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Gold and Black Illustrated Volume 28, Digital 5

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 5 51 backup guard Tiara Murphy became academically ineligible in early Jan- uary and transferred. When Cooper was sidelined for the second time, Purdue had only a rotation of seven for the final 10 games, causing the Boilermakers to rely heavily on their starters. McLaughlin, for instance, played for 365 straight minutes be- fore finally taking a seat in the finale vs. Indiana. But Oden, Purdue's leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, thought Pur- due could still win games, if only it played 40 minutes. "We just have to play together as a team, the whole game, because I feel like we play (well) in spurts," the ris- ing junior said following the loss to IU. "And that really hurts us." Versyp wants the roster around 15, with 13 or so scholarship players — depending on the de- cisions of transfers — plus two walk-ons. (Abby Abel will be joined by North Central guard Ajah Stallings next sea- son.) Of course, Purdue will need to stay injury-free. The 6-foot-4 Diagne, a raw but lengthy athlete, was back run- ning by April, with hope to start full basketball activities in June. But the former JUCO transfer has had a long history of injury, playing only a handful of games in the last three seasons. Lawson has a longer recovery, as she comes back from microfracture surgery on her knees. Rehab might continue into the start of next season. Harris was nicked up most of the season due to a bad foot but played through it; she won't need surgery. "One thing we lacked was competition in practice," Versyp said. "It's hard to stay consistent if you're not competing in practice day in and day out. I thought we had that (early). ... We had that depth really going into December, but then it disappeared, with injuries and ex- iting of certain players. Having that competition, going against different size, different athleticism, is going to be huge. It's a long year, but that's what you have to have. If you have that consistency, then good things happen." Next season is a big one for the Boilermakers, who have missed the NCAA in two of the last four seasons and haven't advanced to the second weekend since 2009. Purdue's last four Big Ten finishes are seventh, fourth, sixth and 13th, following a three-year stretch of top- four finishes. A season ago, the Boilermak- ers squeaked into the tourney, won a game, then took top-seed Notre Dame to overtime in South Bend before losing. But this year, it was reversed, as Purdue's résumé wasn't deemed good enough for entry. A team might want to feel secure about its NCAA standing as of Feb. 1, rather than having to battle down the stretch to get into the Dance. But Versyp feels she doesn't know the se- lection criteria. "Who knows?" she said. "Ask the NCAA. I can't really tell you. We can play nobody in nonconference and be undefeated, and by Feb. 1, I'd feel like I'm in. The NCAA changes all the time. For me, you'd have to ask them, because they're not transparent and it changes every year. "But for our standpoint, we have to be consistent. It doesn't matter if you're on the bubble or not. People don't talk about that. You're in or you're not. So we got in and played phenomenal two years ago. Everyone thought we were the best thing since sliced bread. And then this year, obviously, we put ourselves on the bub- ble because of some losses we felt like we shouldn't have had. But (the Selection Committee) has got to be mindful that those teams (that beat us) also did very well. You have to try to play the best and win, and try to win the ones you should be winning. Hopefully we're not reinventing the (selection process) every year." Versyp says Purdue's goals remain the same, and maybe the Boilermakers can get there in 2018-19, given that they have a solid core but have needs, too. "Be in the top-four (in the Big Ten), vie for a Big Ten championship, get to the Sweet 16 and have a chance to do something special," Versyp said of her annual goals for the program, "but that's what you always want to do." j Purdue Freshman Karissa McLaughlin, who averaged 10.4 points per game, played 365 straight minutes toward the end of the season, as Purdue had few options on the bench.

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