Coming off a late-game win over the Michigan Wolverines, the Boilermakers are taking on No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes to continue conference play.
This will be the 11th home game for Purdue (11-5, 2-1 Big Ten), where they are currently 9-1. Iowa (11-3, 2-1) is currently tied with Purdue in the conference standing. The winner of this game has a chance to move up to third in the Big Ten.
The Boilers will have their work cut out for them as Iowa is home to the country’s number one scorer, senior Megan Gustafson. Gustafson will go into Thursday’s game averaging a career high 26.4 points per game. The senior is sixth in the country in rebounds per game, pulling down 12.9 a night. Gustafson is a matchup nightmare for any team and Purdue will have to work collectively in order to contain her.
“You can’t slow her down too much,” said head coach Sharon Versyp. “You can hopefully limit some touches, but she’s one of the best post players in the country. It doesn’t matter who’s guarding her or defending her, she’s difficult to defend. You’ve got to focus on doing some things with her, but sometimes you have to pick your poison. ... We have to have good transition defense and not allow her to get real deep.”
Purdue will have their biggest advantage on the offensive side of the ball. The Hawkeyes have the 283-ranked scoring defense in the country. The Boilermakers play on offense will be one of the determining factors on the outcome of the game.
“The biggest focus is making sure our transition defense is great. We’re getting back and making sure we execute on offense,” sophomore Karissa McLaughlin said. “We have a lot of new, extra plays that we’re adding in just making sure that we focus on the little details.”
Juniors Dominique Oden and Ae’Rianna Harris, along with McLaughlin, have carried most of the scoring load this season for the Boilermakers. Oden is coming off a huge game where she had 26 points and hit the go ahead bucket down the stretch to win the game. Harris will be busy all night trying to contain Gustafson. McLaughlin, who has been very consistent this season, is sure to chip in her fair share.
Purdue will need production from all levels in order to win this game.
“We can’t always rely on our starters or three people” McLaughlin said. “When (the bench is) confident it helps out a lot because people have to guard them.”
Iowa plays well offensively, which flusters most teams. Their lack of defense levels the playing field for Purdue and makes this a winnable game for both squads. The game will ultimately be won by whichever team wants it more.
The two teams face off at 8:00 p.m Thursday in Mackey Arena. The game will broadcast on Big Ten Network.