Last night at halftime things were up in the air in Mackey Arena. The Boilers were struggling and down by seven to the Toledo Rockets. The biggest reason that they were down though seemed to be hustle. The Rockets really seemed to want it more in the first half. Sometimes you wonder what is said to a team at halftime. Last night we were pretty sure that we knew what head coach Sharon Versyp told her team.
It was apparent because they came out of the halftime break with fire in their eyes. Drey Mingo started the half on the bench, but quickly made her mark on the game. She scored seventeen of her 21 points in the second half. For some reason that doesn’t seem to explain how much she meant to the team in the second half. She was unstoppable. For the game Drey had 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. She is not Purdue’s tallest post player, but she played huge last night.
Antoinette Howard had a great spurt in the second half as well. Both transfers left their mark on the game. Howard seems to have an attitude that nobody can stop her. The great thing is that so far when she drives nobody has. She really has impacted this team so far. She had fifteen points on the night along with six rebounds and five assists. Brittany Rayburn had another ho-hum 18 points on the night. How scary is it that a player scores eighteen points, and it seems like an off night for her? She was also ten for ten last night from the charity stripe. Sam Ostarello also had 10 points for the Boilers including a three pointer that gave the Boilers the lead for good. As the game was winding down I looked up and saw this for our players on the court: Mingo 21, Howard 15, Rayburn, 18, Moses 7, and Ostarello 10. I commented that I would take that any day. Mingo was the force in the second half, but it really was a team effort for the game. Courtney Moses had a solid game as well in her first start. She made a few freshman mistakes, but you can see that she is fearless. She will need to keep that attitude as the season progresses.
A great story for Toledo is guard Naama Shafir. She lead all scorers on the night with 23 points, but her story is what is amazing. On the postgame show I heard Tim Newton talking about how Shafir may be the first Orthodox Jew to earn a Divison I scholarship. This fact makes for some special circumstances for her. She cannot eat the same food as the team. She has to bring her own Kosher meals and have them heated. This leads to some interesting situations where she has to eat outside of the restaurant because she cannot eat her pre-made food inside. She cannot practice during the day on Saturday because of her beliefs, but can play the games if they fall on that time. She also cannot travel between sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. Again according to the radio broadcast she has to travel to the town early if they have a weekend game, and stay by herself. They also said that she had to walk a mile at South Dakota State with a wind chill of -47 just to make it to the game. She has come a long way from her hometown in Hoshaya Isreal, but she comes to play. She was hands down the best player on the court in the first half of the game last night. She is a great story that will be fun to watch develop.
After I posted this I received a comment about Naama with a little more information. I thought that I would include it here to clarify her story a little. Here is the comment: “Nice article. Couple additions to your story on Naama Shafir. One thing important to mention is the strong support her teammates have given her since joining the team. At the beginning of her freshman year, the team went to Hawaii for a tournament. As you mentioned, most restaurants won’t allow Naama to bring her meal into the restaurant. The team had ordered their dinner when it became apparent Naama would have to sit outside. After getting their orders, the whole team got up and sat outside the restaurant and ate with Naama. For every game on the road falling in the period when Naama can’t be in a motorized vehicle from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, one of the coaches drives her early to the game city and usually a player or two also rides along. She never is by herself. A coach also makes the trek with her back and forth not only for the game but for shootarounds before the game. This has involved walking through some pretty deep snow. The minus 47 degree game was actually with the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, and assistant coach Todd Mittmesser made the walk with Naama. Todd dropped a glove along the way, and it was so cold that he had no desire to go back and get it. Naama said they stopped at several store fronts to warm up along the way. Her rabbi has determined that practice on Saturday is work and is prohibited on the Sabbath, but games are fun, which is not prohibited.”
One nice touch last night was the Gold and Black Sound who had signs for KK Houser when the team came out onto the court. They showed their appreciation for her, and I am sure that she really appreciated it. They put the signs to good use in the second half when they waved them during free throws causing at least seven misses that I counted. The band really seemed to have an impact on the game when the Rockets were shooting their foul shots. The quick jump up and scream worked wonders.
Gameball: At one point of the game I was wondering who would get this. At that point Brittany, Drey, and Antoinette all had about the same amount of points. I knew that Brittany would probably get this a lot so I was trying to decide who was having the better game between Mingo and Howard. Drey Mingo quickly erased all doubt as to who was the player of the game.
Play of the game: Sam Ostarello made a huge three pointer to give the Boilers the lead for good, but I have another play in mind for this. Antoinette Howard made a nice half court pass to Drey Mingo for an easy bucket during the huge run by Mingo. Just the way that they made this hard play look easy gets it the play of the game status.
Purdue advances to the third round of the preseason WNIT and play South Dakota State on Thursday night. A win would be huge for this team and its early season confidence. Go out and see the girls play.