Komara leads Purdue past Xavier 88-78
Updated: Tuesday March 27, 2001 7:53 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Katie Douglas, Kelly Komara and Camille Cooper are going back to the Final Four. Xavier's remarkable postseason ride is over.
Komara played a superb game filling in for injured point guard Erika Valek and Douglas hit two critical 3-pointers while battling through an off night shooting as Purdue beat Xavier 88-78 Monday to win the Mideast Regional.
Douglas, Komara and Cooper all played on Purdue's 1999 national championship team. They still have a chance to win another.
The Boilermakers (30-6) will play Southwest Missouri State, in the national semifinals Friday night in St. Louis.
Xavier (31-3) had become one of the darlings of the NCAA tournament after upsetting Tennessee, the No. 1 seed overall, 80-65, in Saturday's regional semifinals.
But the Musketeers couldn't keep the magic going and saw their 21-game winning streak, the nation's longest, come to an end.
Komara, named the regional's outstanding player, was forced to move from shooting guard to the point after Valek tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in the Boilermakers' victory against Texas Tech on Saturday.
She responded with 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting, five assists and four steals.
"Kelly Komara was huge for us tonight," Douglas said. "Just talking to Kelly before the game, she was ready to play. She provided a huge spark for us. Thank God she was there in the first half because I sure wasn't."
Douglas, 3-for-13 from the field, finished with 19 points after scoring only two in the first half, Cooper added 16 and Shereka Wright 14. Shalicia Hurns had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"None of their players surprised us," Xavier head coach Melanie Balcomb said. "This is an excellent Purdue team. They're great players. They're All-Americans. They're a Final Four team. I expected them to do everything they did well. We were just trying to stop some of it."
Taru Tuukkanen led Xavier with 23 points. Nicole Levandusky had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Musketeers, whose NCAA tournament record before this season had been 1-3.
Xavier survived a long stretch of missed shots in the first half, but could not hold on after Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year Jennifer Phillips went to the bench with her fourth foul.
The Musketeers led 47-39 with 15:57 left and was answering every time Purdue challenged until Phillips left the game with 9:08 remaining. Xavier led 58-55 at the time. By the time she came back, Purdue was ahead.
Douglas, who had been 1-for-10, hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 58 with 8:55 left. That was the score when Xavier took off against Tennessee. Purdue didn't let that happen.
Wright's two free throws at 6:55 gave Purdue the lead for good, 64-63, and Douglas followed with a 3-pointer from the left corner. Parr's 3-pointer drew Xavier to 67-66, but it would never be that close again.
Seven consecutive points gave Purdue a 74-66 lead with 3:04 to play and the Boilermakers finished it off at the free-throw line, Douglas sinking 11-of-12 in the final 2:03.
Purdue becomes the first school to reach the Final Four under three different head coaches. Lin Dunn took the Boilermakers in 1994 and Carolyn Peck guided them to their title in 1999. This trip is coming under Kristy Curry, in her second season as coach.
"We're not talking about just going to the Final Four," Curry said. "We want to win. We've got some unfinished business."
The ball bounced right for Xavier early -- literally.
Xavier was leading 12-6 on four 3-pointers when the Musketeers ran an inbounds play under their own basket. Phillips slapped at the ball after Reetta Piipari passed it in, it bounced high off the floor and dropped into the basket.
The Musketeers' luck ran out after that basket. They went the next 9 1/2 minutes without a field goal -- their only points coming on eight free throws - and Purdue took its first lead at 22-20 on Komara's two foul shots.
Tuukkanen's 17-footer ended Xavier's field goal drought with 4:48 left in the half and came during a 8-0 that gave the Musketeers a 28-22 lead.
But Purdue tightened the defense and came back again, outscoring
Xavier 12-5 over the final 3:10 of the half to take a 34-32 lead on
Shalicia Hurns' follow shot with three seconds left.
Xavier hit six of its first eight shots in the second half to
open the eight-point lead. But on this night, that wasn't enough.