I’m sure the Notre Dame Fighting Irish thought that it would be a walkover before the game started, being a 1 seed on their home court against the 9 seeded Boilermakers. However, Bridget Perry went off from the starting jump ball and finished the first quarter with 9 points and 3 rebounds, and Purdue led 17-13 after one quarter. By this time ND coach Muffet McGraw was no doubt telling her team to wake up and play their game. Which they did in the second quarter, outscoring Purdue in that quarter 32-16 to take a 45-33 lead into halftime. After getting burnt from the outside, Purdue left the trusty 2-3 zone and went man-to-man. This turned out not so good as Brianna Turner for the Irish started cleaning up in the paint. However, she came down awkwardly on her left knee with 48 seconds left in the half, and after being evaluated did not play in the second half. ND was no doubt concerned about that but probably felt comfortable with the lead.
The Irish took up where they left off at the beginning of the 3rd quarter, but Purdue battled back and outscored ND by 1 in that quarter. Turner’s backup Kathryn Westbeld was playing on a bad ankle, and battled foul trouble, so this left the Irish short handed in the post. Purdue went back into the trusty zone defense and really began to frustrate the Irish. Then an amazing thing happened. With ND up 74-64 with just a few minutes left in the game, Purdue reeled off 10 straight points to tie the game up. ND missed a potential game winning shot, and Purdue pulled down the rebound and called timeout with 4.3 seconds left. That allowed the Boilers to advance the ball. They passed it in to Dominique Oden who was to get the game winning shot to Ashley Morrissette, but time ran out as Morrissette had to put up a desperation shot. This led to overtime.
In the overtime, Purdue was hanging in there, but blinked a couple of times, and that was all it took. Down only 2, a foul was inexplicably committed against Marina Mabrey who sank her shots, then a foul was called against Purdue with 0.1 seconds left to set up the final two free throws. Hence the final score of 88-82, which was a wider spread due to the final 4 free throws.
Several impressions and some stats: First of all Purdue played one hell of a basketball game against a 1 seed on their home floor, a team loaded with scoring options that would have rightly been expected to dominate our Boilers. Of course the Turner knee injury hurt the Irish in the second half, but still, Purdue had a chance to pull the colossal upset at the end of regulation and in OT. It was a gutsy performance by the entire Purdue squad. Special commendations need to be handed to Seniors Bridget Perry and Ashley Morrissette in their last game in a Boilermaker uniform. They put their heart and soul into this game and left it all out there on the court. Coach Versyp has stated that these are two of the most competitive players she has ever coached, and watching this game it was easy to see why she would say that. Morrissette was held to 2 points in the first half, but ended up the game with 23 points, 4 rebounds, 10 assists, and 1 steal. Perry finished with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. These two players will be sorely missed as they move on to the next chapter in their lives.
One would be remiss not to mention the contributions of the freshmen, especially Ae’Rianna Harris and Dominique Oden, who finished with 16 and 12 points, respectively. Harris also pulled down 8 rebounds, had two awesome shot blocks, an assist and 2 steals. She was simply sensational, especially for a freshman in such a high pressure NCAA tournament game. She proved that it was wrong of the Big Ten to leave her off of the all freshmen team. Oden shot the ball with nerves of steel like she always does and even ran a little point in the second half to try and free up Morrissette for more screens.
Purdue finished up the season in memorable fashion, winning their last 4 regular season conference games, beating Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament before falling to Maryland in a hard fought final, then handling the rough and ready Green Bay Phoenix in the first round of the NCAA tournament, before getting to one shot away from a colossal upset at Notre Dame. The team had worked through its injuries, and the freshmen came on like gangbusters, and the upper classmen provided stellar play and outstanding leadership in this run of 7 out of 9 games to end the season. Losing Perry and Morrissette to graduation is bittersweet, but just maybe this team is on its way to better days. Beating 9th ranked Ohio State and coming up just a few ticks short against the 2nd ranked Irish showed just how far the team was able to come this year.
Congratulations to Coach Sharon Versyp and the entire team for a fine season overall.