Maine who? The Maine University where Coach Versyp brought success before coming back to the state of Indiana to coach for one year at IU then the past 10 years at Purdue. One might be tempted to think that this is a gimme. Not necessarily. Under 5th year head coach Richard Barron, Maine has built up a decent program. Last year they had a 20 win season, earning a berth in the WNIT. That is further than Purdue got last year. However that was then and this is now. Purdue is coming in with only two losses, both involving made or missed shots in the last 30 seconds of the game. In fact, only a clutch three-pointer by Boston College and a missed 10 foot jump shot by April Wilson against Stanford have kept the Boilers from being in position to be undefeated at this point in the season. Certainly this team has forgotten last year, and is playing with a lot of effort, toughness, and smart basketball play. Keeping turnovers low has been a key as well which was a problem for many years under coach V. The clear leader of the team is April Wilson, who has an amazing assist to turnover ratio of 2.75. Now that is ball control. Wilson has filled up the stat sheets in other areas as well.
Maine comes in on a 3 game winning streak with a 9-4 record. Purdue has played a much tougher schedule and comes into the game playing their best basketball of the season and holding an 8-2 record.
The Black Bears are led by their Austrian Junior guard Sigi Koizar with a season average of 17.6 points per game. She put up 25 in their last game in a win against Clemson. Not so sure about her supporting cast. Their team does appear to be well coached and sound fundamentally. Most of their stats are pretty good, although Purdue has much better stats in rebounding and blocked shots. While the Boilers are still experimenting with the 5 position, even so they should have the advantage in the post. Keisler is progressing well, and has 3 inches on Maine's tallest player. McBryde and Perry are doing a fine job in the post, both rebounding and scoring, along with other aspects of the game such as blocks, passing, and deflections on defense. McBryde in particular is really starting to look the part as the highest ranking recruit in quite some time in just her true freshman season. I would expect those three players in particular to give the Black Bears difficulties. Keys will mostly also be a matchup problem with her size, versatility, and energy.
Maine seems to be more of a guard oriented team, which could be problematic for them due to the outstanding play of Purdue's do everything dynamic duo of Wilson and Morrissette. Having both dropped in 20 points and in general stuffing the stats in the last game against Ball State, they have had solid seasons so far. Maine will most likely struggle against the always tough and ready Purdue defense. Now that our offense is progressing nicely, it is hard to predict a win for Maine. And don't forget that once again the game is at Mackey, where fan support is steady. However, Purdue can't just sleep on this team either. They will come out and play heady ball and make Purdue take the game.
Purdue should wear down this team and win with effort and intensity. Expect the success from midrange and three point jumpers to continue. Maine will play hard, but will just not have the level of players that Purdue is fielding on this year's team. And it is not just the level of players, but perhaps more importantly how the Boilers have come together as a team on a mission. Assume the Boilers will continue to play fast and hard.
Prediction: Purdue 71 - Maine 48.
Note: Tiara Murphy will miss this game while continuing to heal from a lower leg stress injury, but is expected to be ready for the conference opener at Michigan the last of the month.