7:00 PM ET, November 18, 2005
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Jodi Howell was so emotional she could hardly talk.The Purdue freshman made her college debut in front of her parents and many of her friends from her hometown of Alexandria on Friday night, leading the Boilermakers (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today; No. 19 AP) to an 85-59 victory over Butler."I was so excited. I've been ready for this for three years," she said after scoring 14 points in 23 minutes off the bench.After that, she had to catch herself to keep from crying."I can't talk right now. There are too many emotions," said Howell, who was Indiana's high school Miss Basketball last season.The 5-foot-11 guard missed only one shot, hit all three of her 3-point attempts and all five of her free throws. She also had two rebounds and a steal."It was like a flashback from high school," said Howell, who led the state in scoring at almost 29 points a game last year when her father, Jon Howell, was the Alexandria coach. He resigned so he could watch his daughter play in college, and the new Alexandria coach is Josh Closser, whose younger sister Jackie plays for Butler and is Jodi Howell's best friend."I knew she was going to play like that," Jackie Closser said of her former high school teammate. "Coming from the same hometown, I knew a lot of people would be there and I knew she'd be hyped about that."I told my teammates to get out on her. She's a shooter," Closser said.Howell scored nine of her 14 points during a 28-5 first-half run that put Purdue in control. Aya Traore also had 14 points, and Erin Lawless added 12 for the Boilermakers (1-0). Ellen Hamilton led Butler (0-1) with 19 points and Closser added 10."This was special for her," Purdue coach Kristy Curry said of Howell's debut. "It was hard to play but Jodi was fired up. She's going to be a very good player.".Howell took over midway through the first half when the Boilermakers began pulling away from the Bulldogs with ease.She was fouled on her first shot, a 3-point attempt, and made all three free throws to give Purdue a 23-9 lead. Then, after a fastbreak basket by Closser, the Bulldogs managed only three free throws over the next 6 minutes.Howell hit two 3-pointers during that span, the second one starting a 15-0 run that gave Purdue its biggest lead of the half at 43-14. Candace Bain and Hamilton hit 3-pointers for Butler in the closing minutes of the half, but Katie Gearlds scored a basket and Howell finished the period with two more free throws for a 47-20 lead at the break.Five of Butler's first eight baskets of the second half were 3-pointers, including four by Hamilton, and the Bulldogs cut the lead to 20 points before another 3-pointer by Howell with 4 minutes to go."In the first half, we were playing a lot of young kids, and it showed," Butler coach Beth Couture said. "We definitely missed defensive assignments. In the second half, we competed and that's what we wanted to do."Obviously, we're not happy, but we felt like we accomplished some things."
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