It was disappointing to lose at Ohio State by 20 points, to have our defense give up 90 points. However, the loss itself was not surprising. We knew our team would not run the table in the B1G Conference. Here is our chance to rebound by taking on an up and coming Nebraska team at home on Wednesday.
I have to admit, this game has me worried. I do think that Purdue has the slightly better team overall. Our team is faster, more experienced, and has a better defense. That being said, Nebraska is going to be no pushover. I have a lot of respect for their 14th year head coach Connie Yori. She is one of the top coaches in our league and year in and year out she doesn't get as much credit as she deserves. Even so, she has already won the national coach of the year award in 2010. You can count on her to get the most out of her players.
Purdue will most likely start the same 4 regulars, Wilson, Morrissette, Keys, and Perry, and one of our centers, probably either Horrocks or Thornton. The 4 guards, and I say that as Perry is a hybrid guard/forward, will no doubt continue their excellent play and they will work their teamwork system to the hilt. Perhaps Wilson and the PG for Nebraska Rachel Theriot are a wash, although I would give the slight edge to Wilson based on speed alone. That being said, Theriot is a natural at the PG position and knows how to operate Coach Y's offense. The big matchup problem is going to probably come again, as against Ohio State, down low in the post. With 6-4 Freshman phenom forward Jessica Shepherd and Senior Center 6-5 Allie Havers, Purdue is going to be challenged greatly in the post. Definitely some help defense is going to be needed, and that will leave someone else open jumpers. True, the Cornhuskers don't have the bevy of shooters that the Buckeyes have, but still that is a daunting task. Purdue will probably have to play more zone than they would like, for example their 2-3 or 1-2-2 schemes. At times this season, the 2-3 in particular has worked quite well against some of our tough non-conference foes like Stanford. Some man-to-man defense will be used to switch things up, but our current shortage of depth at the guard position may limit that to certain segments of the game.
Nebraska has other good players, but defiinitely their three top players are Theriot, Shepherd, and Havers. Natalie Romeo has also stepped up her game at the guard position and took in a B1G weekly award last week. Purdue will need to play defense at a high level. Hopefully our offense will correct some of the bad turnovers from the last game, and keep those numbers within reason. The Boilers will need to get their ball control and transition offense revved up and in high gear to win this game. We have already seen those 2 things in action, so we know it can be done.
Nebraska has 5 losses on the season, but none of them are "bad" losses, meaning that they are all losses to very good teams: Uconn (that shouldn't even count), @Cal, Iowa, @Northwestern, and @Maryland are their only losses. Purdue is so far looking better than Iowa and Northwestern, but probably not by very much. Yes we put it on the reeling Wildcats in their gym, but that was a game when all the pieces fell into place. Cal has not lived up to their preseason hype, but they will almost certainly be playing in the NCAA tournament in March.
Despite all of these concerns, I am just going to be optimistic and predict a Purdue win. Yes we will have to work McBryde and Perry a lot inside, but that leaves Wilson, Morrissette, and Keys to counter Theriot and Romeo. Look for Perry to have a bounce back game, and Keys will do whatever is needed at the time. Some outside shots will need to fall, and Purdue will need to win the battle of turnovers, but those will most likely happen before a good home crowd. Shepherd, who has monopolized the B1G Freshman of the week honors, is a very big and physical player. Maybe Nora Keisler can body her up for periods of time. Purdue will need to project a physical presence, which we are capable of doing. The Boilers will also need to create some transition offense, and disrupt the Cornhuskers in the half court.
After having nightmares of Ohio State swishing 3-pointers from NBA range, the Boilers need to come into this game with swagger and confidence on offense, and return to form with disruptive defense for 40 minutes. A game plan will be needed for the inside-outside combo of Theriot and Shepherd, without ignoring 3 other players.
Prediction: Purdue 72 - Nebraska 67.