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Purdue mashes Minnesota to stay atop Big Ten

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Purdue got physical and Minnesota
paid the price.

Aya Traore scored 22 points and the No. 10 Boilermakers used a
23-0 run spanning halftime to beat the 11th-ranked Gophers 63-31
Sunday and remain in first place in the Big Ten. It was Minnesota's
worst conference loss in six years.

"In the second half, we were very, very aggressive," Purdue's
Katie Gearlds said. "We had the lead (in the first half) but we
weren't playing our best basketball.

"It's so hard to put into words," she said, trying to explain
the turnaround after halftime. "We just dominated in the second
half."

The Boilermakers (20-3, 11-1) led only 22-21 with less than 2
minutes left in the first half but scored the final three points of
the period and the first 20 after the break, turning a close game
into a rout.

Minnesota's physical play -- Purdue guard Cherelle George was
decked on a hard screen at one point in the first half -- made the
Boilermakers play even harder, too, Gearlds said.

"We knew it was going to be rough. They're very strong, but our
post players did a great job."

Minnesota (17-6, 9-3), which came in just one game behind Purdue
and Ohio State in the conference race, had four turnovers and
missed its first nine shots of the second half before Shannon
Bolden hit a 3-pointer with 11:50 to go. By that time, however,
Purdue had taken a 45-21 lead and the Gophers never recovered.

"Without a doubt, we had a lot more presence defensively,"
Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. "We really challenged them at
halftime. ... We weren't physical enough on the boards, and they
accepted the challenge.

"Anybody that's ever questioned our toughness, ever questioned
our killer instinct, finally I think we're understanding what
that's about. Aya's a matchup problem for anyone. She was
aggressive in the second half and took over the game."

Traore had eight points and Gearlds had seven of her 14 points
during Purdue's spurt in the second half, when Minnesota scored
just 10 points. The Gophers' 31 points for the game were their
fewest since an 82-30 loss to Penn State in 2000.

"I don't think you could ever make me believe that we would be
able to do that," Curry said.

Traore also led Purdue with 19 points in an overtime win at
Minnesota last month. She was the most consistent player for the
Boilermakers in a close first half of the rematch, when the Gophers
couldn't hold an early lead.

"We played a decent first half," Minnesota coach Pam Borton
said. "The defense kept us in the game. But in the second half,
Traore scored a quick basket, we had a turnover and then it
snowballed from there. You know teams are going to go on runs and
you've got to be able to sustain those runs, and we couldn't."

Neither team led by more than four points in the opening period,
and there were five lead changes and four ties before two straight
baskets by Traore put Purdue in front for good and gave the
Boilermakers a 22-18 lead with under 4 minutes remaining.

That was Purdue's last field goal of the period, but it didn't
matter.

Minnesota cut the lead to one point with a free throw by Natasha
Williams and basket by Shannon Schonrock with 1:46 before halftime.

Purdue's Lindsay Wisdon-Hylton then hit one of two free throws
to start the Boilermakers' long scoring run. George added two foul
shots with a minute left to push the lead to 25-21 at the break,
and Traore scored the first two baskets of the final period.

"We tried to post up their smaller guards. That was part of our
game plan," Traore said. "They were very physical. We were just
trying to keep focused, keep our composure."

Minnesota's only baskets in the first 17 minutes of the second
half were on 3s by Bolden and Lauren Lacey, and the final basket by
Natasha Bogdanova with 4 seconds to go gave Purdue its biggest lead
of the game.

"They came out strong and we couldn't weather the storm," said
Bolden, who led the Gophers with 10 points.

"We got down on ourselves and couldn't fight back."

Minnesota hit just 3-of-23 shots in the second half and finished
with a season-low 24 percent shooting.

"This wasn't our Minnesota basketball team you saw tonight,"
said Schonrock.

Jamie Broback, who had averaged 22 points over the past five
games, was held to four points.