KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Purdue's 16 wins were the fewest for an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament. No matter, the Boilermakers belong in postseason play.
Erin Lawless had 22 points and No. 9 seed Purdue used its height advantage to defeat eighth-seeded New Mexico 68-56 on Sunday night in the first round of the Philadelphia Regional.Trailing by one midway through the second half, Purdue went on a 13-2 run that included five points by Lawless and a 3-pointer by Katie Gearlds to make it 55-45 with 6:26 to play.New Mexico's Mandi Moore, who finished with 18, made a layup and a 3-pointer to make it 55-50. But Purdue answered with eight straight points as the Boilermakers took a 63-50 lead off consecutive baskets by Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton with 3:04 left to seal the victory.Wisdom-Hylton finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Gearlds scored 16 points.The difference in the teams' style of play was never more apparent than at the free-throw line. Purdue went 15-of-21, while New Mexico's first attempt was taken with 2:38 left in the game. The Lobos finished 2-of-2.New Mexico (26-5), making its fourth straight NCAA appearance, felt it deserved a higher seed after winning the Mountain West Conference and finishing seven votes shy of the Top 25.But the Lobos couldn't handle Purdue's height advantage. New Mexico mixed traps and zone defenses, but it only slowed the Boilermakers' ability to score inside.In one sequence, the 6-foot-2 Lawless found Wisdom-Hylton on the baseline for an easy basket. On Purdue's next possession, the 6-2 Wisdom-Hylton made a similar pass to Gearlds to cap a 10-0 run in the first half.Moore kept New Mexico close throughout, and Judy Vogt's bank shot just before the buzzer tied it at 29 at the half.It's the first year that Purdue coach Kristy Curry hasn't won at least 20 games in her six seasons. Purdue, appearing in the tournament for the 12th straight year, would have to make the Final Four to keep Curry's streak alive.Only Illinois State, a No. 15 seed eliminated Saturday, had fewer wins (13) than the Boilermakers to begin the NCAA Tournament.