Purdue Basketball Season 

Tom Lemming's Road Trip: Illinois

This past Sunday, I organized my annual Illinois stop. I live in Chicago, so we had just about everybody in the state of Illinois come to Proviso West High School. I put the event together along with the Chicago Sun-Times before I head to the west coast next week.

The best signal-caller in the Windy City is Teddy Schell (6-5, 200 lbs.), a tall, kind of thin-looking quarterback from Barrington. He's gotten offers from Duke, Kansas State and Arizona. It also looks like Cal and Stanford might be offering down the line. He's a good quarterback now, but his future could be great -- that's the reason everyone's kind of zooming in on him. There are several other quarterbacks that could make it big, but nobody has just yet.

That's not the same for running backs. There are some really good ones in Illinois this year, including two All-Americans. One of them is Robert Hughes (6-0, 230 lbs.) from Hubbard. He's already gotten 20 offers from schools like Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. He's getting pounded by everybody. I think he would rank as one of the top 10 tailbacks in the country, but also one of the top three fullbacks if he chose to play that spot. He's got kind of a Ricky Williams-type of a body with explosive moves and great strength -- he benches almost 400 pounds. The Wolverines probably have the lead for him right now.

Then you have Dale Martin (5-11, 195), a back from Bowling Brook. He's the complete opposite of Hughes, more of a slasher with brilliant speed and moves. Martin doesn't have a lot of power, scurrying almost completely on speed and moves. He's got a lot of ability. Last year he averaged over 10 yards per carry; he just needs to get more carries. Martin has 20 offers including Northwestern, Tennessee, Boston College and Illinois and schools like that. He says he has no favorite -- he's just going to wait.

A third back, who is kind of a surprise to a lot of people, is Dan Durking (5-10, 190 lbs.) from Warrenville South in Wheaton. This is the town that produced Red Grange, Chuck Long and the late actor John Belushi, who played football at the Wheaton Central High School. Dan runs a 10.7 in the 100 meters. What's more, he's got the bloodlines: His dad Scott Durking played ball for years with the New York Jets and the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue has already offered Dan and he'll probably wind up there. This kid's got a knack for making big plays. He rushed for over 2,000 yards last year and he averaged nine yards per carry against really good competition. He's the real deal and a lot of people don't know much about him.

Another running back who also has no offers right now -- but I think should -- is Alan Smith (5-10, 195 lbs.), who runs the 100 meters in 10.6. Smith is from Naperville Neuqua Valley and I really liked him a lot as a running back. He went for over 1,400 yards last year and upwards of seven yards per carry. He's got no offers yet which really surprises me -- I'm wondering why, but it's still relatively early. A lot of these guys won't get them for a while.

The best wide receiver in the state right now is Anthony Morris (6-4, 205 lbs.) from Harvey Thornton. This is the high school that, two years ago, had more players in the NFL than any other high school in the country; right now they still have six, but they had eight or nine before. Anthony's the type of guy with leaping ability who can run. He's already got several offers from most of the Big Ten schools. He's the prototypical wide receiver: 6-foot-4 with a 40-inch vertical. Florida State is his favorite school but Illinois is showing him the most interest.

Sort of a surprise to many -- but he's getting his due attention now -- is Sean Kettouse (6-3, 195 lbs) from Hubbard. The rising senior played more free safety and a little bit of wide receiver as a junior but he's going to play more wideout this coming year. People have watched him at some of the camps and he's got nine offers including K-State and Purdue. He played a lot of quarterback last year too, but because of his athletic ability and his potential he'll be playing a lot more wide receiver as a senior.

The best tight end I saw was Jack DiNardo (6-4, 245 lbs.) from Hindsdale Central. He blocks already like a tackle. DiNardo plays on a run-oriented team but he's got great hands. Northwestern, Illinois and K-State are schools that have offered him. His father Larry was the captain of the 1970 Notre Dame football team with Joe Theismann; today, he's a very popular lawyer in Chicago. Jack's uncle is Jerry DiNardo, who was another All-American at Notre Dame and has been the head coach at LSU and Indiana the past few years. Notre Dame has yet to offer but they're coming after him.

