Women’s basketball loses to red-hot Boilermakers

Devon Greene, editor-in-chief

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Western Illinois women’s basketball team made their way to West Lafayette, Ind. to take on the Purdue University Boilermakers on Sunday. The matchup was the Leathernecks’ third game in six days. After a hard-fought game, the Leathernecks were unable to take down the Boilermakers on their home court, losing 66-59.

Purdue came into the matchup against Western Illinois with an undefeated 2-0 record with double digit wins in their first two matchups. They have held their first two opponents to an average of 44.5 points a game and 27.4 percent from the field, both second place in the Big 10, behind Rutgers. Coming off their worst shooting game of the season, the Leathernecks had a tough road ahead of them in Mackey Arena.

Leatherneck head coach JD Gravina spoke about the mental toughness of his team going forward after their win over the Sycamores on Thursday.

“Most of my coaching is on mental toughness,” Gravina said. “We’ll really have to have a tough game against Purdue when you go in a venue like that. They’ll have a pretty good crowd and it can get away from you in a hurry if you don’t have mental and physical toughness.”

The status of sophomore forward Evan Zars was a big concern for the Leathernecks after she was forced to leave their last game after an apparent head injury. Zars was able to play and had a strong first quarter recording three rebounds, one assist and one block. Redshirt senior guard Annabel Graettinger lead the way in terms of scoring with six points. She was followed by redshirt freshman Carla Flores and senior guard Olivia Kaufmann who had two points a piece. The Boilermakers led 15-10 to close out the first quarter.

Purdue extended their lead in the second quarter behind the scoring from senior guard Dominique Oden. Oden is second in scoring for the Boilermakers this year, averaging 13.5 points per game. She recorded 12 points in the first half with nine of those coming in the second quarter.

The Leathernecks’ shooting slump from their last matchup against the Sycamores continued into the first half as they got off to a slow 0-10 start from behind the line. Western shot a season low 18.2 percent from behind the arch in the 83-72 win over Indiana State. Senior forward Kyra Washington hit the Leathernecks’ first three-pointer at the 3:22 mark in the second quarter to end the drought. Western Illinois hit one more three-pointer in the second quarter, their only two of the half. The Purdue defense kept a stranglehold on Western Illinois’ offense, holding them to 16.2 percent from behind the line and 31.4 percent from the field.

On the defensive side for the Leathernecks, they held Purdue to 44.8 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from behind the line.

The Boilermakers took a 33-24 lead into halftime after Oden hit a big three with 20 seconds left in the half. Graettinger was on top of the scoring column for the Leathernecks in the first half with nine points.

The Leathernecks struck first in the second half on a layup by Zars. It was a defensive showcase to start the third quarter as both teams started 0-6. Zars recorded two blocks for the Leathernecks in the quarter and Purdue’s senior forward Ae’Rianna Harris answered with two of her own. Purdue answered quickly as junior guard Karissa McLaughlin recorded four straight points to give the Boilermakers their largest lead of the game at 37-26. The two teams closed out the third quarter with a back and forth battle as a buzzer-beating floater kept Western Illinois within striking distance going into the final quarter of play with the Boilermakers nursing a 49-40 lead.

The Leathernecks kept the pressure on the Boilermakers, hitting two three-point jumpers in the first three minutes of the quarter that shrunk the lead to 55-50. After a three by redshirt sophomore guard Danni Nichols, Purdue called a timeout to regroup. Regroup they did as they went on a 6-0 run to push the lead back up to 61-50. Graettinger broke up the run with a three-point play which brought the lead back down to eight. Even with a late rally after a made three by Graettinger, the Leathernecks were unable to pull off the comeback and recorded their second loss of the season.

The Boilermakers dominated the glass all game, grabbing 56 reouds to the Leathernecks’ 34. The Boilermakers snagged 18 offensive rebounds with junior guard Tamara Farquhar and Oden accounting for 13, more than Western Illinois recorded as a team.

Graettinger led the Leathernecks in scoring all night, recording 18 points and shooting 50 percent from the field. Nichols and redshirt junior Sam Pryor followed with nine and seven, respectively. Zars recorded a game high five blocks and a team high six assists.

For the Boilermakers, Oden took home top spot in the scoring column with 16 points. She was followed by Harris with 14 points and Farquhar with 13. Harris also led Purdue in blocks with three and grabbed a game high 17 rebounds.

For the Leathernecks, their next game will be on Wednesday back at home against the Bradley Braves. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. inside Western Hall.

Twitter: @starewaytodevon