When Purdue and Oral Roberts met in the NCAA tournament eight years ago, the Boilermakers went on to win a national championship.
Second-seeded Purdue (28-5) hopes history repeats itself when it faces the No. 15 Golden Eagles in Minneapolis on Saturday in the first round.
The Boilermakers finished this season on an impressive run, winning seven straight and upsetting Big Ten regular season champion Ohio State 64-52 in the Big Ten tournament final.
“This group has done such great things,” first-year coach Sharon Versyp said. “We’re playing exceptionally well. … We’re really happy to be going to Minneapolis. I think our fans are going to be able to get there, which is very important.”
With a nearly two-week layoff since the victory over the Buckeyes, Versyp and the Purdue players admitted concern over the possibility of being rusty going into the tournament. The coach has tried to avoid that by working the Boilermakers even harder in practice this week than during the regular season.
“We’re working on all the little things, the drills, the conditioning, the things you kind of get away from when you’re playing in season,” forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton said.
“We had to get through it and get our bodies back in shape. It was good for our team, and I think were at a good stage right now to play well.”
Wisdom-Hylton is Purdue’s second-leading scorer at 14.4 points per game and leads the Boilermakers with 8.1 rebounds a contest. Katie Gearlds averages a team-leading 18.5 points and is a finalist for the Wade Trophy, given to the top player in women’s Division I basketball.
This is the Boilermakers’ 18th NCAA tournament appearance and the fourth time in the last five years they have received a No. 2 seed.
Purdue was a top seed in 1999, and drew Oral Roberts as its opening-round opponent. The Boilermakers won 68-48 and rolled to the NCAA championship, winning each of their games by double figures.
The Golden Eagles (22-10) earned their fourth tournament appearance by beating Oakland 72-55 in the Mid-Continent Conference tournament final. Coach Jerry Finkbeiner, though, knows that accomplishment might not mean much as Oral Roberts prepares to face yet another heavily favored Purdue squad.
“Things are relative,” Finkbeiner said. “We had a good year at our level. Now it’s like a David and Goliath scenario all over again. That’s what gives March Madness its name. We are realistic in our preparation, that it will be a matchup nightmare.”
This Golden Eagles have been bounced in the first round in each of their four NCAA appearances, most recently by Texas in 2005.
“We have achieved our national championship,” Finkbeiner said of the conference tournament title. “The pressure of one-and-done and (having only) one automatic (bid), that puts a lot of pressure on girls and our staff.
“The next step is icing. We’ll try to do something an ORU team has never done.”
The Golden Eagles are led by Elisha Turek, the conference player of the year. She was the only player in the MCC to average a double-double at 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Jenny Hardin ranks second on the team in scoring (16.0) and rebounding (5.7).
Saturday’s meeting will be the second between Oral Roberts and Purdue. The winner will face Georgia Tech or DePaul on Monday.