Purdue Can’t Celebrate for Long
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) _ Beating three-time defending NCAA champion Tennessee was tough enough. Now comes the really hard part _ can the Purdue women’s basketball team play like that consistently?
When the final horn sounded in the 78-68 victory over the Lady Vols Sunday night, the Purdue women shared their joy with the football players, who embraced them during an emotional celebration.
It was the first loss for Tennessee since March 1997, a span of 46 games.
Now, a Purdue team that will lose coach Carolyn Peck after the season has more immediate business at hand after moving into the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press poll.
The Boilermakers jumped from No. 5 to the top by a single point over No. 2 Connecticut, receiving 18 first-place votes from the 41 voters. Tennessee, which had been No. 1, dropped to No. 4.
The Boilermakers will need to ``come to practice on Tuesday and practice to a level where you want to maintain this intensity,″ said Peck, who is leaving to become general manager and coach of the expansion Orlando team in the WNBA.
``Can you come back and do it again? That’s a challenge.″
The Boilermakers will find out quickly with road games at Arizona and Stanford this week.
They’ll head west having established depth in a backcourt that features former Indiana Miss Basketball Stephanie White-McCarty and Ukari Figgs, who are expected to finish the season among the top 10 scorers in Purdue women’s basketball history.
Purdue used a three-guard starting unit Sunday that included sophomore Katie Douglas. Freshman Kelly Komara, last season’s Indiana Miss Basketball, made key contributions off the bench.
After Figgs went to the bench early with foul trouble, Komara hit a 3-pointer on her first collegiate shot.
``Kelly played like she was a senior,″ Figgs said. ``It makes it a lot easier when you’re sitting there and the person who is playing for you is playing like that.″
A crowd of 11,778 _ the third-largest ever to see Purdue’s women play in Mackey Arena _ watched the upset.
``Our crowd played a big role in this win,″ Figgs said. ``When they were making a little run, our fans got into it and it helped us lift our level of play.″
White-McCarty, who will become the seventh women’s player to score 1,500 points with her first point at Arizona on Thursday, led Purdue with 24 points. Sophomore center Camile Cooper scored a career-high 18 points off the bench.
``I’m a lot more comfortable and confident,″ said Cooper, who averaged 6.6 points as a freshman. ``I worked hard over the summer and I think our guards are doing a great job getting it to me inside. We need to establish our inside game more.″
``On our scouting report (Cooper) was the one we had to look out for,″ Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. ``She’s the one that will be the big-play person inside.″
Summitt predicts big things for Purdue if it can duplicate its effort against her team.
``They played very well together and played smart,″ she said. ``They picked our defense apart. They were more aggressive than we were. Our defense had very little influence on the Purdue offense.″