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Rayburn's lay-up leads Purdue women past IU

Friday, March 6, 2009

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Freshman Brittany Rayburn needed a little time to figure out how things worked at Purdue.

Two more months in the system have done wonders for her play and her confidence.

Rayburn scored the last of her 19 points on a breakaway layup with 34.8 seconds left Friday, leading Purdue to a 68-64 victory over Indiana in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

It was a complete role reversal for Rayburn, who struggled mightily as the point guard in Bloomington and sometimes seemed lost on the court.

Now she seems to have it all down.

"I was more composed. It's been a long season and I feel we've grown as a team," she said. "I feel more comfortable with who I'm playing with, and I think they feel more comfortable with me. We just played more together as a team."

Rayburn did have the usual help from her more experienced teammates.

Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton finished with a stat line most players only dream of: 17 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. She also hit two free throws with 2.3 seconds left to clinch it.

Lakisha Freeman, who beat the buzzer for the wining shot in last year's championship game, came up big again in the closing seconds Friday. After scoring 14 points, her only block of the game freed up Rayburn on the decisive layup.

And Rayburn demonstrated her newfound acumen by confidently spotting up for long-range shots, even using a head fake to get open for a 3-pointer in the second half.

The combination was enough to survive, barely, and give Purdue (21-9) its customary ticket in Saturday's semifinals.

"We told her (Rayburn) 'If you're in rhythm, shoot the 3,"' Boilermakers coach Sharon Versyp said. "She's matured so much in the minutes she's played, she just knew what she needed to do."

The third-seeded Boilermakers, the defending tourney champs, now face surprising Wisconsin. The Badgers (18-13) upset Michigan State 56-50 for their first trip to the semifinals since 2002.

For Indiana (19-10) their postseason fate now rests in the hands of the NCAA tournament selection committee.

The Hoosiers figured a win Friday would be enough to secure their first NCAA bid since 2002, but their gritty performance fell just short.

Jamie Braun led the Hoosiers with 18 points and seven rebounds but was blocked by Freeman on the 5-foot runner that led to Rayburn's basket. Kim Roberson had 13 points and six steals for the second straight day but missed a 3-pointer that would have given Indiana the lead, and Braun fouled Wisdom-Hylton on the rebound with 2.3 seconds to go.

"The pain is pretty insurmountable," Amber Jackson said after scoring 13 points for the Hoosiers. "Playing in Indiana, playing against Purdue, that's the one game you don't ever want to lose, especially on a stage like this."

Indiana looked like it would have much more than a chance when the game started.

The Hoosiers connected on 13 of their first 21 shots and led by as much as 32-18 in the first half.

Slowly, the Boilermakers chiseled away, getting within 36-35 at the half and taking the lead when FahKara Malone opened the second half with a 3.

Indiana answered with six straight points to retake the lead, which it maintained for most of the next 10 minutes.

That's when Rayburn changed things.

She broke a 52-52 tie with a 3-pointer from the right wing. Freeman followed that with a 15-footer from virtually the same spot she tried to win last year's championship game.

Again, though, Indiana rallied. Braun's 3 and Whitney Thomas' two free throws tied it again with 5:49 left, setting up a wild finish.

The teams traded leads and ties the rest of the way, neither school ever leading by more than two points -- until Freeman's block, Rayburn's sprint and Wisdom-Hylton's free throws.

"She saw I secured the rebound and just took off," Wisdom-Hylton said. "I wanted to make sure I made a good pass and not turn the ball over, and she did the job finishing it."



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