Who put the glass plate over the rim? My Junior high math teacher came up with that one. It applied today, as the Lady Boilers just could not get the shots to fall. The defense hung in there in the first half, holding Oklahoma to 28 points, but the offense only produced a season low 15 points on 18% shooting. That won't get it done at any level, but especially in the NCAA tournament against a quality opponent. Purdue made a valiant effort in the third quarter to finally get some good scoring, but Oklahoma had their inside outside game working to perfection and drained some clutch three pointers. By the fourth quarter, it was all academic as Oklahoma only scored 8 points but the game had already been decided and Purdue couldn't buy a basket in the final stanza either.
Sometimes that is just the way the ball bounces. Purdue put up an incredible number of shots that hit every part of the rim possible without going in. Oklahoma just continued to rain in clutch jump shots with some decent interior shots. While Purdue did a decent job of limiting post scoring, we could not keep their jump shooters from sinking shot after shot. It was not the way our team wanted to end the season obviously, but just to make the tournament was a major step forward from the previous season. Plus hats off to head coach Sheri Coale and the entire Sooners team which played a fundamentally sound game and executed their game plan to perfection. It was mind blowing to watch them block 13 of our shots without fouling. I haven't seen a block party like that on either side all season long for the Boilers. As the game progressed, Purdue failed to make the necessary adjustments to stop playing into the blocked shots, and the mental aspect became important, as Purdue could not muster up the confidence to sink their jump shots. Oklahoma dictated the pace of the entire game and the final score reflected that fact. Morrissette and Murphy got two each three pointers in the second half, but really the third quarter was the only one in which the Boilers shot well. One quarter of good shooting at this level of play will not get it done. Another surprising statistic was the abysmal foul shooting for the Boilers, making only 5 of 13 from the foul line. That had to be the worst of the year, as Purdue was one of the leading foul shooting teams in the Big Ten all season long. When it rains, it pours.
So what good came out of this game? First of all, Purdue is a very young team with promising talent, and the younger players gained valuable experience playing an NCAA tournament game. It is just a whole other level of play than the regular season, and even more pressure than the conference tournament. McBryde and Murphy showed flashes of good play, and Keisler played some solid defense. For whatever reason, Keys and Perry just got overwhelmed in this game which was surprising. They will learn from this experience and come back next year as two of the top team leaders. For Morrissette it was just a frustrating day shooting the ball, but she will come back as a strong senior leader next year. During the course of the season she has made quite a lot of clutch shots, some in game winning fashion. No doubt she will miss April Wilson due to graduation, but Tiara Murphy looked to show flashes that she will come into next season ready to lead at the point, with Morrissette's help. Perhaps the most important takeaway from this game is just that the team made an amazing one season turnaround from the previous season by even making it into the NCAA tournament. Yes a first game win would have been awesome, but it is not like the team lost to an inferior team, like ahem, some other team managed to do.
Purdue did not have a single player in double figures, something which happened in only one other game this season in the loss at Michigan State. April Wilson led the scoring with 9 points. Other than that, there aren't many stats to show. Peyton Little and Maddie Manning led the Sooners in scoring with 20 and 12 points respectively. However it could be argued that the player of the game was Big 12 sixth man of the year Vionese Pierre-Lewis, who in only 19 minutes of game time racked up 7 points, 8 rebounds, and an astounding 7 blocked shots. It just seemed like she was wherever the ball was. Coach Coale had bragged about her improvement this season and it was sure evident in this game.
I'll put out a couple of more posts later to finish off the season. One to recap the season, and another one to discuss prospects for the future. For now, I am still proud of this team despite the disappointing outcome of this game, and optimistic that Purdue is taking steps to return to the kind of program it should be.