WEST LAFAYETTE – Four games, four wins for the Purdue women’s basketball team to start the season.
Now is a good time to pause and see where the Boilermakers stand against Harvard, Oklahoma State and Florida State in this week’s Cancun Challenge.
“It’s a business trip,” said senior Jeanae Terry, who added 12 assists in Sunday’s 77-54 win over Indiana State at Mackey Arena. “We want to go 3-0. We want to show people that we can compete and play with the best and Cancun is another journey to show that.”
What we’ve learned after four games and how the Boilermakers will master the next steps:
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Just adding transfers Lasha Petree and Caitlyn Harper has seen Purdue’s production increase. Both averaged more than 16 points in their first three games, and Petree delivered 17 on Sunday after dealing with foul problems in the first half.
“We have a team that can score in different ways,” said second-year coach Katie Gearlds.
On Sunday, that included Cassidy Hardin, who posted a team-high with 18 points on 5-of-7 from a 3-point range. Hardin brings a strong perimeter threat to the offense, an element the Boilermakers will surely lean on this week and beyond.
She scored nine straight points in the third quarter as Purdue drew ahead after a 35-31 halftime lead.
“It’s always nice to see shots ring out,” Hardin said. “I know my job and I know how good I am. It’s nice to see how it’s translated. Not that anyone on my team thought I was a good shot, but it’s nice that I was able to help them in this way. That’s what I was recruited for; because of that, I’m here.”
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depth and chemistry
In the first four games, Gearlds could see where the reserves could help and how the puzzle could potentially come together.
Abbey Ellis comes off the bench and scored 29 points in last week’s win over SIUE. Contributions from Jayla Smith, Rickie Woltman and Ava Learn will also play a part in how the Boilermakers navigate this upcoming stretch.
The group had 26 points and 11 rebounds on Sunday.
“Our depth will be revealed,” Hardin said. “We’re playing three games in a row and we’re going to need everyone to come in and contribute minutes.”
But chemistry off the pitch is an area that’s thriving with the mix of newcomers and returning players.
“We’re starting to see that on the pitch and we’re getting to know each other better,” Hardin said. “In those first four games we’re starting to get there and things are starting to work and even if we start slow we can figure it out and stay together.”
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Purdue will face many this season but got a taste of tough times early in the season. In the opener against Marshall, the Boilermakers had to play on the track.
On Sunday they faced an aggressive defense from the Sycamores, who bounced, held and did everything they could to break the rhythm. Playing through contact, Madison Layden drew seven fouls but also didn’t let close coverage dictate terms.
While Purdue won the away game, the first half provided a test it will see again.
“I think this is going to be huge,” Hardin said. “Although we don’t want to have close games this early, I think if we play a great competition that will help us in the Big Ten.”
Strong ground game
Terry was an assist machine early in the season, making 36 total in the first four games. She struggled in the first quarter on Sunday but fought her way through the obstacles and got herself – and her team – right the rest of the way.
Along with her 12 assists, Terry only had two turnovers in 26 minutes on Sunday. She committed just six turnovers in her first four games.
“This is really good basketball,” Gearlds said. “I thought she was struggling in the first quarter and I told her that. I didn’t like her body language very much and I told her that. It’s probably the most insane thing I’ve seen from her with the way we were defended. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do and she carried that.”
The Boilermakers outplayed Indiana State 57-33 in the last three quarters, partly because Terry pushed them in the right direction. It’s another valuable development as Purdue takes to the streets for the first time this season.
“Who she was in the second, third and fourth quarters was the difference in the ball game because she had a different feeling when things weren’t going our way,” Gearlds said.
Focus on Purdue
The Boilermakers have improved defensively, the next three opponents are a competitive upgrade from the first four games. Gearlds remains concerned about what the Boilermakers are doing in place of the opponents at this stage of the season.
“Now is the time to focus on making Purdue and Purdue better,” she said. “We know where we are. We don’t think we’re a top 20 team in the country right now. We know where we are, we know where we need to go and we know what we need to do. It’s about getting it done.”
Mike Carmin reports on Purdue Sports for the Journal & Courier and the USA Today Sports Network. Email [email protected] and follow @carmin_jc on Twitter and Instagram
Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya
Thursday: Harvard, 1:30 p.m
Friday: State of Oklahoma, 1:30 p.m
Saturday: State of Florida, 1:30 p.m
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