WHO: Purdue Boilermakers (9-5, 2-1) @ Maryland Terrapins (11-2, 2-0)
WHAT: Women's basketball B1G Conference game
WHERE: Xfinity Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
WHEN: Thursday, January 8, 2015 6:30 p.m. ET
WATCH: In Person
How Purdue became the Boilermakers
A team from Purdue played the university's first football game in 1887. They lost 48-6 to Butler College in a game played in Indianapolis and were so devastated by the loss that they did not play again until 1889. The newly reconstituted team played three games in 1889 one of which was an 18-4 win over Wabash College. From a Purdue website we can learn that,
"Wabash students and the people of Crawfordsville were devastated by the defeat. According to one correspondent from the era, the town began referring to the Purdue team as 'a great big burly gang of corn-huskers,' 'rail-splitters,' 'foundry molders,' and 'log-haulers.' One newspaper reporter wrote this line: 'A blacksmith they had would come into the Wabash boys like a mogul engine and the more they choked him the happier he seemed to be.'"
Over the ensuing two years or so, Purdue's teams were variously called "grangers, pumpkin-shuckers, railsplitters, cornfield sailors, blacksmiths, foundry hands and, finally, boilermakers." It seems the last one stuck for two main reasons. The first
"is that Purdue's engineering students pursued a hands-on education, often working directly with the tools. From 1891 to 1897, they kept a fully operational steam locomotive, The Schenectady, on hand for research. Real boilermakers and blacksmiths would have felt right at home in this university lab."
The second is that following an 1891 game against Wabash College that Purdue won 44-0, the local press "wrote wildly about the carnage." In fact, an article on Purdue's athletics website proudly includes this image:
Thus, from the slaughter of innocents, was born the Purdue athletics' nickname.
Their mascot, known as Purdue Pete,
"was created in 1940 when 'Red' Samuels and 'Doc' Eppell, founders of University Book Store, asked Art Evans to develop an advertising logo for the store. Like magic, this one-dimensional form evolved into a human shape, and in 1956 Purdue Pete started his remarkable life as entertainer and energizer of Boilermaker athletics."
Among the qualifications necessary to be one of the three students who appear in Pete's costume are that they must be at least six feet tall and weigh no less than 180 pounds.
If you want to learn any more about Purdue's nickname you can, as my parents would tell me to do when I was a lad, look it up. Meanwhile, we will move on to the matter at hand, taking a closer look at the 2014-15 Purdue women's basketball team.
Boilermakers on the court - 2015 edition
Purdue comes to College Park 9-5 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten. In their most recent outing, the Boilermakers routed Indiana 86-64. They are led by head coach Sharon Versyp who is in her ninth season in West Lafayette and has compiled a 192-93 record with the Boilermakers to date.
Versyp regularly uses a nine-player rotation making Purdue the deepest B1G team Maryland will face in the opening sixth of their conference schedule. The Boilermakers play at a deliberate pace with only Wisconsin and Michigan averaging fewer possessions per game. As one might expect, this means they are not an offensive powerhouse. Purdue's 67.4 points per game average is 12th in the Big Ten. They are marginally better - tied for 11th - in efficiency where they score 0.91 points per possession (ppp).
They are taller along their front line than Maryland's first two opponents where they start three players at 6'2" and have a 6'5" player to come in off the bench. Still, they will be at a size disadvantage against the Terps and Purdue is already not among the best rebounding teams in the conference. Maryland leads the Big Ten in rebounding margin at plus 12. While the Boilermakers are also in positive territory, they only pull down two rebounds more per game than their opponents.
Their struggles from the field add to the Boilermakers' offensive woes. They are the only team in the B1G shooting under 40 percent and are one of four that connects on fewer than 30 percent of their three point attempts. However, while Maryland is fifth overall in field goal percentage defense in the conference, the Terps are only 11th best in defending outside the arc.
Defensively, Purdue is in the top five holding their opponents to 60 points per game, but like the Terps' previous opponent, Nebraska, this appears to be influenced as much by pace of play as overall defensive effectiveness. The Boilermakers give up 0.81 ppp and their foes shoot over 37 percent from the - field numbers that land them squarely in the middle of the league.
At this point in the season, Purdue does two things particularly well. They get to the free throw line on 21.1 percent of their possessions and have 336 raw attempts both of which lead the conference. They are successful when they reach the line converting at a 73.2 percent rate. The other is sharing the ball. While their average of 16.4 assists per game is also in the middle of the conference, it represents an assist on nearly 71 percent of their made baskets.
Players to watch
Whitney Bays, #32, redshirt senior, forward, 6'2". Maryland fans are certainly familiar with the name of Purdue's top player. Bays is simply the most recent in a line of players - beginning with Kalika France - who have transferred from Maryland to Purdue. Bays was hampered by injuries for most of her time at Maryland but has blossomed into the sort of player that Terrapins coach Brenda Frese foresaw when she recruited the West Virginia Player of the Year. Bays, who was the B1G Sixth Player of the Year last season, leads Purdue in scoring and rebounding averaging a double double at 14.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. She is coming off a 27 point 10 rebound effort in the Boilmakers' win over Indiana that made her the first player in Purdue women's basketball history to record a double double in five consecutive games.
Ashley Morrissette #1, sophomore, guard, 5'9". At least one player on Maryland's roster should be very familiar with Morrissette. She and Terrapins' forward Malina Howard were high school teammates at Twinsburg High School. Morrissette is the only player on the Boilermakers other than Bays who averages over 10 points per game (though they are very balanced with three other players who average more than eight). She appears to be Purdue's designated three-point shooter accounting for about 43 percent of their attempts from behind the arc where she connects 31 percent of the time.
Thursday's game will be the sixth all-time between the Terps and the Boilermakers and Maryland holds a 4-1 edge thus far. The Terrapins' only loss came in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. In this century, the teams have met twice in the B1G-ACC challenge with the Terps coming away with two wins on Purdue's home floor.
The first was a 74-59 win in December 2008 when the Terps were led by Kristie Toliver's 24 point effort. Two years later, Maryland returned to Purdue and eked out a 56-55 win after falling behind by as many as 11 points and outscoring the Boilermakers 13-3 over the game's final five minutes. Lynetta Kizer led Maryland with 20 points and a freshman named Alyssa Thomas added 12 points and a team-leading nine rebounds.
No opponent should be taken lightly, but the Terps should not need to play their best game to defeat the Boilermakers and extend their winning streak to six games, particularly on their home court. They simply need to avoid a train wreck. The GAMER Prediction system forecasts an 86-66 Terrapins win with an 81.8 percent probability that the Terps will emerge victorious.
Maryland will still need to protect the ball - Purdue forces more than 18 turnovers per game with nine coming on steals - and will also need to keep the visitors off the free throw line. The Terps should again look to push the pace as they did at Nebraska and exploit their size advantage both in the post and on the wings. If they do these things, Maryland should head to Minnesota with their spotless conference record in tact.