The best offensive lineman, without a doubt, is Bryan Beluga (6-5, 270 lbs.) from Merion Central Catholic in Woodstock, the town where they shot the film Groundhog Day. He's one of the biggest surprises in the country and one of the best players. He's an All-American. This school as famous for producing the Hartlieb brothers, who became stars at Iowa. I believe Bryan, who runs a 4.7 in the 100 meters, is going to wind up at Iowa. I think he's going to end up being an All-American guard for the Hawkeyes. He plays tight end and defensive end in high school, but he'd be an offensive guard at the collegiate level. He's got great speed and great strength, and in person he already looks like he belongs in the NFL. Beulga has already got 15 offers but I think he's going to end up at Iowa.

David Molk (6-1, 270 lbs.) is from Lemont and plays tackle but will wind up being an offensive center. Molk could be the best center in the Midwest. He benches over 400 pounds and already has 11 offers. They're coming in strong once people see how quick he is -- he runs a 5.0 at 270 pounds. Once he makes the move to center he could become a great payer.

Then you talk about great size and there's Miles Strother (6-6, 340 lbs.) from King High Schoo. This guy is a load -- a straight-ahead blocker, a great run blocker with tremendous girth. He sets a real wide base and is tough to really come after. He also got a 29 on his ACT, which is a benefit. Illinois has the lead for him over Notre Dame, Miami, Iowa and Michigan. I'll say it again, he's a big-time player.

As for defensive linemen, perhaps the best pure pass rusher in the country is Simeon product Martez Wilson (6-4, 235 lbs.), who runs a 4.5. This is a high school best known for its basketball players. Last year, Martez was a 6-3, 200-pounder being recruited more as a wideout even though he had 20 sacks. Now, since he's grown, people have realized he has natural instincts as a pass rusher. He runs the 100 meters in 11.0 second and is a terrific all-round athlete. His favorite schools are Michigan, Notre Dame, Illinois, USC and Texas -- he's been offered by all of them. He'll be one of the most recruited players in the country. The relentless style he demonstrates on film reminds me of Simeon Rice, who came out of the Chicago area 10 years ago.

The best linebacker is Aaron Nagel (6-3, 220 lbs.) from Lemont. Nagel, who has 4.5 speed, played tailback last year and rushed for eight yards per carry. He was all-state at tailback and at free safety, and was one of the fastest and hardest-hitting defensive players I saw. Nagel has been recruited as a `backer and is committed to ND. He had the most offers back in March, and would have probably had over 30 offers by now. He is a quick-to-the-ball kid, and is probably one of the most productive defensive players in the Midwest. The key to his whole game is that he can run.

Another linebacker is Kevin Rouse (6-1, 220 lbs.) from Joliet Calholic, one of the more renowned high school programs in the country. He's got a lot of offers -- among them Ole Miss, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern -- but no favorites right now. He's tough as nails with 4.6 speed, from the school that produced Rudy and several NFL players, He's next the long line of tough-nosed players.

One that I didn't see -- but had already seen -- from downstate Illinois: Maybe the best quarterback in the whole state is Luke Hockaday (6-2, 180 lbs.) from Maroa Forsyth in downstate Illinois. He threw for 2,300 yards and 35 TDs last year and was probably the No. 1 QB from in the Land of Lincoln.

Taking The Lead

Missouri State won four games in four days to win the Missouri Valley women’s tournament, but had only 10 minutes of good basketball left.

That wasn’t nearly enough as Purdue’s Aya Traore had 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds and Erin Lawless scored a season-best 19 points to lead the Boilermakers over the Lady Bears 73-52 Sunday in the first round of the NCAA women’s tournament.

Missouri State (17-15) jumped out to a 10-point lead against the fourth-seeded Boilermakers, but was simply overpowered the rest of the way.

Purdue coach Kristy Curry knew the Lady Bears were capable of playing the way they did in the early minutes.

“They played like that their last four games,” she said. “The question was, could they sustain it for 40 more minutes? We hoped they couldn’t, and fortunately, they weren’t able to.”

