WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Akron thought it had all the pieces in place to compete with Purdue on Saturday.
They never had a chance.
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.
“They are really long and lengthy and they put their biggest girl in front of Hanna (Lubergh),” Zips 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.”
Nothing went right for the Zips (23-10) in their first tourney appearance.
The Mid-American Conference champs had won 16 of their last 17 games, were ranked ninth in the nation in scoring and had three 1,000-point scorers on the court.
Rachel Tecca, the MAC tourney MVP, finished with 18 points and two rebounds. Lubergh, the MAC scoring champion at 22.7 points, scored nine and was just 3 of 19 from the field. The Zips nearly matched a season-low with a 31.3 percent shooting performance and did finish with their lowest point total of the season.
Tecca, who finished her career No. 1 on Akron’s scoring list 2,317 points, limped off the court at one point after getting cut from a knee brace.
It was that kind of day.
“They are more physical, taller and I just think we struggled with that,” she said.
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 never had an answer for Versyp’s tough, in-your-face 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.
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.
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.”