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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 5

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Page 67 of 92

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED OLUME 26, ISSUE 5 68 and then (working) the areas we need to be better: We need to be better passers; we need to be better one-on- one players; we need to finish better; we need to be better shooters. "We increased our shooting percentage tremendously from (the year before), we have to continue to do that. But the offseason is all about conditioning and their bodies and taking care of themselves. And shooting the basket- ball and working on their offensive skills." The Boilermakers need such determination. A year ago, they had it, making the improvements necessary to turn into a 20-win team, after they had lost 20 the year previous, an upswing that carried them to a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten, up from last the year before. Purdue did it behind better team chemistry, an element that had been sorely lacking prior, better guard play — April Wilson and Ashley Morrissette frequently carried the Boilermakers offensively — and an improved effort on defense and on the glass. But Wilson and Morrissette also received key support from underclassmen, namely freshman Dominique Mc- Bryde, who showed, in flashes at least, that she could be a game-changing forward in the Big Ten, and sophomore wing Andreona Keys. "Our success (is) thanks to the seniors," McBryde said. "They could have looked at it like, 'Oh, we've got all these young kids coming in, it's going to be an extremely diffi- cult season.' But they took us in as freshmen — and the sophomores — and guided us to another great season like in the past, back to the Purdue tradition. "But we're not satisfied with this. We wanted to go a lot farther. But this is a big step." The Boilermakers earned their NCAA bid after a strong non-conference showing, plus a five-game winning streak to start the Big Ten, that had them 14-2 in mid-January. Struggles came, however, as Purdue won only two games in a 10-game stretch that followed, but it recovered to win the last three of the regular season, then its first game in the Big Ten Tournament. The late surge sealed a place in the Big Dance, though as an 11 seed, lowest in program history. Purdue was one of the last teams in. Purdue lost to Oklahoma 61-45 in the NCAA opener, its first opening-round loss ever, yet it is hard not to consider the season a success. "To be able to get to the 20 wins, get to the NCAA and to be able to have that type of experience and understand how things are done, now springboarding forward, we're very excited about the pieces coming back," Versyp said. "We're going to be exceptionally young. Right now, hav- ing seven freshmen and sophomores, you only have two seniors and two juniors. For us that leadership has to continue, but the next two or three years could continue something really special there." But it'll take development. The Boilermakers must get physically stronger, as was evident in two tournament Tom Campbell Dominique McBryde was dominant at times as a freshman, but for her to take the next step she needs to get physically stronger. She knows it.

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