S. Dakota St.-Purdue Preview
Purdue hasn't lost an NCAA tournament opener since 1996 and might have extra motivation to keep that streak going this year.
The 13th-ranked and fourth-seeded Boilermakers will host a tournament game for the first time in four years Saturday when they face No. 13 seed South Dakota State.
Purdue (24-8) has won 14 straight first-round games and enters the tournament having won five in a row following a 1-5 stretch.
During that win streak, the Boilermakers earned their 18th NCAA berth in 19 years and 22nd overall by claiming the Big Ten tournament title with a double-overtime victory over Nebraska on March 4.
KK Houser, a Lincoln, Neb., native, had a team-best 19 points in that win and eight other players contributed to the scoring with Chantel Poston recording 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
That helped make up for a miserable shooting performance from leading scorer Brittany Rayburn, who had a streak of 10 straight double-digit scoring performances snapped. Rayburn, averaging a career-best 14.9 points, had nine points on 1-of-9 shooting in that game.
"When we're at our best, we have players stepping up left and right to help each other, and I think that's huge," coach Sharon Versyp said. "We're a true team. We don't talk about individuals. You don't just see one face everywhere."
Purdue will try to use that depth against South Dakota State (24-8), which is making its fourth straight NCAA appearance. The Jackrabbits blew out TCU 90-55 during their first tournament game in 2009, but lost at Oklahoma in 2010 and at Xavier last season.
The Jackrabbits returned to the NCAA tournament by winning the Summit League tournament for the fourth straight season with a 78-77 overtime victory over Missouri-Kansas City on March 6. That win was their 15th in 16 games after a 9-7 start.
Jill Young, one of the team's two seniors, made the go-ahead free throws with 7.1 seconds left. Young, the team's second-leading scorer with 12.0 points per game, has 301 career 3-pointers and needs one more to set the Summit League career mark.
The team's other senior, Jennie Sunnarborg, is averaging a team-best 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds.
"Legacy is a great word for those seniors. Four times, that is unbelievable," coach Aaron Johnston said. "I don't think it's easy to describe how difficult it is to get to an NCAA tournament. To get to four is almost unbelievable. These games are so pressure packed."
South Dakota State is 0-2 all-time against Purdue, including a 73-40 defeat in the preseason NIT on Nov. 18, 2010. Rayburn had a team-best 19 points in that victory and was one of three Boilermakers in double figures along with Antionette Howard, who had 15.
Megan Waytashek had a team-best 13 points off the bench for the Jackrabbits in a 34.1 percent shooting performance and Young scored 12. Sunnarborg was held to seven points.