Nov. 10, 2013
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue women's basketball team opened its season with a victory on Sunday, holding off a late rally by intrastate rival Ball State University to earn a 63-57 win at Mackey Arena in both teams' season openers. Senior KK Houser matched her career high, scoring 21 points, while the Boilermakers set a single-game school record with a flawless 17-for-17 performance from the free throw line.
The Boilermakers open the season with a win for the 32nd time in school history and the 12th consecutive year, improving to 16-5 all-time against Ball State. Purdue shot just 22.2% (8-36) in the first half, en route to a 26-26 tie, but bounced back in the second, making 43.3% (13-30) to earn the win. Houser's 21 points match her collegiate best, connecting on eight-of-21 from the floor, including three threes, to tie her output at Northwestern two seasons ago.
Purdue's free-throw shooting performance eclipses a three-year old mark, when the Boilermakers went 20-for-21 at Indiana on Jan. 9, 2011. Head coach Sharon Versyp was very pleased with the success, citing it as the reason they won the game.
"It's great to come out and play in such a great game in our first game of the year," she said. "Ball State is a very good team, and they never gave up. The fact that every one of our players was able to step up and knock down their shots won us the game."
The Boilermakers struggled to get it going in the first half, missing early and often, but kept themselves in the game with their high-pressure defense. Despite 16 first-half turnovers, Ball State built their lead as high as nine (21-12) and never trailed in the opening frame. Purdue came alive in the final four minutes, holding the Cardinals without a point from 4:21 on, and closing the gap on the eight-point lead to make it a 26-26 halftime tie. Houser ignited the comeback, hitting Purdue's first two three-pointers of the game and heading to the locker room with 10 points.
Houser picked up right where she left off after the break, scoring nine straight points to lead a 19-0 Boilermaker run, capped off by a layup from junior Liza Clemons off a Houser assist and giving Purdue 37-26 advantage. The Boilermakers' lead would swell as large as 15 in the second half, holding a 56-41 edge with 6:19 to play, but the Cardinals would not go quietly. Ball State put together a 12-0 run over the next four minutes, including back-to-back threes from junior Brittany Carter, trimming the lead to just three, 56-53, with two minutes to play.
Junior Whitney Bays had an impressive debut for the Old Gold and Black as the Maryland transfer scored five of the Boilermakers' final seven points, including a crowd-inciting and-one finish, to right the ship and hold off Ball State down the stretch. Bays finished with 13 points and six rebounds in just 20 minutes.
Other standouts for the Boilermakers included Clemons and sophomore April Wilson as Clemons set or tied career highs in every statistical category with 10 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a steal, while Wilson filled out the stat column with six points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Carter led Ball State with 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals, while sophomore Nathalie Fontaine had 16 points and nine rebounds as the Cardinals start their season 0-1.
Purdue plays its first road contest of the season on Wednesday, heading to IUPUI for a 7 p.m. game at The Jungle. A full preview and game notes will be available on Monday at PurdueSports.com.