The women’s basketball team has the daunting task of hosting Iowa today, a team highlighted by guard Caitlin Clark, the country’s leading scorer averaging 25 points per game.
The Boilermakers (11-4, 7-2 Big Ten) faced the NCAA’s 10th leading scorer in guard Nia Clouden during their previous win over Michigan State, who was held 15 points under her season average of 22. The Boilermakers’ defense swarmed her in the paint, limiting her to 15% from the field and two made shots.
Purdue would have held Michigan State to 37 points had it not allowed 22 second-chance points off 18 Spartan offensive rebounds, as noted by head coach Katie Gearlds. Due to sophomore center Ra Shaya Kyle’s injury, 6-foot-4-inch junior forward Rickie Woltman, who played power forward in last year’s rotation, stepped up to the starting role. Without another big on the roster, Gearlds said she resorts to a smaller lineup when Woltman subs out.
The Boilermakers now have another tough test in keeping Clark at bay. With a career-high 44 points, she almost outscored Evansville by herself to lead the Hawkeyes (8-4, 6-2 Big Ten) to a 93-56 win on Jan. 2. She followed that up with 30 and 31 points against Northwestern and Nebraska respectfully.
During her freshman season last year, she scored 26 and 27 points against the Boilers the two times that they faced, averaging 11.5 free throw attempts per game against Purdue in her tenth and 21st game of 20 points or more, respectively.
“She leads the country in scoring for a reason,” Gearlds said. “They do a lot of things for her, but she’s very aggressive when looking for her own stuff.”
Gearlds admitted Clark may still find a way to score. Just like with Clouden, Gearlds said her team’s goal is to limit Clark’s scoring, forcing her to have fewer points than shots taken.
Senior guard Brooke Moore said that they must contain Clark’s teammates as well, with a game plan of “forcing them to beat us instead of (Clark).”
Since starting for the Boilermakers last year after transferring from Auburn, Moore has found a more comfortable role as the team’s sixth player. Her ability to light up the scoreboard off the bench helped her improve her case for Sixth Player of the Year in the Big Ten. She has averaged 9 points, one rebound and one assist per game as a backup.
Gearlds credited Moore for her ability to change roles on the team, saying Moore “embraced her role beautifully.”
“She just brings a spark of buckets,” Gearlds said. “She has the ability to get her own shot in when we’re struggling and change the dynamic in the flow of the basketball game.”