LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Inside the Purdue locker room, harsh reality had set in. A season of 25 wins, nine losses and a Big Ten championship came to a crashing close.
There were many tears, some hugs, and the palpable feeling of devastation; it’s all over. Louisville flustered the Boilermakers from start to finish, ending their season with a 76-63 defeat at KFC Yum! Center.
Coach Sharon Versyp felt sad, unfulfilling closure. At the postgame press conference, she shared stories. Purdue’s three seniors who saw their careers come to a close. First, she touched on and Chantel Poston, the gritty guard that battled back from several injuries. Then, she praised Drey Mingo, who nearly lost her life battling bacterial meningitis as a junior. Versyp then ended with Sam Ostarello, who worked her way from struggling freshman to 900 career rebounds.
This wasn’t the way Versyp envisioned the end. But all she could do was reflect.
“They have such high character,” said Versyp of Purdue’s three seniors. “We’re a class program and do things the right way. I’m very proud of them.”
The frustration factor was amplified by the fact that Purdue never stood a chance, even as the higher seed. The Boilermakers took the court to a raucous red-clad crowd of 9,236, and they were technically the home team. But Purdue can’t blame the fans for its struggles.
Louisville jumped out to an early lead and never let up, never allowing the Boilermakers to get comfortable. Purdue gave the ball away 22 times and the Cardinals created 33 points off turnovers.
“We didn’t take care of the ball, and they capitalized on our turnovers,” said guard KK Houser, who was guilty of nine turnovers. “They got easy buckets in transition.”
The margin was just two with six minutes remaining in the first half, then it all unraveled for the Boilermakers. Cued by six turnovers, the Cardinals went to the locker room for halftime on a 20-7 run. Versyp tried to stop the bleeding, but to no avail.
“We were going too fast and weren’t setting things up like we were told to do,” Houser said.
Purdue was never able to get its leading scorer, Courtney Moses, involved in the offense. The freshman finished with just seven points and was afforded just six shot attempts. The Boilermakers tried to get Moses incorporated in the offense, but the Cardinals stifled that threat.
“It was frustrating at that point, where she’s an iatrical part of our offense,” said Ostarello, Purdue’s leading source of offense with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The second stanza saw the Boilermakers not back down. They cut their deficit to 10 points, just four minutes into the half. They were never able to cut it closer than that.
“Every time we made a run in the second half—[cutting the margin to] 11 points, that type of thing—they made a big shot,” said Versyp. “Give credit where credit is due.”
As the final horn sounded, the Boilermakers dispersed to their locker room quickly. Devastation quickly set in as their season came to an end.
Wiping away tears, Ostarello gleamed at her teammates and said: “It’s just been an amazing ride with amazing people.”