In a back and forth thriller, Purdue snaps a three-game skid with an 81-77 victory over Penn State Wednesday evening.
Purdue was coming off a trio of bad defeats and were losers of 6 out of 8 heading into tonight. If the Boilermakers wanted any shot at the NCAA Tournament they likely have to win out, and they began the journey tonight.
Penn State is just 9-13 on the season but plays with some fight, as the final score and Makenna Marisa’s game-high 31 points would suggest. Purdue was in desperate need of a win and was able to do just enough to fend off another loss inside Mackey Arena.
In the three previous games, Purdue had scored just 63.3 points per game. Tonight they also snapped out of the offensive funk of February, dropping 81 on Penn State. Several players who were amid bad stretches got shots to fall tonight, which looked to give a boost to the rest of the team. However, it did take a while to get to that point.
Purdue played about as sloppy as they have all season in the first half, with 14 turnovers. That is a number that would be high for a game total, let alone one-half of basketball. They ended up finishing the game with an eye-popping 24 turnovers which Katie Gearlds would agree is unacceptable for this team. That led to the Boilermakers facing a 9 point deficit to end the first quarter. The flow of the game looked like they were going to face yet another loss, but credit to Katie Gearlds and this team as they fought like hell to get back and take a lead into halftime.
It was then the Boilermakers who almost blew a big lead in the fourth quarter after they extended their advantage to 15 with 9+ minutes remaining. Madison Layden came up clutch with a pair of jumpers in the final minute which ultimately sealed the Purdue victory. Layden has had a tough year shooting the basketball and was held scoreless last time out, but responded by tying her career-high with 20 points tonight.
Rickie Woltman was not too far behind Layden as she put up a monster double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Woltman has been key in quite a few wins this season and continues to evolve her game while Ra’Shaya Kyle remains sidelined due to injury.
Brook Moore and Abbey Ellis were the other two Boilermakers to score into double-figures tonight with 10 and 12 points respectively. Ellis also finished with 7 assists to lead the team in that regard. Moore and Ellis are the energizing guards for this team and when the duo is on, it’s tough to keep up with the Boilermakers.
Purdue still has a lot to work on, but tonight was a step in the right direction. They needed to stop the bleeding of the past month’s losses and regroup. As I said, Purdue is on the outside looking in on the NCAA Tournament picture. But, they do have an opportunity to make a late-season run for the postseason, especially with a significantly easier schedule down the stretch against other teams at the bottom of the Big Ten.
This win moves them to 14-10 on the season overall and 5-8 during conference play. The Boilermakers will look to start a winning streak when they take on Wisconsin in a postponed game from January on Sunday afternoon. The Badgers are just 3-10 during league play and 6-17 overall, so this should be a game Purdue wins, but that remains to be seen. That game will be Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in Madison and be broadcast on B1G+.