The Lady Boilers played their first game of three last evening at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Entero, Florida against the LSU Lady Tigers. I have to admit, I was worried about this game. LSU has been a solid team out of the SEC for some years now, and I thought that it would be a good test to see where our team is at this season. A pleasant surprise, our team came through this test with a resounding victory 69-52.
For the record, that is the worst LSU team I have ever seen. We as fans may be frustrated with recent trends. But LSU really did very little right in this game. Their lone bright spot was Akilah Bethel, who hit almost every shot she threw up there and grabbed 9 rebounds. Their best player Raigyne Moncrief is out with a knee injury. Their leading scorer so far this year, Jenna Deemer, was held to only 4 points on 1-6 shooting. One of their leading rebounders this year, Ann Jones, only got one rebound. And the Tigers continued their propensity to turn the ball over, in this case 11 times, but they were costly turnovers. What surprised me the most in all of this, was that the Tigers continued the entire game to leave wide open our jump shooters at the guard position. And our guards made them pay for that.
April Wilson really had one heck of a game. Perhaps her best overall game, scoring 23 points on 8-16 shooting, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal, and took a charge. She was not only the best player on the floor, if she continues tonight like that she should get Big Ten player of the week. It is safe to say that she has worked through her shooting woes. Ashley Morrissette also had a fine game, scoring 15 points on 6-12 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. Bridget Perry had a solid game, with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Andreona Keys was her usual reliable self, not really making any bad errors except maybe a missed layup or two, providing 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. The four guard offense worked well, albeit against a team that forgot how to play defense. Still, the shots have to go in. Dominique McBryde is beginning to show just how good she will be, adding 4 points, 5 rebounds, and a blocked shot. It is safe to say that with her and Perry at the 4, we have that position covered. The question mark this year is the 5 position. Nora Keisler made a case for hope at that position with 3 blocked shots and 4 rebounds. However she didn't get much help from the others trying to hold down the 5 position. At least for this game, we didn't need it.
Overall, the Boilers played a solid game. Having held their first 3 opponents to under 50 points, they held the Tigers to only 52 points. Granted, the competition will get much tougher this evening, but it is a good trend to have. A lot of zone was played, switching was solid, and their leading scorer Jenna Deemer had a very difficult time even getting a shot off. Yes we need more offensive scoring in the post. Hey, no one complains when our men's basketball team rains down 3 pointers when opponents pack it in. We shot a respectable 6-14 from three point land and some were real back breakers. Our ball movement could use some improvement, but overall it is coming along pretty well. We had at least 3 back cuts perfectly executed. It is safe to say that our 4 starting guards, Wilson, Morrissette, Keys, and Perry will have to play a lot of minutes this season. They showed no signs of getting tired, and the subs did a respectable job spelling them. Yes, Hayden Hamby played well.
Tonight is the first test that I thought we would have last night. Louisville has really made a name for themselves the past 10 years or so. Granted they are 1-2 this year, with close losses to Cal and Western Kentucky. And they only have one major player that has played more than one season for them. They have recruited well and have an awesome transfer leading the team in scoring - Briahanna Jackson at 19.7 ppg. Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen also average in double figures. And look out for their fab freshmen, led by one of the top 2015 recruits in Asia Durr, who was sought by just about every elite team in the country. If we can hang with the Lady Cardinals, or even win, that would really give us reason for hope. Hey, if Western Kentucky can beat them, who knows? The Cardinals dismantled an always pesky Marist yesterday, and look to recover from their two early losses. I also expect them to be more solid in the post than our Boilers or any of our opponents so far. But this is good experience for our team. Louisville has worked themselves into an elite team despite being ranked number 22 at the moment. You have to beat the elite to be elite. This game will indeed let us know in game time what we need to work on, not just what we expect to happen in practices.
It looks like it is going to be another season of low to moderate scoring games for the Lady Boilers. While our shooting is coming along, this team will continue to play tough defense. In an age of high scoring (Probably in the minority here, but I don't agree with rule changes that up the scoring which is supposed to make the game more exciting), Purdue will continue to make team defense a top priority. Hopefully our team can continue to play with focus and effort, hit our open shots, and give the Cardinals a good game. Perhaps they will underestimate our team, although coach Jeff Walz is a smart coach and probably won't let that happen. I was wrong on my last prediction, but I just do not see us winning this game.
Prediction: Louisville 65 - Purdue 57