Saturday, March 27, 1999

Championship game will look like intrasquad scrimmage

Erickson, VanGorp left Purdue for Duke 3 years ago

The Associated Press

        SAN JOSE, Calif. — The women's national championship game Sunday night will look an awful lot like a Purdue intrasquad scrimmage from three years ago.

        Nicole Erickson and Michele VanGorp, who combined for 42 points to lead Duke into the title game with an 81-69 victory over Georgia in Friday night's semifinals, started their college careers at Purdue.

        In the title game, they'll be facing former teammates Stephanie White-McCarty and Ukari Figgs, who led Purdue to a 77-63 win over Louisiana Tech in the other semifinal. Figgs had 24 points and White-McCarty had 17 in the win.

        Erickson and VanGorp left Purdue in 1996 after their sophomore season, in which the Boilermakers reached the NCAA regional final. They traveled together, looking at schools around the southeast, before deciding to transfer to Duke — where they are roommates and close friends.

        The Blue Devils stars left Purdue when the Boilermakers were going through an unheaval that tore the team apart. It resulted in the firing of coach Lin Dunn and an NCAA investigation that resulted in minor sanctions.

        Erickson said Duke coach Gail Goestenkors, who had moved to Duke from an assistant's job at Purdue in 1992, was the reason she and VanGorp became Blue Devils.

        “Coach G was the reason,” she said. “We just felt we could trust her, and trust was a huge issue for us at that point.”

        Erickson and VanGorp tried to downplay the significance of playing their former team in Sunday's final.

        “I don't have any hard feelings for Purdue. Everyone wants to beat this dead horse,” VanGorp said. “I feel happy for Stephanie, I feel happy for Ukari. It's exciting. I'm not going to fuel the fire. There's no fire there to fuel.”

        Erickson, who had 22 points to lead the Blue Devils' semifinal victory, said she would have been just as excited to face Louisiana Tech.

        “We haven't been focusing on Purdue too much,” she said. “It's good for them that they're here, but that's not really our focus. They're just somebody we would have to beat to win a national championship.”

        The teammates they left behind shared that sense of not focusing on the personal con nections between the present and former Purdue players.

        “We're just going to approach it like any other game,” White-McCarty said. “We've got to play Duke, we're not just playing those two players.”