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Purdue vs. Ball State Preview

The Lady Boilers play their fourth straight non-conference home game against Ball State on Sunday.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After blowing Incarnate Word out of Mackey with one of the most lopsided victories in program history, the women's basketball team welcomes in a very good 6-2 Ball State Cardinals team on Sunday.  We already played a couple of Cardinals and a Cardinal.  So what's one more red bird team?  Seriously, though, this is a really big jump in level of competition.

With no thanks to BTN, who decided they didn't feel like providing BTN Plus video of the Incarnate Word game (and I am not paying another $10 per month just to listen to a couple of games a year on College Sports Live radio), I was not able to follow the last game.  From looking at the stats and the write-ups on it, Purdue might have well been playing 5 on 1 against Briana Williams on Thursday.  It gave Coach V a chance to get some good game time for some of the subs, and they had a field day as well as the starters.  Not sure why Tiara Murphy did not play.  Does anyone know?  Sure hope she is not hurt.

Now to Ball State.  This is a whole different ball of wax, to quote the old saying.  The Cardinals are a respectable 6-2, with their only losses to Charlotte and Florida.  Under 4th year head coach Brady Sallee, they have gotten off to a good start this season.  Thanks in large part to their star player in 6-2 Junior Guard Nathalie Fontaine.  She just put up 28 points and 14 rebounds in their Thursday night win over Lipscomb.  Fontaine is averaging 20.9 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game for the season so far.  Purdue will definitely have to know where she is and try to get Bridget Perry, Andreona Keys, and Dominique McBryde to take turns trying to shadow her.  And it is not like she doesn't have any help.  6-1 Sophomore Forward Moriah Monaco is averaging 13.4 points per game.  Junior Guard Jill Morrison has already earned MAC player of the week honors, averaging 13 points per game and is a real threat from long distance.  6-5 Junior Center Renee Bennett is averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds a game.  6-3 Forward Shelby Miller also provides height and solid minutes.

As a team, Ball State is averaging more rebounds and points than Purdue, but the rebound and point margins are similar.  That would be due to the excellent defense that Purdue has hung their hat on this season.  Not that our offense can't score.  The offense is really starting to come together with an experienced 4 guard lineup of Wilson, Morrissette, Keys, and Perry.  McBryde and Hamby have provided some good minutes in relief, Justine Hall should  start to work more minutes into the rotation, and hopefully Murphy will be back in action.  At the 5 position we are still looking for more consistency, although we have seen some bright spots in our 3 player rotation of Keisler, Horrocks, and Thornton.  It has been good to see shooting percentages going up, especially for Wilson and Morrissette.  The senior and junior duo has really been solid on both sides of the ball this year.  They need to continue to drain some 3-pointers to keep opponents from packing it in.  One thing I like about the women's game is the importance of mid-range jumpers, and both of these players are excellent and clutch from mid-range.

As already covered, team defense has really been a joy to watch for the most part this year.  And we will need all of it we can muster up against a Cardinal team that will not be intimidated, at least from the onset, in this match-up.  Ball State has the size to win the rebound battle, and the scorers to put up the points.  The big question will be, assuming that Purdue shoots with good enough percentages, will Ball State be able to score enough points against our stifling defense?  Coach V has done a good job of coaching up various defensive schemes this year, including a very successful 2-3 zone defense.  Our team has enough players to match up man-to-man for extended periods of time if necessary, and some other zones such as a 1-3-1 wrinkle are available.  No team has scored more than 60 points in regulation against the Boilers this year, and other teams have been held scoreless for a whole bunch of 3-4 minute periods of time. Purdue was able to hold Dayton and Stanford to quite a few points below their season scoring average, and the Boilers need to do the same against Ball State.  Once again, it is probable that Ball State hasn't played against our level of defense yet this season.  Also one would think that home court advantage would be in our favor as well.  It could also make the difference if the Boilers can win the assist to turnover ratio battle.  The Cardinals turn the ball over a lot, but they also have gotten their opponents to do the same.

This game is looking like another nail-biter which we have seen several times already in this young season.  Don't expect either team to win by a large margin.  While all of the key stats are close between the teams, Purdue has played against tougher competition such as Stanford, Louisville and Dayton.  Purdue is most likely a faster team as well, especially when able to rebound or get steals and very quickly get up the floor.  Look for Wilson or Morrissette to make a clutch shot in the last minute and the team to seal a close win at the free throw line in the last 30 seconds.

Prediction: Purdue 65 - Ball State 60