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11th-seeded Purdue reaches quarterfinal with defense, rebounding

By Caleb Lynn | @CalebLynn1

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — The Purdue Women’s basketball team has won the Big Ten tournament four times under coach Sharon Versyp, and her victory total is the most in the history of the event. The total reached 24 on Thursday night as the young, 11th-seeded Boilermakers upset No. 6 Nebraska, 75-71.

Purdue (19-14) will meet No. 3 Rutgers Friday night with the hope of reaching a conference semifinal for the second time in three years.

Dominique Oden led the Boilermakers with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Tamara Farquhar had six points and 15 rebounds, which tied for the second most for a Purdue player in a Big Ten tournament game. Ae’Rianna Harris scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, tying her season-high total, after scoring five points with five rebounds in the first half.

“I had to get myself going,” Harris said. “I knew I came out slow and I had to do everything that I needed to do to help my team to make sure we were successful.”

Nebraska (14-16) won the 2014 championship, finished second in 2012 and reached a semifinal last year. “We knew if you want to win, you have to rebound,” said Nebraska coach Amy Williams, “and we did not do that today.”

Purdue outrebounded Nebraska, 44-36. The Boilermakers outscored the Huskers in the paint, 34-16.

Versyp said of Farquhar and Harris, “When we’ve been able to rebound like this, especially with those two, it’s been big. We were able to get more put-backs, different possessions, kick out for a three, move the defense quite a bit.”

Harris, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, swatted three of Nebraska’s shots at pivotal points in the game. Harris tied the Purdue career record of 281 set by assistant coach Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton.

Harris has a total of 436 points, 311 rebounds and 101 blocks this season, the second consecutive year in which she has exceeded 300 points, 300 rebounds and 100 blocks. Harris is the second player in Big Ten history to exceed those totals in back-to-back seasons, joining Amanda Zahui B., who accomplished the feat in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Oden, who had six rebounds, four assists and three steals to go with her 20 points, felt that the team’s defensive effort had been the difference.

“The energy before the game has been tangible,” Oden said, “and has helped us start off strong on defense which has led to our offense.”

Purdue’s No. 11 seed is the second-lowest in its conference tournament history. The Boilermakers have never had to win two games to reach a quarterfinal, but that was not a concern.

“We know how to prepare,” Versyp said. “The biggest thing is just getting them rest and getting them to feel their bodies again.”

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