WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Purdue built its reputation on defense and rebounding.
They didn’t excel at either one Monday night and it cost them again in the NCAA tournament.
Brittney Martin had 20 points and 20 rebounds, LaShawn Jones added 16 points and 12 rebounds and Oklahoma State hung on for a 73-66 win that sent them to the regional semifinals for the first time in six years.
“I think at first, it seemed really difficult because it seemed like everybody was crashing,” Whitney Bays said when asked about the rebounding trouble. “We would box someone out and they would get loose and they were getting long rebounds, too.”
By the time fourth-seeded Purdue figured it out, it was too late.
Bays finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds, her eighth straight double-double. Courtney Moses added 11 points in her final college game and broke a tie with Katie Gearlds for the school’s career 3-point record. Moses made two 3s to give her 240.
And Purdue couldn’t end its NCAA tourney struggles. The Boilermakers have lost four straight second-round games, three of those to No. 5 seeds and two of those at home. The last time the Boilermakers (22-9) have reached the Sweet 16 was 2009.
“We’ve been talking in the locker room about all the adversity we went through and to think that the team, bawling their eyes out, that means more to me than winning tonight,” Moses said. “It’s what we went through as a team.”
It was a sweet victory for an Oklahoma State program rocked 2½ years ago by a fatal plane crash that claimed the lives of then head coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna.
Since then, coach Jim Littell has presided over the best three-season run in school history.
As the Cowgirls (25-8) steadily progressed in the rugged Big 12, they wound up winning the 2012 WNIT for the school’s first postseason tourney title, reached the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament before blowing a double-digit lead in the second half at Duke and are now off to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2008 and the third time in school history. Their 69 wins over that span also are a school record.
Now the fifth-seeded Cowgirls head to Notre Dame for Saturday’s showdown with the top-seeded and undefeated Fighting Irish. Notre Dame advanced with an 84-67 win over Arizona State.
“We wanted to win. That sounds silly, but I was going as hard as I could. I was going to get it done,” Martin said after the Cowgirls won their second straight for the first time since January.”
But Oklahoma State’s big win nearly came at a hefty price.
Bias stepped awkwardly on another player’s foot with 14:04 left in the game as Purdue’s Courtney Moses drove to the basket. The Cowgirls’ star point guard stayed down for several minutes, then was carried directly into the locker room.
She didn’t return until the 2:45 mark but the unanimous all-conference selection wasn’t going to miss this one for anything, even though was gingerly lifted by a teammate in the postgame celebration while most of the other players jumped up and down and climbed into the stands. And she doesn’t expect to miss the next game, either.
“I think it will be fine,” Bias said, lying on the floor with the ice-covered ankle raised on her locker bench. “Our trainer is great and we’ll do a whole bunch of rehab between now and then. But we’ve got great players, too.”
Martin finished three rebounds short of matching the first and second-round record in a single tourney game, a mark that has stood since 1985.
Oklahoma State took control quickly with an early 17-10 lead before giving it right back. The Cowgirls answered with a 9-2 spurt to rebuild a 28-22 lead and never trailed again.
They led 38-31 at the half, opened the second half on a 9-1 spurt and then allowed Purdue to get as close as 52-46 when Bias left.
But the Cowgirls came right back with a 15-6 run that made it 61-47 and Purdue never got closer than nine until the final basket.
“Our unity and chemistry was unbelievable. We couldn’t have won had we had just one or two play well,” Littell said. “(Roshunda) Johnson hit big shots, she shouldered the load when Bias went down. Martin had a career night with huge numbers. A rebounding machine, she put us on her back.”