois state that pushed them to 3-0, it has been tough sledding for the Boilermakers as they have dropped two of three and cannot seem to get things together offensively in particular.
As will be said plenty of times throughout this season, be patient with this team. Nobody is expecting them to roll out a Final Four run and a Big Ten Championship coming off of a 7-16 season. Boilermaker fans could be quick to jump the gun after the program stalled under Sharon Versyp the last handful of seasons.
Tonight’s game was just brutal for a team that is playing free and trying to find themselves still. There were multiple stretches where the Mountaineers allowed Purdue to stick around and even take the lead but the Boilermakers just couldn’t string enough scores together to get the job done.
The real backbreaker was down the stretch. Before a garbage time three-pointer by Brooke Moore, the Boilermakers went well over four minutes without a single point. This combined with West Virginia hitting 7 of their last 9 field goal attempts essentially iced it. Purdue also had four costly turnovers in the last four minutes of the game, which pushed their game total to an inexcusable 24 on the night. If this team wants to have any success, they will need to clean those up big time.
Purdue’s three-team leaders had a night to forget, as the trio of Ra’Shaya Kyle, Abbey Ellis, and Madison Layden combined for a putrid 7 points tonight. The fact that Purdue was even in this game whatsoever is a miracle thanks to the supporting cast contributing, which was an issue heading into tonight.
Seniors, Cassidy Hardin, and Brooke Moore did combine for 25 points tonight but that was basically the only offense Purdue had at all. Without those three players being at least serviceable though, Purdue does not have the firepower or trusted depth to keep up with good teams like West Virginia.
One thing you cannot critique is Purdue’s will. This team had their three leading scorers being non-factors while playing a ranked and undefeated West Virginia squad, yet they still pushed as hard as they could to only lose by 8. Had they not gone ice cold down the stretch, had a couple of shots fall, we could bet talking about the biggest win of Katie Gearld’s young Boilermaker coaching career.
There is obviously much to work on, but they have the opportunity to get that momentum back and pick up a good win on Saturday when they play the loser of the Florida State vs. BYU game. That one will be played at 11 a.m. on the FloHoops app for the consolation side of the St. Pete Showcase. Brush this one off and bounce back on Saturday, at this point that’s all you can do.