By Teresa M. Walker
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. —
Sam Ostarello heard all the talk for the past week about how the Liberty Lady Flames rebound better than anyone in the country. Then the Purdue senior went out and showed she’s pretty good at hitting the boards herself.
Ostarello scored 10 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as fourth-seeded Purdue routed Liberty 77-43 Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
“I wanted her to wear a Liberty jersey yesterday, so she just sort of proved me right,” Liberty coach Carey Green said.
The Boilermakers (25-8) improved to 19-1 in the first round with their 16th straight victory to open the tournament. They will play No. 5 seed Louisville or 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee in the second round Tuesday night in the Oklahoma City Regional.
No. 13-seeded Liberty (27-7) hadn’t played a Big Ten team since 2005 when the Lady Flames beat Penn State for their first NCAA tournament win. Liberty had the nation’s best rebounding margin with a 17.5 edge per game, but couldn’t beat Purdue on the boards in ending a 14-game winning streak.
Courtney Moses scored 21 points, going 5 of 8 from 3-point range for Purdue. KK Houser added 15 points. Ostarello came in leading the Big Ten with 9.9 rebounds per game and set the tone as Purdue had a 40-38 edge on the boards.
“I was just really focused on that assignment,” Ostarello said. “They’re the top rebounding team in the nation by margin, and they get a lot of their points on second-chance opportunities, which is my defensive rebounds. So I just needed to go in there and every board was going to be mine. And if not, my teammates were going to clean it up.”
Devon Brown led Liberty with 21 points.
Purdue was up 33-17 at halftime and by 35 late in the game as the Boilermakers won their fifth straight. They had this game so in control that 12 Boilermakers played. Purdue’s reserves outscored Liberty 28-8.
“Our defense was the key to set the tone for us to be able to get up and down and run,” Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. “And for us to be able to have our bench come in and score 28 points I think was very big for us.”
The Boilermakers, who dominated on the way to their second straight Big Ten tournament title, are among the best shooters in the nation. Liberty ranked seventh nationally in holding opponents to 33 percent shooting, and the Lady Flames had not allowed a team to hit 50 percent or better since a 92-60 loss at Baylor on Nov. 23, a run of 28 games.
Purdue ended that streak too, shooting exactly 50 percent (26 of 52). Liberty had a 13-7 edge on offensive rebounds but turned that into only six second-chance points. Moses credited Ostarello with getting Purdue’s offense going.
“Before you can run, you have to first rebound, so Sam’s rebounds were key,” Moses said. “She was getting it out, kicking it, and when we run, we have fun.”
The Lady Flames shot a season-low 26.3 percent (15 of 57). One post shot hit the bottom of the backboard, with another a 2-foot airball.
“That was nervousness or not really positioning yourself offensively to take good shots, so we were taking those poor shots, which will in turn give them opportunities to get a defensive rebound and run out,” Green said. “That’s exactly what happened.”
Liberty’s size advantage, with four players 6-foot-2 or taller, just didn’t matter against the faster Boilermakers, who pushed the tempo from the opening tip.