Purdue women struggle in 72-61 loss to S. Carolina

MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer Published:

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Purdue picked the wrong time for one of its worst games of the season.

Its shooters struggled, the guards were sloppy and nothing looked right.

The fourth-seeded Boilermakers committed 20 turnovers and managed only four 3-pointers during a 72-61 loss to visiting South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament on Monday night.

"Our guards weren't settled down, our guards were making passes we don't normally make, just playing kind of a little more spastic," coach Sharon Versyp said. "We need the plays through, and we didn't run those through. That's where we struggled. We didn't execute in the half-court."

KK Houser led the Boilermakers (25-9) with 15 points. Brittany Rayburn scored 13 and finished her brilliant career with 1,795 points, good enough for sixth on the school's career scoring list. She also had 427 rebounds, 248 assists and 151 steals.

But on a night when Purdue shot just 39.3 percent from the field, even the combination of Rayburn and Houser couldn't rescue the Boilermakers.

"The amount of turnovers we had, we took ourselves out of the game," Rayburn said. "On each possession, it was us grounding ourselves for the most part, but they were aggressive on defense and they got it done."

South Carolina moves on to face top-seeded Stanford on Saturday. The Cardinal defeated eighth-seeded West Virginia 72-55 in Norfolk, Va.

Of course, the Gamecocks relied on their stingy defense to win their first two NCAA games.

The problem for Stanford is the offense is clicking, too.

The Gamecocks shot 51.3 percent in the two games at Purdue and four players reached double figures Monday. Markeshia Grant scored 21 points, and Ieasia Walker had 17 points, six rebounds and four assists. La'Keisha Sutton and Ashley Bruner each finished with 10 points as the Gamecocks reached the regional semifinals for the first time in a decade.

"It's a happy time. It's a great day to be a Gamecock," coach Dawn Staley said.

There have been a lot of great days this season for the Gamecocks (25-9), who won at Tennessee for the first time, made their first appearance in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals and earned their first NCAA bid since 2003. By advancing on Monday, they matched the 2001-02 team for the school's most wins in the SEC era.

Before looking ahead to the matchup with the Cardinal, the Gamecocks wanted to savor the moment.

After shaking hands with Purdue (25-9), players and coaches huddled near midcourt, where they jumped up and down and chest-bumped in the excruciatingly warm Mackey Arena. Then they walked down and saluted the pep band that made the 700-mile trip to West Lafayette with them.

Staley reached the round of 16 for the first time in seven tries as a coach, and South Carolina made it to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2002.

"It means so much to me, especially because I'm a senior and I've worked so hard to get to this point," Grant said. "Growing up you always see the Tennessees, the Stanfords, the UConns playing at this level and just to see what we did was just incredible. And then this is the first time coach Staley has ever been to the Sweet 16, so it's even more special."

Well, not quite. Staley did play in three Final Fours at Virginia, but hasn't been this far in the NCAA tourney since then.

After taking an early lead with an 11-2 spurt, the Gamecocks never trailed again.

Purdue closed to 27-26 late in the first half, but South Carolina scored the final six points to make it 33-26 at the break.

Houser opened the second half with another 3, riling up a crowd expecting a rally. Instead, Grant answered with back-to-back 3s to extend the lead to 39-29.

The Boilermakers almost got back into the game again after Purdue's Chantel Poston and Sutton were called for a double technical early in the second half. Purdue eventually closed to 53-46 with 9:27 to go, but the Gamecocks scored the next four points and sealed the win from the free-throw line.

"Does it legitimize our program? To a certain degree," Staley said. "I think we stood by our principles and our kids really bought into doing things the right way, so I'm very happy."