Women’s basketball’s defensive game allows Purdue to roll

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AP

Illinois’ Lacey Simpson pulls down a rebound in front of Purdue’s Natasha Bogdanova during an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009, in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue beat Illinois 68-50. (AP Photo/Journal & Courier, John Terhune)

By Anthony Zilis

Purdue women’s basketball coach Sharon Versyp said Sunday’s matchup with Illinois was one of her team’s best offensive performances of the season.

Illinois coach Jolette Law knows her team probably had something to do with that.

While the Illini couldn’t seem to stop Purdue, inside or out, freshman Macie Blinn stood out as having a particularly difficult defensive game.

“She needs to concentrate more on the defensive end,” Law said of the guard. “Purdue did a good job of putting people in that could attack off the dribble.”

The defensive performance may not entirely be Blinn’s or her fellow guards’ faults.

The Illini faced a matchup problem all afternoon, as Purdue consistently played three players over six feet tall at the same time. The combination of 6-foot-1 Lakisha Freeman, 6-foot-2 Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton and 6-foot-4 Danielle Campbell forced one of the smaller Illini to defend a much bigger player.

As an added weapon, the Boilermakers boasted three players at least 6-foot-3 coming off the bench.

Even Lacey Simpson, labeled one of the best defenders on the team, is only 6-foot-1. But Simpson wouldn’t give herself a pass.

“It was difficult, the fact that they got to keep subbing,” she said. “I didn’t do my job of getting around like I should have.”

Bench? What bench?

If Law could sit her players due to poor play, she probably would.

Unfortunately, the sport of basketball requires that five players from each team remain on the court, throwing a hitch in her plans.

Designated defensive stopper Chelsea Gordon’s season-ending injury has left the Illini with only eight players, and Law has shown that she is only comfortable playing one player off of her bench, junior transfer Whitney Toone.

The only other two players Illinois has at its disposal, freshmen Lana Rukavina and Eboni Mitchell, have played a combined 27 minutes in the past five games, and much of that time has either come because of injuries or foul trouble.

Pink Zone

Purdue’s Mackey Arena boasts one of women’s basketball’s biggest fan bases.

So the fact that Sunday’s game was the Boilermakers’ designated “Pink Zone” game was evident even before the players came out in their pink uniforms, as many of the 9,847 fans in attendance were decked out in pink.

Although Wisdom-Hylton jokingly pointed out that “I know we look good,” the promotion was part of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s effort to raise money for breast cancer research.

In addition to fan donations, the Purdue jerseys were auctioned off throughout the game.

In total, the jerseys, two signs and the game ball went for $6,235, with the highest bid going to FahKara Malone’s No. 20 jersey at $550.

“It’s good to see that the community can come together and … support such a great organization,” Wisdom-Hylton said.