Jan 4, 2003
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Purdue had all the answers Saturday. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was left with a lot of questions.
The seventh-ranked Boilermakers beat No. 13 Notre Dame 71-54, taking control with a 15-0 run that started late in the first half. The Boilermakers (11-1) shut down Notre Dame’s best players and had 26 offensive rebounds to 24 defensive rebounds for the Irish (8-3).
“That’s absolutely astonishing,” Purdue coach Kristy Curry said.
“We didn’t compete,” she said. “That was what happened to us last year and I didn’t think it would happen to us this year.”
The only Irish players to work hard were Courtney LaVere, who led the Irish with 23 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and Le’Tania Severe, who had 10 points and six assists, McGraw said.
“We need to find some other people to go with them,” she said.
Both teams started slowly, with the Irish turning the ball over eight times in the first six minutes and Purdue making just 21 percent of its shots (7-of-33) until a media timeout came with 3:11 to go in the first half.
“We asked them if they believed they could win,” Curry said.
When the Boilermakers said they did, Curry told them: “Let’s go play like it.”
The Boilermakers did. Twenty seconds later, Erika Valek made a 15-foot shot to end the Boilermakers’ drought of 7:15 without a basket. The shot cut Notre Dame’s lead to 22-20 and sparked the 15-0 run that continued into the second half.
“Our goal was to step it up and make sure we went to the locker room with the lead,” Valek said.
Valek made sure of that. After missing her first five shots, she scored seven points before halftime to help the Boilermakers grab a 27-22 halftime lead. The Boilermakers scored the first five points of the second half to keep the run going.
The Boilermakers (11-1) extended their lead to 63-39 when Mary Jo Noon made a pair of free throws with 5:57 left.
Shereka Wright led the Boilermakers with 18 points. Valek added 15 points and six assists for the Boilermakers. Emily Heikes had 10 points as Purdue’s reserves outscored Notre Dame’s 18-5.
Jacqueline Batteast added 14 points for the Irish, but Notre Dame’s leading scorer had only four points while the game’s outcome was still in doubt. Alicia Ratay, Notre Dame’s only starter left from the team that beat Purdue for the national title two years ago, was held scoreless by Beth Jones and managed only two shots. She averages 11.4 points a game.
McGraw said her team lacks the leadership it needs.
“We didn’t have anyone out there with the exception of Courtney who was saying, ‘Hey, give me the ball and I can score,”‘ McGraw said. “When you have great leadership, you can get by with young talented players. We don’t have a great leader and that’s what our problem is. Most of this is my fault. I need to do a better job of figuring this whole thing out.”
A crowd of 9,483, Notre Dame’s fifth-largest home crowd for a women’s game, saw the team’s home winning streak against nonconference teams end at 33. The streak dated to an 81-69 loss to another Big Ten team, Wisconsin, on Dec. 9, 1996.
McGraw said the Irish simply looked afraid against the Boilermakers.
“I thought we played scared,” she said.
Curry said the win was big for the Boilermakers.
“They can’t go home if they lose to Notre Dame and not hear about it,” she said.