Missouri State guard Kari Koch entered the game averaging 20.5 points, but was held to 11. Sarah Klaassen added 10 points for the Lady Bears.

Purdue (25-6) led by as many as 23 points in the second half. The Boilermakers advanced to play the winner of the Bowling Green-UCLA game in the second round of the Cleveland regional on Tuesday.

Purdue outrebounded the Lady Bears 25-11 in the second half. The Boilermakers held Missouri State to 32 percent shooting, 28 percent in the second half.

Missouri State freshman Kayli Combs opened the game with two three-pointers to give the Lady Bears a quick 6-0 lead.

Missouri State got to a 22-12 lead before the Boilermakers went on a 14-2 run. Purdue took its first lead on a three-pointer by Jodi Howell with 5:03 left in the first half and never trailed again.

“It’s not what we planned on happening,” Curry said, “not how we coached on opening, not probably what the kids woke up thinking would happen. But we talked about it taking 40 minutes, not 38, not 30, but 40 minutes. But you have to give Missouri State credit for the way it came out. It is a game of runs, and ours was about 28 minutes longer than theirs, so I’ll take that.”

Lawless said the Boilermakers were rusty after 13 days off.

Katie Gearlds, Purdue’s leading scorer, didn’t score until hitting a mid-range jumper with 6:40 left in the first half. She finished with 13 points and four rebounds.

They D

Missouri State showed early it deserved to be in the women's NCAA Tournament. Then Purdue showed it deserved to stay. The Boilermakers overcame a sluggish start, the byproduct of a two-week layoff, and pulled away in the second half Sunday to beat the Lady Bears 73-52 in a first-round game at Mackey Arena.
Purdue coach Kristy Curry called it a game of runs, but in fact there were only two. Missouri State's lasted 11 minutes, during which it carved out a 22-12 lead. Purdue's lasted the rest of the game as the Boilermakers moved on to the second round Tuesday night against UCLA, a 74-61 winner over Bowling Green in Sunday's second game.
Riding the momentum of a four-game ride through the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament last weekend, the No. 13-seeded Lady Bears (17-15) had the Purdue-heavy crowd of 4,239 squirming early.
Ultimately, though, the No. 4-seeded Boilermakers (25-6) proved to be too big, too quick and too talented as they reached the second round of the tournament for the 10th consecutive year.
"It was really exciting how we started," Missouri State senior Sarah Klaassen said, "but we knew they would come back."
So did they. Curry stayed calm, believing it was only a matter of time until her team shook off the rust of not playing since a March 6 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
"I give Missouri State a lot of credit for coming out the way they did," Curry said. "They came out playing freely and we looked like we'd been off for two weeks. Once we got it going, we were fine."
A 16-2 run turned the early 10-point deficit into a 28-24 lead. Then after the Lady Bears scored the first two baskets of the second half to get within 32-31, the Boilermakers put the game away with a 19-4 blitz.
"They got us in transition," Missouri State coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said of the Boilermakers. "Every single one of them can run."
None more effectively than senior forward Aya Traore, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds and held Missouri State star Kari Koch to 11 points, barely half her season average.
"It's hard to get good looks when you have someone guarding you who is so much taller but at the same time just as quick," Koch said.
Traore had plenty of help. Erin Lawless contributed 19 points, a season high, and nine rebounds. Katie Gearlds scored 13, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton 12 and point guard Sharika Webb had eight assists and just one turnover. Carol Duncan scored six off the bench and freshman Jodi Howell hit a 3-pointer, her only basket of the game, to cap the Boilermakers' early comeback and put them ahead to stay.
The Boilermakers made 26-of-55 shots (47.3 percent) and had a 41-25 rebound advantage, including 25-11 in the second half.
"Teams center their attention on Katie and Aya and forget about Erin and Lindsay," Curry said. "Their inside presence today and the rest of this tournament is going to be huge for us."
Gearlds discounted the slow start, saying the "important thing is we won by 20 points." But Curry cautioned her team that as the competition gets tougher, the lulls can become costlier.
"It's going to take 40 minutes to win on Tuesday, not 38," she said. "It was a game of runs today. Ours was about 28 minutes longer than theirs."

