WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Two months ago, Purdue had a losing record. Now, the Boilermakers are heading to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Kalika France and FahKara Malone scored 17 points each, and ninth-seeded Purdue beat No. 8 Utah 66-59 on Sunday night in the first round of the Oklahoma City regional.Danielle Campbell added 14 points for the Boilermakers (19-14), who next will play top-seeded Tennessee.France, who averages eight points, had 12 in the first half."I just realized we weren't being aggressive, or as aggressive as we can be," she said. "I felt like in the first half, we weren't giving the effort we needed to win."France was named to the Big Ten all-tournament team after similar performances. Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said France has consistently improved throughout the season."When you're successful and you knock down shots and teammates keep telling you to shoot the ball, and she's doing it well, that helps," Versyp said. "She's also a senior and she doesn't want her season to end."Leilani Mitchell had 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Utah, but also had seven turnovers. Morgan Warburton led the Utes (27-5) with 18 points, and Kalee Whipple added 14 points and nine rebounds in a game that featured 11 ties and 15 lead changes.Purdue had lost four of six before winning three straight in the Big Ten tournament to earn the conference's automatic bid. The Boilermakers improved to 12-3 at home in their first-ever meeting with Utah."Everybody's better at home," Utah coach Elaine Elliott said. "They had an opportunity, and they took advantage of it."The Utes had won 22 straight before losing to Colorado State in the Mountain West tournament, and then losing to Purdue. Elliott said the loss took nothing away from her team's success this season."I'm not going to let people talk about the Colorado State game and this game as a measure of anything," she said. "It isn't."The Boilermakers made seven of 14 3-pointers to overcome Utah's 35-27 rebounding edge. Natasha Bogdanova hit four of six 3-pointers and scored 12 points.Purdue shot 54 percent in the second half after speeding the game up a bit."The first half was not our type of tempo, but the second half we started changing the tempo," Versyp said. "I think that's what allowed us to win at the end."With the score tied at 52, Purdue went on a 6-0 run capped by Campbell's layup with 4:23 left. Bodganova's 3-pointer with a minute to play gave Purdue a 63-55 advantage, and the Boilermakers weren't challenged from there.Utah led 17-14 in the first half before Purdue went on an 11-0 run that included four baskets by France to take a 23-17 lead.Utah responded with a 7-0 run, with all points scored by Warburton, to take a 26-25 lead. The Utes led 29-28 at halftime.Utah shot 52 percent in the first half, but that dipped to 36 percent in the second half. Warburton said the Utes did everything right except make baskets."It's a little frustrating when you execute the game plan," she said. "We didn't get some calls, and a lot of shots didn't fall."