The Boilers gave the fans some bang for their buck last night by winning a thrilling game 65-64 over Michigan. Brittany Rayburn hit a jumper with 11 seconds left to give the Boilers the win in front of the dollar night crowd. The special promotion allowed fans to see the game for $1 along with specials on food and drinks. I noticed a few more people in the upper bowl, but the lower bowl seemed emptier than usual. Maybe it was because of people like me who sat with other people in the upper bowl instead of their normal seats down low. It could have been the icy roads that kept a few away as well. I really have trouble understanding why more people don’t come out and watch the team. I know that I never really did until a couple of years ago. Of course now we all know how I was hooked, and drive way too far all winter long to see them play. Come on out and watch a game and you might get hooked too.
Courtney Moses carried the Boilers for most of the first half last night. She sank a three to start the game when I was still in line waiting to have my Get to Know Her card punched. She had a great first half scoring 17 of her 22 points in the first 20 minutes. She made five of the seven threes that she took in the first half. She came out a little colder in the second half. The Boilers looked really good early on last night. They cruised to a 21-14 lead. It was at that point that the wheels started to come off for the Boilers. Alex Guyton was hammered from behind going for a rebound with the lead at seven, but no foul was called. Michigan used the extra possession to start a run. They went on a 21-5 run to take a nine point lead. They looked unstoppable. Purdue was having trouble closing down the middle, and when they did stop that the outside was left open. Michigan took advantage of their chances to put the Boilers in a hole.
The key in the second half might have been offensive rebounds. They really seemed to be cleaning up on the boards. They seemed to be on our end of the court forever during one possession about eight minutes into the second half. Several times Purdue got the game close only to have Michigan pull away. Each time the Wolverines pulled away I kept thinking that it would be hard for Purdue to get back into the game. The team never quit though, and really showed determination to get the win. They pulled to within a point with eight minutes left bring the dollar night crowd to their feet when Courtney Moses hit a floater. The Boilers took the lead about a minute later when Moses hit her final three to give them a two point lead. That play was set up by a great hustle play by Alex Guyton who reached in to get the tie up. Guyton had a few great plays to get in and get the ball during the game. When she is fired up she is fun to watch. Ashley Wilson was a machine in the second half as well. She grabbed seven offensive boards of her nine total, and seemed to want to get into the tie up game as well. The boilers did a good job of grabbing the basketball when it was shown to them. Their defense and rebounding fueled the late comeback for the win. Wilson even got another tie up with one second left in the game to complete her good night.
The Purdue bench was a lot shorter in the second half as well. I don’t remember seeing Chelsea Jones, Chantel Poston, or Sam O in at all in the second half. They might have gotten in, but it couldn’t have been for long. I am also not sure if Sam Woods got in at all during the game.
Play of the Game – This should be Brittany’s shot with 11 seconds left in the game. This would have been another heartbreaking home loss like the Wisconsin game that opened the Big Ten slate. Rayburn just calmly knocked down the jumper for the win. For some reason I am not inclined to give her the play of the game. It was a big shot and should be mentioned for sure. A play that happened a few seconds before that though was much bigger, and visually more impressive. With Purdue up two and about 1:20 left in the game Michigan guard Veronica Hicks beat Courtney Moses off the dribble. She ran right into Alex Guyton who was waiting for her. Guyton block the ball with both hands and threw it to the ground. The only problem was that Hicks still had the ball in her hands. She went to the ground hard, and Purdue ended up with the ball. It was one of the most impressive blocks I have seen in basketball. Watching the replay it looked like Alex may have gotten some body as well, but it was impressive to see in person. Guyton had four fouls at this point as well so her tough defense is even more impressive. Of course in the final minutes I guess you are not thinking about fouls.
Gameball – Neither player mentioned in the play of the game gets the gameball. This has to go to the true freshman Courtney Moses who scored 22 points. She really was the reason the Boilers were close enough to make either of the plays above matter. Moses is just showing amazing poise for a true freshman. Any doubt that fans had when KK Houser went down have been erased.
Rayburn’s game winner is even more impressive when you look at the fact that she has hardly even practiced since the Gardner-Webb game after suffering a sciatic nerve injury. She really is a great basketball player. The longer she is at Purdue the more we take her for granted. She does a lot with the ball, but her basketball knowledge puts her in the right place to disrupt the other team. She ended her streak of consecutive free throws last night at 36. She was trying to break her own record of 38 which shows how she can get into a rhythm form the line.
The Rayburn shot was even more important as it gave head coach Sharon Versyp her 100th win as the Boilermaker coach. If you read the Purdue message boards many would say that she should have more, but she has really done well with the situations given to her. She came into a program that was hurting. A coaching change and a scandal left her with a hole. That hole is the senior class that is empty right now. She has battled injuries to compound that lack of depth to field competitive teams every year.
After seeing the Boilers lose some heartbreakers at home this season it was nice to see them finally pull one out.