FORT WAYNE – Things were going well for the Purdue women’s basketball team when February started.
The Boilermakers were coming off a 59-42 home win over Indiana on Jan. 31 and climbed to No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25. But then injuries took a toll on Purdue (21-8, 10-6 Big Ten) as it went 2-5 in February, including a 62-61 loss to Indiana on Feb. 20 in Bloomington.
The difficult month knocked the Boilermakers out of the AP poll, but they were able to salvage a No. 3 seed in the Big Ten tournament when they closed the regular season with a 76-65 home win over Illinois on Sunday.
I think the first thing is Sam Ostarello has not been healthy at all, Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said during a teleconference Tuesday of her team’s struggles in the season’s final month. She’s had a major shoulder injury. Usually, she’s been scoring in double figures and usually the double-double at all times, and when she rebounds exceptionally well, getting in double figures, our team does pretty well. Her shoulder has been 20 percent at times, 50 percent, 70 percent, so injury has really hurt us with her.
Then there for a while, Courtney Moses, the ball wasn’t falling for her for about four or five games. Those two are the big catalysts. When somebody can rebound as well as Sam, and then Courtney being able to get down the court and score the three-ball or attack the basket.
Obviously, there’s a lot of points, a lot of defense, a lot of scoring opportunities that weren’t there any more.
Purdue will play at 3 p.m. Friday at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill., against the winner of today’s game between No. 6 seed Illinois (16-12, 9-7) and No. 11 seed Wisconsin (11-18, 3-13). The championship game is at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Purdue is led by Moses (13.2 points per game), Drey Mingo (12.4) and KK Houser (11.1). Ostarello averages 9.6 points and 9.9 rebounds.
The Boilermakers won the tournament title last season as a No. 4 seed and have a conference-high eight Big Ten tourney titles.
As long as we are healthy going in, I will feel at least good about the situations, Versyp said. We will see what for us Friday brings.
No. 12 seed Indiana (11-18, 2-14) opens play against No. 5 seed Michigan (20-9, 9-7) at 9:30 p.m. today. The Hoosiers lost to the Wolverines 65-48 at Michigan and 61-43 at home.
They are a make-and-miss team, meaning they change defenses on you depending on how the offensive possession went for them, Indiana coach Curt Miller said. You have to prepare for not only their very active zone, a very talented zone team, but also man-to-man with great pressure.
We felt at times that we controlled pace in both games and got the game ugly, which we certainly need to play an ugly game in order for us to be successful.