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.