Rayburn's basket pushes Purdue past Penn State
Penn State didn't just get beat - the Nittany Lions got beat up.
Brittany Rayburn's driving layup with 1.4 seconds left gave No. 21 Purdue a 68-66 win over the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions in a Big Ten tournament semifinal.
Perhaps the most telling statistic: Purdue outrebounded Penn State 54-32.
"I mean, they just - they had all five people on the glass, and so it was difficult at times to get your hands on it (the ball)," Penn State forward Mia Nickson said. "They really keyed in on getting on the boards, and they did a great job of that tonight."
Rayburn finished with 14 points, while Courtney Moses scored 21 and Antionette Howard had 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for the Boilermakers (23-8).
Indianapolis native Alex Bentley led Penn State with 22 points, but she fouled out in the final minute. Nikki Greene scored 12 points and Nickson added nine points and 13 rebounds for the Nittany Lions (24-6), who had won eight straight.
Penn State still feels it has a great deal to look forward to.
"I just take my hat off to Purdue," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "They played a great game. And I'm really proud of our team. And we're going to go in the NCAA tournament and we're going to be confident and we're going to be a tough team to play, and our kids are going to go home and get rested up and get rejuvenated, and we're going to get ready to go and play in the NCAA tournament and play our best basketball."
Maggie Lucas, who scored 28 points in a regular-season win over Purdue, finished with nine. Washington said Purdue did a good job of guarding Lucas.
"They're a good team, defensive team," she said. "It was a struggle. I mean, I think both of us are pretty good defensive teams.
"And that's why it was a struggle all night long for either team, I felt, to get into a rhythm."
The Boilermakers advanced to play No. 24 Nebraska in the championship game Sunday. The Cornhuskers defeated No. 14 Ohio State 77-62 earlier on Saturday. Nebraska defeated Purdue 93-89 in three overtimes on Feb. 2.
Bentley fouled out after pushing Rayburn on a rebound with 43.4 seconds left and Purdue leading 64-61. Her foul sent Rayburn to the line, and she drained both free throws to push Purdue's lead to five points.
Lucas, forced to play point guard after Bentley fouled out, found Greene on the left baseline for a layup, and Greene was fouled on the shot with 31.4 seconds left. She made the free throw to cut Purdue's advantage to 66-64.
Purdue turned the ball over and gave Penn State possession with 30 seconds to play.
Lucas found Greene again, this time on the right baseline, and her basket tied it with 20 seconds to play.
Purdue led 35-34 at halftime despite Rayburn, the team's leading scorer for the season, playing just eight minutes because she had two fouls. Bentley scored 15 points in the first half on 6-for-10 shooting, but her teammates shot just 8 for 23.
Purdue created a little space early in the second half. A layup by Moses, a putback by Sam Ostarello and a pair of free throws by Rayburn increased Purdue's lead to 42-36.
Penn State rallied to cut the lead to 42-41, but Rayburn hit a 3-pointer and Howard scored in close to push Purdue's lead back out to six and force Penn State to call timeout.
Zhaque Gray's 3-pointer cut Purdue's lead to 49-48, and Penn State finally took the lead on a pair of free throws by Greene, but by then, Bentley had picked up her fourth foul, adding intrigue to the final seven minutes.
"Sometimes you play as hard as you can, you do everything you can, and you lose," Washington said. "And that doesn't mean you're a loser. And that doesn't mean you need to hang your head."
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