The Lady Boilers played their one and only exhibition game on Sunday against Marian University, a D-II school coached by the great alum Katie Gearlds. As is typical in these kind of games, size is a real issue, just like it was in the men's game. We do have issues in the post, with Whitney Bays and Liza Clemons graduating. Replacing their productivity will have to be done by committee. While we dominated in the post, at least a few things could be observed. I missed watching the first half with the noon start, but saw the second half.
First, it looked like Nora Kiesler can take up a lot of space, catch the ball up high and put it in without bringing the ball down, and pass out to other players, and rebound. She looked to have good body control considering the size factor. We need her to put in a lot of minutes from the very first regular game of the season. Sophomores Bree Horrocks and Erica Moore have a lot of work to do. Moore looked better on the defensive side of the ball, and it seemed like neither one could create a shot, or even jump their feet up off of the floor. Moore did pull down 5 rebounds in 8 minutes, so that was encouraging. Bridget Perry is now listed as a forward, and she was simply all over the place making plays. Points, rebounds (13!), defense, you name it. A really fun player to watch who is going to cause matchup problems for our oppenents. Torrie Thornton also contributed in the rebound department. Dominique McBryde did not dress for the game due to sickness, not an injury. We need her down low, along with her ability to stretch out to outside shots, in a big way.
Watching our current team at the guard position gives us some hope. The two players who really impressed the most were April Wilson and Tiara Murphy. I was completely blown away watching Murphy play. No wonder she was a top 10 point guard coming in. She looks absolutely ready for prime time right out of the gate. Not very tall or big, but what a gamer. April Wilson was impressive as expected, made some really smooth shots, and dished out 9 assists, and made 4 steals, while only turning the ball over twice. From what the commentators said, the ball movement in the first half was not very good. It also looked somewhat shaky in the second half as well. Part of that is simply players learning to play together. Plus, we were missing Ashley Morrissette, kind of a glue player that keeps things together. She sat out with a left thumb injury which should be minor and she is cleared to play. Justine Hall played well and made some nice shots. She just seems to have a good economy of motion and her defense looked improved from last year. Has a very smooth shooting stroke. Look for a lot more playing time for her. Hayden Hamby did all right, but still looks to me like a role player. She grabbed 4 rebounds and looked to do more than just look for an opening to shoot a 3. One more really bright spot and that is Andreona Keys. She didn't play like a freshman much last year, and looks to have a stellar sophomore season to build on all the experience she got last year. She started and it would not be surprising if that carries over into the regular season. She just simply plays smart and is fearless going inside. Keys has diversity which allows the team to use her skills in a lot of different ways, including being able to play the 1 through 4 positions.
Prospects for the season: As already stated, it is not so easy to predict the season from a game like this. But a few observations. Things may not be as bad in the post as we might have predicted. Yes there will be some very serious growing pains, but the coaches are going to need to figure out who can make the most of their minutes. Certainly Coach Wisdom-Hylton knows post play and she will get the most out of our roster that she can. Certainly rebounding will be the number one key to success or not in the post. But we need some offensive threats in there and until we see what McBryde can bring to the table, this is definitely a concern. A fast learning curve for Kiesler would greatly relieve some anxieties concerning the post play. Defensively we might not be too bad, but offense is the next biggest concern to rebounding. We do know that Perry will do her part, and she has to stay healthy.
At the guard position we have a lot of options. I will say it now, our shooting from the guard position will be much better than last year. Naysayers will say, how could it be any worse and/or won't it be the same old same old. Wilson will have a really good shooting season, and Tiara Murphy and Justine Hall also look to pour in some points. Ashley Morrissette will get her points as well, already being our second leading scorer last year. Hopefully her shooting percentage will improve this year. Our ball movement is a concern, especially against a zone, but that should develop as the season progresses. Maybe Coach V needs to take up the Coach Painter chant: MOVE! There is no excuse for standing around not setting picks. Another key will be turnovers. Which were kept to a low amount in the second half when I was watching. I understand it wasn't so good in the first half. Bad turnovers can shift momentum, and erase almost everything else good that a team is doing. If we have the same turnover problem as in a lot of past years, that will not bode well for our chances of a successful season. Another factor is being very fast in pushing the ball up. This team should be better at that than last year, with Murphy and Wilson being very fast and others doing a good job pushing the tempo as well. The entire team needs to get in the mindset to push the tempo.
What would be a successful season? The standard, at least 20 wins and an invite to the NCAA tournament. My predictions? A winning record out of the non-conference season, middle of the pack in conference, hovering somewhere around .500 ball, and a chance to get off the bubble and in during the Big Ten Tournament. There is some really stiff competition in this conference. As Purdue fans, we all have a similar question. Can our incoming freshmen class and measurable improvement from our upper classmen not only make up for the loss of Bays and Clemons, but in actuality get us back to winning ways? I say we will finish a little above .500 for the entire season, and even with 8 freshmen and sophomores, we will play much better. At best a bubble team for the NCAA tournament. Which would be a big improvement over last season. If we do better than that this season, which is a possibility with the start of the season just around the corner, well then that would be fantastic. For that to happen our #7 freshman class will have to really shine. That can look like a possibility during the non-conference schedule, but typically even highly ranked freshmen can struggle during the conference season.