Becoming U-'Nique Purdue sophomore Dominique Oden is growing into one of the most outstanding scorers in program history

With each passing practice, each passing game, each passing season, Purdue sophomore guard Dominique Oden is becoming more and more comfortable with being a scorer. The butterflies in her stomach have started flying in the same direction. The big stage isn’t nearly so frightening, but rather comes with a sense of opportunity. Every shot is a chance to do something for her team, and she relishes in those opportunities to elevate her squad.

Through two seasons at Purdue, Oden has scored the third-most points of any player in program history after their sophomore season. Her 868 points are second to only MaChelle Joseph (1,150) and Shereka Wright (946), and exceed the likes of Brittany Rayburn (819), Stephanie White (796), Katie Douglas (778) and Katie Gearlds (772). She’s the first player at Purdue to hit at least 50 3-point field goals in each of her first two seasons, breaking the Boilermakers’ class records with 61 triples as a freshman and 64 as a sophomore. Oden’s 125 career 3-pointers are already 16th in program history, and her 37.1 career 3-point percentage currently sits ninth all-time at Purdue. She heads into her junior season 132 points away from 1,000, aiming to become the 16th Purdue player to hit the milestone in her third collegiate season, and the first since Courtney Moses in 2013.

"You can always rely on her to get it done. Even her bad days don't seem bad. We can count on her to get the ball in the bucket." - Ae'Rianna Harris

Oden established herself as an immediate presence as a freshman at Purdue, posting outstanding rookie numbers and a variety of memorable performances. Most notably, she posted back-to-back 20-point performances in wins over Indiana and Ohio State to help lead the Boilermakers to the 2017 Big Ten Tournament Championship game, hitting 9-of-13 from the 3-point line on her way to All-Big Ten Tournament Team honors. Oden is one of two freshmen in Purdue history to post at least three games with five or more 3-pointers, joining Moses.

However, her freshman season came with freshman moments as Oden relied heavily on her 3-point shot for scoring successes and would disappear from games. She had several single-digit scoring games, including a four-game stretch in conference play in which she made a combined 6-of-24 shots from the field, posting two points against Iowa and Illinois and none against Minnesota. The ability was there, but the consistency was lacking.

After so much promise was shown by Oden in 2016-17, the Boilermakers expected her to take the next step in her second year. The first handful of games showed cause for concern as Oden appeared reluctant to pull the trigger and hit double-figure scoring just once in the first five games. Unfazed by her early-season struggles, things began to trend upwards for the sophomore, posting double figures in five straight games at the end of the non-conference schedule. The improvement showed signs of stardom, but she was still yet to hit her full stride. Through the first half of the season, Oden averaged 10 points per game, hitting 36.4 percent of her shots.

"My teammates and coaches believed in me. Their belief and my desire to win changed things. I became more focused on being a scoring threat. I was more aggressive on offense and actively looking for my shot in all situations." - Dominique Oden

Who knew that a trip to Iowa City, Iowa, would ignite a spark that would turn into a five-alarm blaze for Oden the rest of the year? Only overshadowed by a career-high 34-point performance by senior teammate Andreona Keys, Oden managed to drain 7-of-10 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, for 16 points as the Boilermakers upset the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes in January. It was Purdue’s first win at Iowa since 2008, and the second of four consecutive wins over AP Top-25 opponents for the Boilermakers. Oden proceeded to score at least 20 points in four of the next five games, including career-high 26-point outings against Northwestern, tying a school record by going 5-for-5 from 3, and at No. 13 Michigan, where she hit the game-tying shot to complete a 16-point comeback and force overtime. She went on similar feverish run at the end of the season, pouring in 20-plus points in five of the last six games, matching her career-high total a third time with 26 points in a WNIT second-round win at Ball State.

Over the final 16 games of the season, Oden averaged 18.6 points, hitting 50.4 percent from the floor, added 4.5 rebounds per game and posted a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. She ranked 14th in Big Ten scoring at 15.5 points per conference game and 10th in field goal percentage at 47.4, the second-best accuracy figure among guards. Her scoring continued to diversify as she grew, reducing her dependence on the 3-point shot and getting increased production from inside the arc and at the free throw line.

"(Her) scoring abilities elevated to a new level during the conference season. Her instincts, vision, ability to read screens and recognition of opportunities to score the basketball were all at the highest level." - Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp

Any thoughts or mentions of a “Sophomore Slump” were long put to rest.

So what does the future hold for Oden? Only time will tell. The 2018 second team All-Big Ten pick is the first returning leading scorer for the Boilermakers since Moses paced the team in 2013 as a junior. Oden will be the No. 9 returning scorer in the Big Ten. At her current pace, she could finish as an all-time top-10 scorer for the Boilermakers. Any improvement or increase leaves her with an extremely high ceiling, and the opportunity to do something incredibly special.

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