Liberty-Purdue Preview

The Associated Press

Purdue has already made one impressive tournament run this season, and it will try to begin another Sunday in Louisville.

The fourth-seeded Boilermakers take on No. 13 seed Liberty in the first round of the NCAA tournament, with the winner potentially facing host Louisville on Tuesday.

Ranked No. 21 in the AP poll, Purdue (24-8) is coming off a Big Ten tournament in which it won each game by at least 12 points in grabbing a second straight championship. The Boilermakers had a much easier time than last season, when they beat Nebraska in double overtime in the final.

They followed the 2012 conference tournament title by winning the program's 15th straight first-round NCAA game, but lost the next one to South Carolina. The 1999 national champions will be looking to make a deeper run this season.

"I feel like playing in the Big Ten, we've been prepared all year," Purdue senior forward Drey Mingo said. "We know they're going to come in and be really physical with us. We've been preparing for that."

Liberty, which leads the nation in rebounding differential at plus-17.5 per game, has become an NCAA regular in its 15th appearance. This will be the first time the Lady Flames (27-6) have played a Big Ten team since 2005, when as a No. 13 seed they upset Penn State en route to the regional semifinals.

This season's team has won 14 straight, rolling to Big South regular-season and tournament titles. The Lady Flames have plenty of size, with coach Carey Green bringing 6-foot-5 Katelyn Adams and 6-4 Ashley Rininger off the bench.

Both teams are expecting a grinding game.

"We're ready to push back," said Tolu Omotola, Liberty's 6-3 senior post player and second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game.

Senior Devon Brown leads the team with 16.3 points per contest, and has totaled 40 in two career games in the NCAA tournament. She is 20 points shy of 2,000 for her career.

Purdue also likes to play offense, and the Boilermakers do it well. They rank 27th nationally at 43.4 percent from the field and 10th at 77.3 percent from the free-throw line.

Courtney Moses leads the way in averaging 13.3 points, with Mingo close behind at 12.6. Senior Sam Ostarello figures to be key on the glass, and she's nearly averaging a double-double with 9.7 points and 9.8 boards.

Along with rebounding, Liberty plays stingy defense, pressing at times along with plenty of zone.

"We've just to be in that attack mode," Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "I think that's the biggest thing. We can't just settle for outside shots."

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