A 26-4 run over the last 11:29 of the first half proved to be enough for Purdue as the Boilermakers defeated Valparaiso 66-51 on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in West Lafayette, Ind.
The Crusaders opened the game looking anything but intimidated by the East Region’s second seed, scoring the game’s first five points. Valpo led for the first 11:55 of the contest before the Big Ten Tournament champions made the run to break open the game.
Jeanette Gray (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso H.S.) scored four points early and Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.) added a couple of jump shots to lift he Crusaders early. Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) drained a three-pointer to put the Brown and Gold up 18-9 at the 12:13 mark of the opening half.
Purdue scored nine straight points to tie the game before Gray scored on an uncontested lay-in to put Valpo up 20-18 with 8:27 to play. Mary Jo Noon tied the game at 20, beginning a run of 15 consecutive Boilermaker points, and the hosts went into the locker room with a 35-22 advantage.
After the Boilermakers scored the first basket of the second half, Valpo went on a 7-0 run to close within eight. Stangler and Kathryn Knoester (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead to 37-29 with 16:47 to play in the game.
Purdue (27-5) scored 11 straight points keyed by several Shereka Wright baskets and eventually built the lead up to 25, 59-34, with 8:17 left. The Brown and Gold refused to quit, using a 9-2 spurt to close to 18, 61-43 after a Stangler jumper with 4:48 to play.
The Crusaders continued to chip away, and three-pointers late by Devin Reed (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North H.S.) and Knoester brought Valpo to within 12, 63-51, at the 1:51 mark before three late points by Purdue provided the final margin.
Stangler led the Crusaders with 12 points, while Gray added 11 and a game-high nine rebounds in her final game wearing the Brown and Gold. The senior leaves Valpo third all-time in scoring with 1,460 points and second in rebounding with 766 boards.
Erika Valek led Purdue with 23 points while Wright added 15.
The Boilermakers shot 48.2% (27-of-56) from the floor for the game, compared with Valpo’s 35.3% (18-of-51). The Crusaders turned the ball over 23 times, 15 in the first half, leading to 32 Purdue points. The Boilermakers also outscored Valpo 44-12 in the paint.
Valpo, which made its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history, ends its season 18-13.