Monday, March 29, 1999

PURDUE 62, DUKE 45


Boilermakers rebound to win national title

The Associated Press

        SAN JOSE, Calif. — Purdue started the season with an eye-opening victory and ended it with its biggest one ever.

        Purdue, which beat defending three-time national champion Tennessee in its season opener, finished by winning its first title Sunday night with a 62-45 victory over Duke.

        The championship game wasn't always pretty and it even got a little scary when All-American Stephanie White-McCarty left writhing in pain with a sprained ankle and the game still hanging in balance.

        But the top-ranked Boilermakers (34-1), bouncing back from the worst half ever in an NCAA championship game, didn't buckle and finished with 32 straight victories.

        “I cannot think of a better moment in my life than right now,” Purdue coach Carolyn Peck said. “When the buzzer sounded, I immediately thought of those two seniors when they were in my office right after I was named head coach and them saying to me, "Coach, we can do this.' ”

        Purdue became a champion because those two seniors, Ukari Figgs and White-McCarty, who had gone through so many tough times early in their career, refused to get down after the team's terrible opening half.

        They were the driving force in a 12-1 second half run that pulled the Boilermakers from behind and put them ahead to stay.

        Figgs, scoreless in an 0-for-7 first half, had six points in the run and finished with 18 to earn the award as the outstanding player in the Final Four. White-McCarty had one basket and helped keep the team together before leaving with her injury.

        “I know I let my team down in the first half,” Figgs said. “I wasn't aggressive enough driving to the basket.

        I settled for too many outside shots and they weren't falling for me. I had 20 minutes to be a winner or a loser, and I wanted to go out a winner.”

        After its big run, Purdue made enough baskets and defensive stands down the stretch to keep Duke (29-7) at bay, even as White-McCarty sat out the final 4:01 after spraining her left ankle.

        “I told Stephanie that I was pulling for her, that we had been through this before, and we'll take care of business for her,” Figgs said.

        The loss ended an improbable run through the tournament by Duke, as well as any hope of a unique “double” for the Blue Devils' basketball program. The Duke men are favored in tonday night's men's championship game with Connecticut.

        The Duke women had earned their first Final Four trip by ending Tennessee's hopes for a fourth straight title, beating the Lady Vols in the East regional finals. But the Blue Devils' 45 points Sunday night were a season low and they shot only 32.7 percent.

        “Things that work usually didn't work tonight,” Duke's Georgia Schweitzer said. “You're going to have these nights. It's just unfortunate it had to happen tonight.”

        The championship was all the sweeter for White-McCarty and Figgs because of what they had endured early in their careers. They played for three coaches in their first three seasons at Purdue and saw their team ripped apart when coach Lin Dunn was fired following their freshman year in 1996.

        They were among just three players who stayed. Amazingly, two of those who left played for Duke Sunday night: Michele VanGorp and Nicole Erickson. VanGorp led Duke with 15.

        The combined 107 points were the fewest in a championship game.

Figgs steps to forefront
MARCH MADNESS PAGE


DUKE (45)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Browne          31  2-13   1-2   5-9  0  2    5
Schweitzer      18   0-3   0-0   0-4  1  3    0
Vangorp         32  7-10   1-2   2-5  0  4   15
Howard          35   3-7   0-0   0-3  2  2    9
Erickson        37   3-9   0-0   0-2  4  5    8
Parent          21   2-3   2-2   2-5  4  3    6
Rice            20   1-5   0-0   1-8  0  3    2
Black            1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Gingrich         5   0-5   0-0   0-0  1  1    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 18-55   4-6 10-36 12 23   45
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.327, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals: 5-21, .238 (Browne 0-1, Schweitzer 0-1, Vangorp 0-1, Howard 3-6, Erickson 2-6, Rice 0-4, Gingrich 0-2). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 2 (Vangorp, Rice). Turnovers: 20 (Schweitzer 6, Howard 4, Browne 3, Rice 3, Erickson 2, Vangorp 2). Steals: 2 (Rice, Vangorp).

PURDUE (62) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp White-mccarty 36 6-17 0-1 0-1 2 3 12 Duhart 37 2-3 1-2 2-5 2 3 5 Cooper 36 5-9 3-6 2-7 0 3 13 Figgs 40 5-15 8-9 0-3 1 1 18 Douglas 36 3-9 6-8 2-5 2 3 13 Crawford 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 Young 3 0-2 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 Komara 8 0-0 1-2 0-2 1 0 1 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 21-55 19-28 7-25 8 14 62 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.382, FT-.679. 3-Point Goals: 1-13, .077 (White-mccarty 0-4, Figgs 0-5, Douglas 1-3, Young 0-1). Team rebounds: 8. Blocked shots: 3 (Duhart, Cooper, Douglas). Turnovers: 8 (Figgs 5, Douglas 2, White-mccarty). Steals: 7 (Figgs 3, Duhart 2, Douglas, White-mccarty). __________________________________ Duke 22 23 - 45 Purdue 17 45 - 62 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 17,773. Officials: Bob Trammell, Melissa Barlow, Teresa Dahlem.