After just falling short of winning the Gulf Coast Showcase in an overtime loss to Stanford, the Lady Boilers will be hosting Boston College this Thursday. This could prove to be an interesting match up. Both teams take great pride in their defense. Both teams are riding a 5-1 start in their pre-conference schedule. Both teams can light it up from 3-point land. And both teams are just coming off of their first loss of the season to ranked teams. BC lost to the #21 Oklahoma Sooners in the Junkanoo Jam, while Purdue is coming off of a loss to #13 Stanford in the GC Showcase. So both teams got to enjoy some nice weather in the Bahamas and Florida.
This is part of a tough 4 game stretch in which Purdue plays Louisville, Stanford, Boston College, and Dayton. So far after two of these games, the Boilers have proven to be greatly improved in most areas of the game. Ball control is much improved, some serious height is being shown in the post (mainly by Nora Keisler along with help from Dominique McBryde), shooting is much better, the team has proven that they can play fast and hard for a full 40 minutes, and the defense has been stifling.
Three freshmen, Keisler, McBryde, and Murphy have all gotten some considerable playing time early on, which can only help their ability to contribute more depth and playmaking as the season progresses. Keisler in particular has held down some real estate under the basket and provided scoring, defense and rebounds in perhaps the team's greatest area of need. The 4 guard offense of Wilson, Morrissette, Keys, and Perry has worked out well and provided a cohesive unit. Players have come off of the bench and provided some quality minutes spelling the starters. In particular McBryde and Hamby have put in some good minutes. As I covered in the article on the championship game of the Gulf Coast Showcase, team conditioning has definitely proven to be an asset. Team building efforts, through the European tour this summer to Fall practices, have had a positive effect, as the players show themselves to be unselfish in every aspect of the game. Most impressive, however, is the tenacious team defense that is being played. After 6 games, no opponent has scored more than 60 points in regulation, with 4 opponents held to 52 points or less.
This defense will be tested by Boston College. They can flat out shoot the basketball. Their star shooter, Kelly Hughes, is shooting a ridiculous 52% from beyond the arc, having drained 27 of 52. Their entire team is averaging over 40% on threes, while holding their opponents to less than 20%. Overall, their team is shooting at 42% while holding their opponents to 35%. So not only can they shoot the ball well, they can make it hard on opponents to score. Most of their other stats are pretty impressive as well. I don't know much about the competition they have faced (except Oklahoma is almost always a good team), especially in comparison to the competition Purdue has faced. But as I always say, no matter who you are playing, the shots still have to go in. Other significant scorers include Mariella Fasoula, Nicole Boudreau, and Emilee Daley at 9.5, 9.0, and 8.0 points per game respectively. Hughes leads all scorers with 16.8 points per game. To me this means that Purdue will be challenged to play more man to man than perhaps any other game yet this year. We have the players to do that, but part of the defensive success so far this season has been in mixing in different zone defenses. That being said, Purdue has worked hard on their zone defenses, and made them effective against such a good shooting team as Stanford, so we will see how that plays out. Most of the zone defenses I have observed seem to be of the 2-3 type, with good switching. Perhaps we might try a box and one in this game, as you just cannot leave Kelly Hughes open.
The offense will also be challenged by the #11 scoring defense in the country. That is why this is an intriguing match up. Strength against strength on both sides of the ball. That being said, Purdue's offense really came alive in the Gulf Coast Showcase against some quality teams. Morrissette and Wilson are both on a roll scoring the basketball. Perry and Keys create match up problems for opponents. Keys is simply solid in whatever she does, and can out-muscle most guards she plays against. Perry is more of a hybrid Guard-Forward and seems to be always on the move on both sides of the ball. Put a regular guard on her and she will rebound, shoot, and block shots over them. Put a forward on her and she will employ her guard skills.
While this looks on paper to be an even match up, perhaps the Eagles have not played against such a relentless offense and defense so far. Purdue just never seems to let up. I can't say for sure not having watched BC play, but my guess is that Purdue is the quicker team. Purdue should also win the rebounding battle. Unless Purdue goes stone cold from jump shooting range including beyond the arc, I am predicting the home court advantage and the Boilers' relentless and unselfish team effort will bring us the W.
Prediction: Purdue 60 - BC 54.