Monday, March 29, 1999

Figgs steps to forefront

Scoreless in 1st half, she has 18 in second

The Associated Press

        SAN JOSE, Calif. — Purdue's Ukari Figgs wasn't about to let it end this way. After failing to score a point in the first half, she came out in the second to make sure the Boilermakers got their national championship.

        “I knew I had 20 minutes to be a winner or a loser,” Figgs said after an 18-point second-half performance. “I don't like being a loser.”

        Figgs has played most of her collegiate career in the shadow of fellow guard and Indiana star Stephanie White-McCarty. She certainly continued that in the first half against Duke.

        The senior guard went 0-for-7 from the floor and the shortcoming reflected on her entire team. The Boilermakers trailed 22-17 at the half.

        She scored her first basket 17 seconds into the second half. Less than a minute later, she scored again, bringing Purdue within 22-21. The Boilermakers wrestled for the lead, but didn't take it until Figgs' driving layup at 12:57 made it 32-30.

        Along with that go-ahead basket, Figgs had eight points as Purdue went on a 12-4 run to extend the lead to 42-34. The Boilermakers easily led the rest of the way.

        When Figgs finally caught fire, White-McCarty casually held out her hand as she passed by her best friend during a lull in play. Figgs hit it, and each smiled. The Boilermakers were making their big move.

        Figgs and White-McCarty capped their college careers with a 62-45 victory over Duke for the national title.

        “I thought earlier in the first half she was looking for a shot a little bit, but she was going to figure the game out,” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said of Figgs. “She used her quickness, her speed, her athleticism and got to the basket.”

        White-McCarty and Figgs form what has been called the best women's backcourt in the country. Figgs quietly and competently played her game, while White-McCarty grabbed a lot of the attention in her home state — leading many of their teammates to call Figgs Purdue's unsung hero.

        Figgs proved her worth during the Final Four. Against Louisiana Tech in the semifinals, Figgs scored 24 points, 18 in the first half. She also had 10 rebounds and went 5-of-7 on 3-pointers.