March 17, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Courtney Moses' teammates decided to play pitch-and-watch Saturday.
Eventually, Moses caught on. She'd take the pass, wherever she was standing, toss it toward the basket and rarely missed.
The sophomore guard made an NCAA women's tournament record nine 3-pointers, matched her career-high with 29 points and helped the fourth-seeded Boilermakers put away South Dakota State 83-68 in a first-round game she'll never forget.
"My teammates were just setting great screens, and our team had so many assists today," Moses said. "My team has always had confidence in me, and I've always had confidence in myself. To go out and continue to be confident is a good feeling."
Moses made 9 of 14 3-pointers, compared with only 1 of 3 inside the arc, and every time her team needed a shot to brush back the hard-charging Jackrabbits, Moses delivered.
It was hardly a surprise to those who have seen her shooting at practice. But after making only 34 of 121 3-pointers this season and 88 of 253 over the past two seasons, Moses' shooting touch returned just in time to push the Boilermakers (25-8) into a second-round game that will be played on their home court, Mackey Arena.
They'll face fifth-seeded South Carolina, an 80-48 winner over Eastern Michigan, in Saturday's first game.
The contest pits the Big Ten tourney champs against the resurgent Gamecocks (24-9) with plenty at stake. South Carolina, making its first tourney appearance since 2003, could tie the school's single-season record for victories. Purdue, the Big Ten tourney champs, now has won six straight and has lots of momentum after Moses' breakout game.
"I knew that Courtney was going to come in and have a good shooting game today. She shot great all week long in practice, so we were just getting her open and doing the little things," guard KK Houser said. "Courtney has a quick release, so she doesn't need much time to get it off."
And South Dakota State (24-9) simply couldn't rotate quickly enough or get in front of her fast enough to create a diversion.
The Jackrabbits tried everything - switches, defending her with size, even faceguarding. Nothing worked as Moses continued to knock down the 3s, three of which came in the final six minutes.
Jill Young finished with 19 points and Jennie Sunnarborg had 17, but nobody else reached double figures. Against a team that shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc, that just wasn't enough to prevent the Summit League champs from making a third consecutive first-round exit after allowing a season-high point total.
"I thought the first 3 she hit, we helped on some penetration and let her get going, but from that point on, she didn't need a lot of space to get shots off," coach Aaron Johnston said. "I thought our guards were late coming around on screens, so just as a whole, between the screener and our person chasing, we just didn't get to her in time. ... They know how to get guards open, and it's hard to get through them."
Instead, the Jackrabbits spent most of the game chasing Moses and the Boilermakers.
They sure didn't make it easy on a team that has won 15 consecutive first-round NCAA games and is a perfect 10-0 all-time against Summit League foes.
But South Dakota State simply refused to go away when it looked as if Purdue was ready to pull away.
The Jackrabbits charged back from an early 23-11 deficit to get within 29-27. After falling behind 38-33 at the half, they cut the deficit to 38-36 with a three-point play on the opening possession of the second half.
When Moses helped the Boilermakers break away again, building a 61-45 lead midway through the second half, South Dakota State answered with seven straight points.
"They did a nice job of coming back," Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "We needed to settle down and make a couple of shots and try to attack the basket and set Courtney up."
After South Dakota native Sam Ostarello scored on a putback to give Purdue a 68-57 lead with 6:17 to go, Moses knocked down her seventh 3, tying her career high. Brittany Rayburn, who had 12 points, then drove in for a layup and drew a foul, completing a 3-point play, and between free throws, Moses hit another 3. The 12-3 spurt made it 78-60 and finally gave Purdue a chance to celebrate Moses' feat.
"It's tournament time, and when you have players that can step up and score in the 20s, then you have a good chance of progressing on into the tournament," Versyp said. "What's good about our team is that you're not sure who is going to score the 20 points or the 10 points and rebound, and I think that's a huge advantage."