Purdue came out red hot in conference play this year with a 5-0 start. Since then the record is 2-6. This is due to a combination of factors, including tougher opponents, more away games, attrition due to injury, and unfortunately, a lack of focus and intensity for long stretches of game time. That being said, Maryland is a top 10 team with two potential All-Americans on their roster, center Brionna Jones and guard/forward Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. And it was those two players who did the most damage, with Jones having a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while SWK had 23 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. The rest of the Terrapins played secondary roles, but Confroy went 3-7 from three point land, while Chloe Pavlech hit a real killer 3 late in the fourth quarter after Purdue had pulled within 7 points. It was enough, though, as Purdue continued their recent trend of just not putting up enough points to win, while having many more defensive lapses, in this case especially leaving jump shooters wide open looks.
All that being said, the Boilers played hard, and if they had played like that at Wisconsin, it would have been a win. Also, in a game that was officiated with extreme randomness, Maryland shot 3 times as many free throws and the difference in makes at the free throw line were the exact difference in the final score of the game. Honestly this is one of the strangest officiated basketball games I have watched all season. Perry gets body slammed down to the floor, no foul. Someone else then gets called for a phantom foul. The players from both teams had looks on their faces, like "What?"
Purdue's shooting woes continued for most of the game, although a valiant effort was finally made in the 4th quarter when Purdue hit 8-17 shots with 3-7 from distance. However, it was too little too late. While the Boilers made some really heady steals and turned the Terrapins over 20 times, throughout the game, there were just too many shooters left open. Also, Purdue just does not have a center able to guard Brionna Jones. This is not unexpected, however, as most teams in the country don't have a center that can guard Jones. It seemed like she could make a layup pretty much anytime she wanted. Defense against Walker-Kimbrough was better than the last time we played Maryland. That means she "only" scored 23 points, not 41.
Overall, for a game this far into the conference season, things were pretty sloppy on both ends of the floor. Purdue turned over the ball 18 times to only 9 assists, while Maryland coughed it up 20 times. The Terrapins did not look like a final four team for much of this game. The Purdue players were able to keep the game from becoming a blowout. However, the talent and depth of Maryland was just too much in the end.
Dominique McBryde made her first start, which was good, but she got baited into a couple of fouls and had to sit for about half of the game. Perry traveled 3 times, and gave it her all, but she was overmatched in this game, something we are not used to seeing. Keisler did manage to get in good box out and defensive position at times, especially in the first half, but Horrocks and Thornton had a rough go of it deep in the post. Purdue was out-rebounded by 10 and it was hard to count how many possessions for the Boilers were one and done. This team needs something to get back to good rebounding. This is the second straight game where the rebounding numbers were simply not acceptable. In fact, Purdue needs to work on some basic fundamentals if they are to finish the season well enough to make it into the NCAA tournament. Part of recent problems are due to a combination of things, such as: highly touted recruit Lamina Cooper never having arrived to campus, two transfers out, and enough injury issues to limit the team. This is still a young team, and one would assume that all of the extra playing time for the three freshmen Murphy, McBryde, and Keisler, will pay off down the road. Our team needs Hamby back in the game as well as good health for Horrocks and Thornton. While the latter two played, they are probably not at 100% healthwise.
In spite of these struggles, there were some positives in this game. For one, Purdue played with mental toughness and did not back down from a solid top 10 team on their court. Keys had a good first half and made some really tough plays. Wilson and Morrissette came alive shooting the ball, especially in the second half. Wilson finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Morrissette had a game high 18 points, hitting 3 of 5 from downtown, and added 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
So where does the team go from here? Hopefully winning 3 of the last 5 games to finish with a winning conference record of 10-8. Anything less will lead to a lower seed in the B1G tournament. A good showing there could determine if Purdue is in or out of the NCAA tournament. For now our team is still projected as a tournament quality team. However, anything less than 3 more conference wins could turn it into a bubble team, unless we make a splash in the B1G tournament. The season is far from over. Hopefully the freshmen can continue to make significant contributions which are sorely needed. There is no shame in losing an away game to a top 10 team. However, Purdue needs to up their scoring and tighten their defense, as the next game is Sunday at home vs. Michigan. Hallie Thome is a handful at the center position and Michigan has a whole group of three point aces, so Purdue needs to improve the play at center, quit leaving so many jump shooters wide open, and put the darn ball in the basket. Like we did at home against Iowa and scored 90.