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Struggling

Top-ranked Purdue stumbles in 68-48 first-round victory

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Posted: Sunday March 14, 1999 01:43 AM

  Purdue's Ukari Figgs shoots a jumper over teammate Camille Cooper and LSU's Heather Davis on Saturday. AP

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- It wasn't a very impressive way for Purdue to begin its hunt for a national title.

The top-ranked Boilermakers looked sluggish Saturday night in beating Oral Roberts 68-48 in the opening round of the NCAA Midwest Regional.

"When it's tournament time, you can never sit back and concede that the victory is there," Purdue coach Carolyn Peck said. "You can't do that. Not in tournament time."

Playing their first game since winning the Big Ten tournament almost two weeks ago, the Boilermakers (29-1) were just 21-of-56 from the floor, including 2-of-15 from 3-point range.

Their offensive woes prevented them from putting the game away early in the second half after going up 40-17. Instead, Oral Roberts (17-12) cut the lead to 11 on consecutive 3-pointers from Jessica Rhoten and a pair of 3-pointers from Krista Ragan to pull within 40-29 with 17:26 left.

With their outside game struggling, the Boilermakers began to pound the ball inside, helping them build the lead back up to more than 20 points, where it stayed for most of the half. While they still struggled inside, uncharacteristically missing easy layups and short jumpers, Purdue's aggressive play inside led to the free-throw line, where the Boilermakers went 24-of-29.

"Our guards were really looking inside and looking to get the ball around," said Camille Cooper, who led Purdue with 19 points.

Purdue's offensive problems helped Oral Roberts stick around in the second half, despite the fact that the Golden Eagles scored only two points over a 10-minute stretch in the final period after Rauna Barrett's two free throws made it 42-31.

After shooting 25 percent from the field in the first half, Oral Roberts shot 12-of-27 after halftime to keep things interesting.

"They're a team that never folds," Peck said. "Those kinds of teams are very dangerous. People are telling you you're up 20 and don't press them. With a team like Oral Roberts, you let them get on the line and get a shot up and it's a ballgame again."

The Golden Eagles, who began the season 2-7, shot 4-for-16 from the field and had nine turnovers in the first 13 minutes but trailed just 20-10. Ragan's 3-pointer cut the lead to seven 16 seconds later.

Katie Douglas hit four straight free throws to put the Boilermakers back up 24-13 and spark a 16-4 run to end the half, capped off by Kari Figgs' falling 3-pointer from half court that hit nothing but net at the buzzer.

Purdue All-American Stephanie White-McCarty scored 15 and Douglas added 13.

"A big difference between our two programs, no question, is experience, and with experience comes aggressiveness, having the whatever it takes attitude," Oral Roberts coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. "They attacked the basket. A lot of times we were playing with reaction and they were playing with action."

Ragan scored 21 to lead Oral Roberts.

The Boilermakers will meet Kansas (23-9), a 64-58 winner over Marquette, Monday night for a shot at the final 16.

 
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