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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 5

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Page 72 of 87

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 5 73 "I thought this group could make an impact, because (No.) 1, they are very talented," Versyp said. "They did have maturity. But they also knew they were needed. When you have low (roster) numbers, there's an oppor- tunity. It has to be earned, but I think it was their mind- set and how they approached everything. A very mature group." Oden, in particular, played at a level indicative of a veteran, not a rookie. But with Morrissette, a first-team All-Big Ten selection and Purdue's leading scorer, gradu- ating, more of a burden will fall on Oden as a scorer. She seems capable. The 5-9 guard averaged 10.8 points per game last season, the most by a freshman since Courtney Moses' 11.7 in 2010-11, and made a Purdue freshman-re- cord 61 three-pointers. A player unfazed by big moments, Oden thrived in those spots, like her 20-point outing vs. Ohio State, when she hit three three-pointers in a 90-second span to turn a deficit into a third-quarter lead at the Big Ten Tourna- ment. "Several of our last games, people were trying to take her out," Versyp said. "So we were finding ways (to get her open). She has to continue to learn how to read screens and have an aggressive mentality, 'You're a scorer, not just a three-point shooter.' "She's a great three-point shooter. But, put it on the floor, create for yourself that's the part of the game she needs to understand, create for yourself, create for others. That's something you work for four years to do, and it's hard." Harris, a 6-1 forward, ascended more quickly than many would have imagined. After coming off the bench early in the season, her entry into the starting lineup coincided with Purdue's late-season rally. It was not a coincidence. The ultra-athletic leaper gave Purdue a previously missing rim protector, as she finished the season with a program freshman-record 75 blocks. The good news: Har- ris hasn't come close to tapping her potential as a defend- er or scorer, only scratching the surface on the latter. "She has to understand game situations better," Versyp said, "but that's just growth." Purdue wants another forward to expand similarly. Ris- ing junior Dominique McBryde had a frustrating sopho- more season, not that it was particularly ineffective but it didn't meet expectations. After blowing up at points in her rookie year, like when she had 23 points at Rutgers or a four-game double-figure scoring stretch in the Big Ten, she didn't produce the same highs last season. And by the end of the year, her confidence was shaken, as was her decision-making, as she frequently passed up open outside shots for contested ones in the paint. McBryde's production suffered. "When we talk about goals," Versyp said, "these are the things we've talked about: Taking one or two threes a game, being able to knock down two or three 15-foot shots and then, obviously, she's so good down low, but she's got to work on her lateral speed, has to work on her physical- ity, has to work on her mindset." The Boilermakers should have more depth next sea- son, with a roster that will include 14 players, including four other first-year players: Guard Leony Boudreau, for- wards Tamara Farquhar and Dani Lawson and center Fa- tou Diagne. It'll be a long bench. Purdue didn't have that luxury last season, when Mur- phy and Bree Horrocks were injured early, limiting the Boilermakers to a rotation of eight. But it might have helped Purdue, accelerating the freshmen's learning curve and creating a tight-knit core. But perhaps more is better. "If you have 14 players on scholarship, you're hoping to have more versatility," said Versyp, who saw Horrocks announce her transfer following the season. "It'd be great if you can play different shifts of people, where you can really up the tempo and push. We've always wanted to do that, but we've had 10 or 11 and haven't been able to." Next season, Purdue will try to recapture its late-season momentum much earlier, from Game 1 rather than Game 26. Maybe then, the Boilermakers can get past the second round of the NCAA Tournament and make a deeper run. "We're competitors and we have to get better," Keys said. "We got better this year, but we need to take this in the offseason and improve our games so that we won't be in this position again." j

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