AMES, Iowa (AP) -- One good run was all Purdue needed to shake
off an upset bid by its scrappy opponent. It just took awhile for
the Boilermakers to put it together.
Trailing by two with under six minutes to play in the first
half, second-seeded Purdue finally took control with a 15-2 run
spanning halftime and beat St. Francis 78-59 Sunday night in the
first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Shereka Wright and Erin Lawless scored 17 points apiece to lead
the Boilermakers (28-3), who'll play seventh-seeded Villanova in a
second-round game Tuesday night.
"I think in the second half we had much more of a sense of
urgency," Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. "That's what you've got
to have at this time of year."
St. Francis (25-6), seeded 15th, never recovered from Purdue's
burst and saw its 20-game winning streak end despite an outstanding
effort by center Beth Swink. Swink made all 10 of her shots in
scoring 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
The Red Flames fell to 0-8 in first-round games, but the
Pennsylvania school was much more competitive in this one after
losing their first seven NCAA tournament games by an average margin
of 39 points.
Erika Valek added 15 points and Lindsey Hicks had 14 for
third-ranked Purdue, which got a bonus from Lawless' scoring.
Averaging only 6.7 points, Lawless went 7-for-11 from the field
with a 3-pointer. She helped keep the Boilermakers going until
Wright, just 2-for-6 in the first half, got untracked.
"She's not always going to score 30 points a game," Lawless
said. "We know when situations like that happen, she has a team
around her and we're all capable of stepping up."
Karen Hewitt, a 5-foot-6 senior, was mainly responsible for
keeping it close early. Tormenting the Boilermakers with her
quickness and penetration, she had 10 first-half points on 4-for-5
shooting and handed out three assists. She finished with 12 points
and seven assists.
A No. 15 seed has never beaten a No. 2 seed since the women's
tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1994, but St. Francis looked
capable during its solid first half.
"I think we had a lot of believers, coming out of that first
half, that we are for real," St. Francis coach Jill Poe said.
With Hewitt getting baskets or setting up teammates, the Red
Flash stayed with the Boilermakers step for step. They recovered
from a 6-0 deficit to take a 22-20 lead on Hewitt's 15-foot jumper
with 5:39 left.
There were three ties after that, the last at 27-all on Swink's
basket inside. Katie Gearlds then connected from under the basket
for Purdue and teammate Beth Jones stole the ball, setting up a
bucket by Valek that made it 31-27. The Boilermakers led from then
They scored the final three points of the half after St. Francis
drew to 32-30, then pulled away in the second half despite an
inauspicious start. Wright missed a breakaway layup in the opening
minute, but she made a leaner the next time she touched the ball
and the Boilermakers dominated the rest of the way.
"The first five minutes (of the second half), it definitely was
a turnaround from where it was closer to not necessarily out of
reach, but I think we put ourselves in a hole," Hewitt said.
Emily Heikes got three baskets inside as Purdue stretched its
lead to 47-32. A 3-pointer by Lawless started an 8-2 run that made
it 59-40, and the Boilermakers led by as many as 21.