Purdue Tops Georgia, 78-65

Lady Boilermakers heading to Elite Eight

March 25, 2007

DALLAS (AP) -Maybe Purdue star Katie Gearlds can keep doing her best imitation of Peyton Manning, the home-state quarterback who is finally recognized as a champion.

After helping the Boilermakers get within one victory of the NCAA Final Four with a 78-65 regional semifinal victory over Georgia, Gearlds insisted that the ongoing success wasn't about settling any personal issues.

"I am going to quote what Peyton Manning said and say that I am not going to get into that subject right now," Gearlds said. "I don't have a monkey on my back. It is all about this team and we have worked so hard."

Yes, Purdue's senior star sounds a lot like Manning did when he finally got to the Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts earlier this year.

Manning got his title. And Gearlds still has a chance to get hers.

Not wanting her career to end yet, Gearlds had 30 points, nine rebounds and helped Purdue (31-5) overcome a big early deficit Sunday night to earn a spot in the Dallas Regional final.

"They did what we knew they were going to do," said Georgia guard Cori Chambers, the primary defender on Gearlds. "They run off screens and I didn't do what I needed to do stop them. I didn't get job done."

Purdue won its 10th straight game, all since Gearlds had impromptu meetings with her teammates and first-year coach Sharon Versyp, who in the mid-1980s was a four-year starter at the school.

The Boilermakers will play North Carolina or George Washington on Tuesday in their first regional final since 2003, which came two years after they were national runner-ups.

"It's special for me because I'm an alum," Versyp said. "But the kids have gone above and beyond expectations."

Georgia (27-7) was in the round of 16 for the fifth straight season, but it was the fourth time in that stretch the Lady Bulldogs didn't advance past that.

The Bulldogs missed becoming the fourth Southeastern Conference team to get into a regional final this season - even after scoring the game's first eight points and jumping out to a 23-10 lead midway through the first half.



Gearlds had the final points in Purdue's 14-4 run to end the opening half, with a 3-pointer and a free throw. But her missed free throw with 41 seconds left kept the Boilermakers from getting even before the break.

She more than made up for that miss.

Gearlds scored 18 points after halftime, when her first basket was a long jumper she made despite having the arms of a defender wrapped around her waist while she was in the air. She added the free throw.

"Early in the game, we were there," Georgia coach Andy Landers said about defending Gearlds. "We knew what was coming."

Purdue's first lead came when Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton opened the second half with a short jumper. Gearlds' three-point play followed and Georgia never caught up.

Wisdom-Hylton had 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting and nine rebounds, while Danielle Campbell had 11 points. Gearlds was 10-of-16 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Tasha Humphrey had 20 points to lead Georgia, and Angel Robinson had 14 on 7-of-9 shooting.

Both teams shot better than 54 percent from the field: Purdue was 28-for-49, and Georgia was 24-for-56.

Gearlds has played in all 132 games in her career. Her 100th start could be the one that finally gets her to the Final Four.

During Gearlds' freshman season, the final game was a loss to Georgia in another regional semifinal. The Boilermakers won only one tournament game in 2005, but again got to a regional semifinal last season before losing to North Carolina.

Things didn't start smoothly in the rematch against Georgia.

"They were a little nervous early on. They had a lot of energy," Versyp said. "I got on them a little bit. But we battled to the end and held our composure."

Purdue had four turnovers and two missed shots while the Lady Bulldogs raced out to an 8-0 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes. Gearlds finally scored with a 15-foot jumper that rolled around the rim a few times before falling.

Still, the Boilermakers didn't get close until that run before halftime. But everything seemed to go their way after that.

With about 6 1/2 minutes left, there was a scramble for a near-turnover under the Purdue basket before Gearlds ended up with the ball at the top of the key. She made the 3-pointer, pushing the Boilermakers ahead 64-54 - and finishing the Bulldogs.

"I was saying on the bench that we'd taken their best shot, that's all they got," Gearlds said. "We knocked down some shots and played superb defense."