UCLA 74, Bowling Green 61
Guards Lisa Willis and Noelle Quinn scored 23 and 21 points, respectively, to lead the No. 5-seeded Bruins to their first NCAA Tournament win in seven years.
The Bruins (21-10) made 17-of-30 shots (56.7 percent) in the first half on their way to a 42-28 halftime lead. Willis also had a game-high 12 rebounds as UCLA, champion of the Pac-10 Conference Tournament, won for the ninth time in its past 10 games.
Coach Kathy Olivier, noting UCLA's 21 turnovers, said that's a problem that has to be fixed before Tuesday night.
"We'll have to bring our 'A' game," she said. "Our 'B-minus' game is not going to cut it, for sure."
Bowling Green (28-3) had won 19 games in a row. The Falcons were led by Ali Mann's 16 points.

Wearing Down The Bears

It's a formula that has defined the Purdue women's basketball team this season.

Balanced scoring. Strong rebounding. Inside-outside game. Solid defense.

Those elements were on display Sunday afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Led by their inside play, 11th-ranked and fourth-seeded Purdue ran away from No. 13 seed Missouri State 73-52 in front of 4,239 at Mackey Arena in the Cleveland Regional.

The victory advances the Boilermakers into Tuesday's second round against No. 21 UCLA, a 74-61 winner over 23rd-ranked Bowling Green.

Senior Aya Traore, junior Erin Lawless and sophomore Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton combined for 50 points and 27 rebounds as Purdue outscored the Lady Bears 65-30 during the game's final 28 minutes.

"We were determined to get in there on offense and be a threat," said Lawless, who just missed her second consecutive double-double with 19 points and nine rebounds. "Once you're strong down low that opens up things on the outside for us."

Keyed by Lawless, the Boilermakers turned an early 10-point deficit into a 32-27 halftime advantage. The 6-foot-2 forward had seven points during a 16-2 run, which gave Purdue a 28-24 lead.

After halftime, the trio of Traore, Lawless and Wisdom-Hylton accounted for 13 points in a 15-2 spurt which stretched the lead to 47-33 with 13:56 to play. The Lady Bears (17-15) never got within single digits the rest of the way.

Traore recorded her first double-double of the season, totaling 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Wisdom-Hylton finished with a solid line of 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Junior Katie Gearlds contributed 13 points, while senior Sharika Webb tied a career high with eight assists. Traore, Lawless and Wisdom-Hylton made 18 of 33 field goals.

"The coaches have been challenging Erin and Lindsay to want the basketball and have a post presence inside," Traore said. "They understood that."

Meanwhile, Purdue's changing defenses and rebounding took Missouri State out of its game for the final 30 minutes.

Leading scorer Kari Koch finished with 11 points, nine below her average, and senior Sarah Klaassen added 10 points. After a hot start, the Lady Bears made only 32 percent (17 of 53) from the field. They were 6 of 22 from 3-point range but missed 12 of their last 14 attempts.

Purdue held a 41-25 rebounding advantage, including 25-11 in the second half.

"I thought after they made adjustments to their defense it really began eliminating the looks that we had at the start of the game," Klaassen said.

The Lady Bears, who won four games in four days to earn the Missouri Valley Conference's automatic bid, made just 8 of 28 field goals in the second half.

"In the second half, they picked up their defensive pressure and ultimately because of their height and wingspan, it made it difficult for us to pass the ball along the wing," Missouri State coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said.

Purdue focused its defensive attention on the Lady Bears' perimeter players. They entered Sunday's game with 601 attempts from 3-point range.

"Later in the game, our height started affecting them and we dug in a little bit more," Gearlds said.

After a midseason slump, Lawless has found her stride. The Berwyn, Ill., native is averaging 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds since the start of the Big Ten Conference tournament.

"She's playing much better defense and she's at the top of her game," Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. "I love her passion and excitement on the offensive glass. She's running hard in transition, she's making herself more of a threat and it's good for our team."

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