WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.: The University of Akron women’s basketball team opened its first NCAA Tournament game by hitting 1-of-7 of its first shots against Purdue, helping the Boilermakers to take a 20-2 lead on Saturday.
Although the Zips cut the lead to 10 at one point, they couldn’t get over that large hump and lost to Purdue 84-55, ending a memorable season.
The Zips (23-10) were unable to maintain the momentum they gained as they closed the first half, when they went into the locker room down 46-34.
Zips guard Hanna Luburgh struggled to score under defensive pressure from guards Dee Dee Williams and Bridget Perry, hitting 1-of-9 shots in the first half.
“I thought there was no way I could shoot this bad going into the second half and I thought the same thing of everybody else,” Luburgh said. “We have great 3-point shooters. We’re going to start hitting. It’s going to be fine.”
It wasn’t. Luburgh went on to shoot 3-of-19 for the game.
“They were face guarding me every time and I think that’s difficult for me. I didn’t shoot the ball well and I didn’t have many great looks either, I don’t think,” she said.
She scored nine points. Her teammates missed her scoring and that energy she provides as part of the overall offensive flow. Wherever she went, someone got in her face, making good shots difficult to come by for most of the game.
“She’s not used to going against kids that long and that tall,” UA coach Jodi Kest said. “She’s normally able to jump over everybody. Then when she finally did have a lot of good looks, I think she got a little frustrated at times and started to fade away.”
Luburgh’s struggles by no means represented all of UA’s problems.
Consider that the Boilermakers (22-8) crushed the Zips on the boards 50-28 and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds to the Zips’ 14, scoring 19 second-chance points off of them. The real damage came in limiting UA’s transition offense.
“We didn’t rebound too well today,” said forward Rachel Tecca, the Zips’ leading scorer with 18 points. “We did have a few opportunities, but they rebounded a lot better than us. They are more physical, taller and I think we just struggled with that.”
Purdue opened the second half scoring the first four points, and from there the Zips did very little to counter an offense that worked in almost every facet of the game.
The Boilermakers shot 52 percent from the floor overall and 40 percent from the 3-point line. They moved the ball almost at will, producing 27 assists in the game. The one weakness Purdue showed the Zips couldn’t capitalize upon.
At halftime, the Zips looked and played as if they had the momentum after chipping away at the lead. And they had every reason to be hopeful as the Boilermakers coughed up 12 second-half turnovers, including four consecutive at one point that might have swayed momentum.
It went for naught.
“We needed stops and we were starting to get that, we just weren’t converting on the other end,” Luburgh said.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.