The #13 seed Akron Zips lost to the #4 seed Purdue Boilermakers 84-55 on Saturday afternoon in the opening round of the 2014 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. The game was held in West Lafayette, Ind. at Mackey Arena. This was Akron's first NCAA Tournament game in program history, as well as their first-ever meeting with the Boilermakers.
Akron was in the bright lights of March Madness for the first time and played in a hostile environment against a physically-imposing group of players. The team badly needed to have some positive things happen early and stay close to Purdue, but that did not happen.
Purdue blasted Akron with a 20-2 start in less than five minutes. They made eight of their first 11 shots, including a trio of 3-pointers. They also gathered offensive rebounds after two of their three misses and converted both into scores. At the same time, the Zips missed six of their first seven shots and committed two turnovers. They managed no rebounds on offense and only one on defense. It was as nightmarish a start as you could possibly have.
To Akron's credit, they did not give up. In fact, as Purdue began missing some shots, the Zips used their transition game to push closer. Carly Young got Akron's offense going with a 3-pointer, and at the midpoint of the period, Hanna Luburgh and Rachel Tecca combined for five straight points to pull the Zips within 10 points (30-20).
The Zips continued to find ways to score for the remainder of the first half, and that kept the deficit within 10-15 points. However, they could never really find an answer to Purdue's offense and could not get closer than 10. Ultimately, the Boilermakers scored 46 in the first half and led by 12 at halftime.
The second half began with six straight points from Purdue. The Zips managed to get back to within 54-40 after three minutes had elapsed, but the Boilermakers ended any further questions by going on a 19-4 run over the next 10 minutes. Down by 29, the Zips played even for the final seven minutes of the game, and Purdue advanced with an 84-55 win.
After their poor start, the Zips shot 40 percent during the first half and made three of their eight three pointers. The second half, unfortunately, was a far different story. Akron made just six of their 29 shots (20.7%) and missed all 10 of their attempts from beyond the arc. Purdue, on the other hand, shot 53.7 percent from the floor overall and 65 percent in the second half. They made eight of their 20 shots from long range.
On the boards, Akron is normally very good, but they were out-rebounded 50-28 by Purdue. They did get 13 offensive rebounds, but Purdue pulled down 33 on defense. When roles were reversed, the Boilermakers earned offensive rebounds (17) on more than half of the possible opportunities. The Zips had just 15 rebounds on defense. This led to a 19-8 discrepancy in second-chance points.
Rachel Tecca had a generally positive game on offense with 18 points, but she managed just two rebounds. Meanwhile, Luburgh scored nine points but made only three of her 19 shots and one of eight 3-pointers. Kacie Cassell had a fantastic game from the point guard spot, as she dished out 11 assists and committed only three turnovers.
On Purdue's side, Whitney Bays came off the bench to earn a double-double. Her 20 points and 13 rebounds led all players in both categories. Courtney Moses and April Wilson each scored 12, and Wilson added nine assists. Dee Dee Williams added 11 points.
Akron ends their season with a 23-10 record, and the loss marks the end of the careers of Luburgh, Tecca, Young and Cassell. Purdue improves to 22-8 and will face #5 Oklahoma State on Monday afternoon in West Lafayette.