The Purdue Women’s basketball team got the 11 seed in the NCAA tournament and will be facing the St. John’s Red Raiders for a play-in game on Thursday at 7:00 pm.
I reached out to Rumble in the Garden, SB Nation’s blog for St. John’s to see if they could provide us with some insight on their team this year and they were gracious enough to answer some questions for me.
Get to know the Boilers first opponent and see what they are up against for the first tournament appearance since 2017.
How has your season been so far?
It’s been a successful season in Queens. The crown jewel in St. John’s resume is their road win over UConn back in February, but they also carry a couple more quality victories. They knocked off Creighton and Marquette at home, and they could have potentially upset Villanova on the road had Maddy Siegrist not gone supernova in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter. Their two “worst” losses have come from Seton Hall in a season sweep, who are currently ranked 64th in NET. St. John’s has avoided the Quad 3/Quad 4 landmines this year and this is why they are in the dance.
What does St. John’s have to do to win this game?
Being able to make the tough shots. At the tempo that St. John’s plays, they will be able to hang with most teams but they will also always be within reach if they are ahead. Every bucket will be crucial in this game and I expect Jayla Everett to get plenty of looks on Thursday night.
Who are the best players? Who do the Boilers need to watch out for?
Pitt transfer Jayla Everett is this team’s leading scorer (15.8 ppg) and best player this season. As a lethal deep-range threat, she shot a blazing 42 percent from three-point range this season and has the capacity to drill a bucket in a clutch situation.
This is your first time back in NCAA tournament since 2016. Was there a coaching change or has program been steadily getting better?
Surprisingly, the team was on a downward trajectory up until this season. Prior to this season, St. John’s finished with a losing record in 3 of their last 4 seasons and their leading scorer Leilani Correa transferred to Florida.
Fortunately, this is now the transfer portal era and coach Joe Tartamella has built this team on solid, experienced players. The aforementioned Everett has replaced Correa as the lights-out scorer this team needs, while grad year players like Mimi Reid and Jillian Archer have answered the bell in their roles. Returning players like reliable rebounder and paint disruptor Rayven Peeples and efficient in-and-out scoring threat Danielle Patterson also began their collegiate careers outside of New York City.
What’s this team’s greatest strength or what are the known for?
Defense. They are holding opponents to 59.4 points per game, less than 39.6 percent shooting from the field, and 28.8 percent from beyond the arc. This team will keep the game within punching distance for all four quarters and then they will try to close it out in the fourth quarter. This is also the best three-point shooting team St. John’s has fielded in a long time, as the team is 30th in the country from shooting beyond the arc (35.6 percent).
You recently beat UConn? How did they get the victory over a top team?
Yes, it is still unfathomable, too. Without that victory, St. John’s would be preparing for the WNIT this week. This team’s performance can be credited to their calling card of their suffocating defense and clutch shotmaking of Everett and Bailey. UConn was without their third-leading scorer Azzi Fudd and it appeared St. John’s was able to wear down a shortened Huskies rotation in the end. The encouraging takeaway from that game is St. John’s did not play a perfect game and they still managed to stay in front for the majority of the contest.
Well there you have it, Purdue Nation. Looks like it’s going to be a defensive showdown on Thursday night. Winner advances to play 6 seed North Carolina on Saturday. Check back later in the week on my breakdown on what I think Purdue needs to do to get the win.