WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Sharon Versyp’s old-school defensive philosophy still works.
Even against one of those trendy up-tempo offenses.
Whitney Bays had 20 points and 13 rebounds Saturday, Courtney Moses tied the school’s career record for 3-pointers and the fourth-seeded Boilermakers rolled into the second round of the NCAA women’s tournament with an emphatic 84-55 rout over usually high-scoring Akron.
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”We always give our kids a challenge,” Versyp said. ”They are the ninth-best scoring team in the country, and we wanted to keep them under 60 today and we did that.”
For the Boilermakers (22-8), it was a monumental day.
Versyp collected her 300th career win but refused to celebrate.
Moses tied Katie Gearlds’ career mark by making her first two 3-pointers of the game, then missed her last five. The senior guard now has 238 and will get another chance to break the record in front of her home fans Monday night.
The victory margin was Purdue’s fifth-most lopsided win in NCAA tourney history and their 50 rebounds were the second-most in tourney play.
Purdue is now 20-1 in first-round games, 20-7 in NCAA play on their home court and head into Monday night’s showdown with fifth-seeded Oklahoma State with 11 wins in 14 games. The Cowgirls advanced by holding on for a 61-60 victory over Atlantic Sun champion Florida Gulf Coast, the No. 12 seed in the Notre Dame Regional.
And the Boilermakers won this one going away – contrary to conventional wisdom and President Obama’s upset pick.
Instead, Purdue’s defense made all those doubters look foolish. The key was simple.
”I think we communicated really well,” Moses said. ”On screens, we were talking and switching and we really had each other’s back.”
Akron (23-10), the Mid-American Conference champion, was led by Rachel Tecca with 18 points and Hanna Luburgh with nine in its first ever NCAA appearance.
It wasn’t nearly enough.
The Zips, who had won 16 of their last 17 dating to Jan. 15, shot 31.3 percent from the field, nearly matching a season low, and finished with a season worst point total. They were outrebounded 50-28 and Luburgh, the MAC scoring champion at 22.7 points, was a dismal 3 of 19 from the field.
Akron never had an answer for Versyp’s tough, in-your-face defense.
”They are really long and lengthy and they put their biggest girl in front of Hanna,” point guard Kacie Cassell said. ”They knew our offense. They stopped it and we just couldn’t get rebounds and couldn’t get second-chance opportunities.”
Whether it was frayed nerves or Purdue’s defensive focus, nothing went right for the Zips.
The shooters never really got in sync and the Boilermakers made them pay a hefty price.
Moses knocked down both of her 3-pointers in the opening flurry and Dee Dee Williams closed the run with another 3 to make it 20-2 just 4:31 into the game.
That’s when the Zips finally got started, but it was already too late. They went on a 13-6 run to close to 30-20, and rallied again after the Boilermakers extended the lead to 39-24. That 10-5 spurt got Akron back within 44-34 in the final minute of the first half but the Zips never got any closer.
The Boilermakers scored the final basket of the half to make it 46-34, matching their second-highest first half scoring total of the season, then opened the second half with six straight points. The 8-0 spurt left Akron in a 52-34 hole with 18:11 to go – too big a deficit against Purdue’s tenacious defense.
”I guess I’m not used to playing against players that are a little bit taller and stronger and at no time did our kids give up,” coach Jodi Kest said.
April Wilson also had 12 points and Williams finished with 11 for Purdue.
But after getting a two-week break following their early ouster in the Big Ten tournament, the Boilermakers never stopped playing hard, either.
And now they’ll get another chance to reach the Sweet 16 – something they haven’t done since 2009.
”The kids have been hungry and they are tired of practice,” Versyp said. ”They wanted to go get somebody else (Saturday). It’s just really trying to set that tone early.”