Gearlds helps Versyp win coaching debut with Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Katie Gearlds scored 24 points and Sharon Versyp won her Purdue coaching debut as the Boilermakers (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) beat Belmont 67-43 Thursday night in the first round of the preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament.

Versyp, a former all-Big Ten player for the Boilermakers, coached at Indiana last season before returning to West Lafayette.

Erin Lawless added 15 points and eight rebounds for Purdue in the regular-season opener for both teams.

Jessica Bobbitt led Belmont with 15 points and 14 rebounds, but Alysha Clark was held to eight points. Clark averaged 20 points last season and was the Atlantic Sun Conference's Player of the Year.

Belmont entered the season with high expectations after reaching the postseason WNIT last season, but Purdue, one of the nation's top defensive teams, pressed and harassed Belmont into 18 turnovers and 23 percent shooting.

Gearlds made three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points in the first half. The Boilermakers held the Bruins to 21 percent shooting and held Clark scoreless in the first half to take a 36-20 lead into the break.

Belmont opened the second half on a 7-0 run, with all three baskets coming on putbacks by Bobbitt, before Purdue called timeout.

Purdue came out of the timeout and matched Belmont's run. Jodi Howell's 3-pointer gave Purdue a 43-27 lead, and Purdue never led by fewer than 13 points the rest of the way.