With nagging injuries piling up and the squad heading into the middle of their Big Ten schedule, the depth of the Purdue women’s basketball team is starting to become an issue.
After closing non-conference play four consecutive wins, the Boilers have opened Big Ten play by going 2-3 and dropping three of their last four contests. The team has struggled to keep things close against the top of the conference, losing to No. 12 Maryland and No. 17 Iowa by 24 and 14 points, respectively.
A major problem for the team has been their lack of bench production, especially after the ankle injury to starting guard Bridget Perry. The sophomore was a key part of the Boilers’ offense, and was third on the team in points per game, averaging 9.3 points per contest before going down with her injury. Head coach Sharon Versyp has said that Perry is expected to miss four to six weeks.
“It’s a high ankle sprain and those are tough to come back from. With the cutting and running and stopping (it’s tough),” Versyp said.
The void that Perry has left has been adequately filled by freshman Andreona Keys, but her insertion into the starting lineup has left Purdue incredibly thin on their bench unit. In the team’s back-to-back road losses last weekend, the team had less than 10 bench points in both contests, and the production on the glass and on defense wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of scoring.
“Teams lose players all the time, so at this point people just have to step up,” junior guard April Wilson said. “We’ve got to step up and fill in the gaps.”
The step up motto was preached throughout the entire team, as Keys and Versyp both echoed Wilson’s sentiments.
“Everyone needs to bring something,” Keys said. “Every game, as soon as you get in there, you’ve got to step it up a notch. We know our roles and we need to dominate our roles.”
If the team hopes to remain competitive in the Big Ten and turnaround what has been a disappointing season to this point, Purdue must get more from their reserve players. Despite the stellar play of senior forward Whitney Bays, the offensive burden on the team’s starters is too much to carry in conference games.
“Right now we need to play every kid. Some games some might not fit the style of the team we’re playing against, but if we can rotate people in, we will,” Versyp said. “It comes down to executing the game plan though, and if we can do that then we can rotate some bodies. We’re getting into our sixth game out of an 18-game schedule, and we’ve got to be able to rotate when we can so that the key kids at the end of the games can finish.”
With road trips to Nebraska and Minnesota looming after this Thursday’s home meeting with Wisconsin, life isn’t about to get any easier for the Boilers. Purdue is a team with NCAA tournament aspirations, and if they hope to achieve that goal, the team will need increased production from their bench.