Wearing Down The Bears 

Wearing Down The Bears

It's a formula that has defined the Purdue women's basketball team this season.

Balanced scoring. Strong rebounding. Inside-outside game. Solid defense.

Those elements were on display Sunday afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Led by their inside play, 11th-ranked and fourth-seeded Purdue ran away from No. 13 seed Missouri State 73-52 in front of 4,239 at Mackey Arena in the Cleveland Regional.

The victory advances the Boilermakers into Tuesday's second round against No. 21 UCLA, a 74-61 winner over 23rd-ranked Bowling Green.

Senior Aya Traore, junior Erin Lawless and sophomore Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton combined for 50 points and 27 rebounds as Purdue outscored the Lady Bears 65-30 during the game's final 28 minutes.

"We were determined to get in there on offense and be a threat," said Lawless, who just missed her second consecutive double-double with 19 points and nine rebounds. "Once you're strong down low that opens up things on the outside for us."

Keyed by Lawless, the Boilermakers turned an early 10-point deficit into a 32-27 halftime advantage. The 6-foot-2 forward had seven points during a 16-2 run, which gave Purdue a 28-24 lead.

After halftime, the trio of Traore, Lawless and Wisdom-Hylton accounted for 13 points in a 15-2 spurt which stretched the lead to 47-33 with 13:56 to play. The Lady Bears (17-15) never got within single digits the rest of the way.

Traore recorded her first double-double of the season, totaling 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Wisdom-Hylton finished with a solid line of 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Junior Katie Gearlds contributed 13 points, while senior Sharika Webb tied a career high with eight assists. Traore, Lawless and Wisdom-Hylton made 18 of 33 field goals.

"The coaches have been challenging Erin and Lindsay to want the basketball and have a post presence inside," Traore said. "They understood that."

Meanwhile, Purdue's changing defenses and rebounding took Missouri State out of its game for the final 30 minutes.

Leading scorer Kari Koch finished with 11 points, nine below her average, and senior Sarah Klaassen added 10 points. After a hot start, the Lady Bears made only 32 percent (17 of 53) from the field. They were 6 of 22 from 3-point range but missed 12 of their last 14 attempts.

Purdue held a 41-25 rebounding advantage, including 25-11 in the second half.

"I thought after they made adjustments to their defense it really began eliminating the looks that we had at the start of the game," Klaassen said.

The Lady Bears, who won four games in four days to earn the Missouri Valley Conference's automatic bid, made just 8 of 28 field goals in the second half.

"In the second half, they picked up their defensive pressure and ultimately because of their height and wingspan, it made it difficult for us to pass the ball along the wing," Missouri State coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said.

Purdue focused its defensive attention on the Lady Bears' perimeter players. They entered Sunday's game with 601 attempts from 3-point range.

"Later in the game, our height started affecting them and we dug in a little bit more," Gearlds said.

After a midseason slump, Lawless has found her stride. The Berwyn, Ill., native is averaging 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds since the start of the Big Ten Conference tournament.

"She's playing much better defense and she's at the top of her game," Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. "I love her passion and excitement on the offensive glass. She's running hard in transition, she's making herself more of a threat and it's good for our team."

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