What do they say, that close only works with horseshoes or hand grenades? The Boilers came within a couple of missed shots in the last 30 seconds of regulation, only to fall to the Stanford Cardinal 71-65 in OT. It was a bit deflating to fall in overtime, but this team should hold their heads up after a great team effort against a very high quality team. We gave the Cardinal more than they probably expected to handle.
It was very hard to find any offensive weakness in Stanford. Their ball movement, shooting, rebounding, they have a lot of scoring weapons to work with. They continued to drain tough well guarded shots throughout the game. However, I don't think they had seen so far this season, a defense as pesky as Purdue presented to them. We all know the cliché, that West Coast teams don't play as high of a level of defense in basketball or football, and at times that was the way this game went. Not that Stanford played lousy defense. It was very difficult for Purdue to get any points in the paint. Those seemed to come by way of putbacks and runouts. Once again, though, our guards really excelled on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. We had some good years with Courtney Moses and KK Houser at guard, and before that Brittany Rayburn and company. So it made us wonder how we would fare after they graduated. It may have taken struggling through last season, and that was just a bad combination of injuries and other problems. However, it would seem that Purdue is once again really special at the guard position. Ashley Morrissette and April Wilson were simply all over the court, played within themselves, and made a lot of really clutch shots, especially behind the arc. They went a combined 7-18 from 3-point land, and that was after some early shooting woes. Morrissette in particular played like she had ice in her veins, especially in the 2nd half. It was no surprise that Morrissette made the all-tournament team. Wilson filled up the stat sheet once again with 17 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and a steal. I guess it was due to foul trouble against Louisville, but it is hard for me to imagine that Wilson did not make the all-tournament team as well. I guess there were enough excellent guards in this tournament that they decided to only pick one or the other. Wilson also really had command of the offense from the point guard position for most of the game. After trailing at halftime 26-21, the Boilers shot 50% overall in the second half, hitting 7-13 threes in the second half as well. I really don't think Stanford expected to have it put to them by a Purdue team that hasn't done much in the past couple of years.
Other players stepped up as well. Hamby drained a couple of nice threes and contributed off the bench. McBryde continues to improve literally by the game. Like Morrissette, but only from more of a post position, McBryde just doesn't seem to get rattled at anything. She only scored 2 points, but grabbed 7 rebounds and played very good defense. At one point her emphatic shot block really energized our entire team. Nora Keisler had another solid game, with 6 points and 9 rebounds. She also seems to be improving literally every game. Tiara Murphy gave a few good minutes spelling the starting guards for a few stretches. It is safe to say that this freshman class is the real deal. And boy after last year, we needed that in a big way.
Not to take anything away from Stanford. On paper it probably looked like Purdue would be run out of the gym by this team. It was really challenging to find any area of the game in which they didn't excel. That may be of little comfort coming away with a loss to them. However, this game proved to the nation that Purdue is not going to be a pushover this year. At least if we don't play that pro team called the UConn Huskies. Purdue committed too many fouls, and Stanford hit 25 of 26 at the free throw line. It is damn near impossible to beat a team that gets fouled and shoots free throws like that. That must be some kind of record somewhere. Their shooting ability from the floor is also excellent, but give Purdue credit for ratcheting up defensive pressure. The Cardinal were held to just 34.5% shooting and Purdue even won the turnover battle, 11 to 13.
It is safe to say that this was just one exciting game. Purdue had two shots at the end of regulation, and if either had gone in, we could have come away with the W. In overtime, though, the first thing that happened was Bridget Perry fouled out. We really missed her in the OT. Also in the OT was a questionable call against Wilson where they said she fouled the 3 point shooter. But the real travesty of the OT was the phantom foul called on Morrissette guarding a 3 pointer that was not going to go in. I sure hate to see the refs determine the outcome of the game like that. I also have the right to complain, that Stanford got away with traveling at least 6 times in the game, and that was just what I saw personally, there could have been more. Ultimately reality sets in and your team has to deal with bad calls. At least this game for the most part had OK officiating compared to the Louisville game the night before. Also, sometimes a team just needs to outplay their opponent to overcome bad calls. Just ask Coach Auriemma at UConn. Maybe not so much in the past few years, but for a long time they were getting screwed by the refs especially when playing Tennessee. So he just recruited and coached up his team to win even if the calls were going against them. But I digress, as expecting our team to be as good as UConn is just crazy at this time in the women's game. I'm just trying to make the point that the team just needs to overcome any inconsistencies in officiating.
I know the quote that there is no quality loss. However I would make an exception this time. Purdue was expected by pretty much no one to play this good, this early in the season. I would think the Boilers will start to get some votes in the polls. But even if not, this Gulf Coast Showcase really provided the Boilers with something to build on. Another thing not mentioned enough is conditioning. It didn't get a lot of attention when she said it, but Coach V commented not long ago that Purdue was not going to be outdone in player conditioning. The team has enough players to come off the bench and make quality contributions, and that will be even more important once the grueling conference schedule comes. However, it just seems like these players don't seem to ever look tired. Even late in games. Like some kind of two legged Energizer bunnies or something. In this game in particular, it looked like our players were just feeding off of each others' energy and that intimidated a Stanford team that was probably not expecting that.
Yes a win would have been better, and would have most likely shot our team into the top 25 in the polls. But having played toe to toe with such a quality team has to get someone's attention. We can't rest on our laurels, and will get back to work I'm sure. After football it is nice to see both men's and women's basketball compete. Even though preseason it looked very unlikely, if the team continues to build on our play the first 6 games of the non-conference season, we just might have a decent shot of making it back to the NCAA tournament where we belong. We have a date with the Dayton Flyers coming soon, and they have become quite a team. But for now we can breathe out and say that our Lady Boilers gave it their all in this tournament and came a shot away from winning the championship.