Although Senior Day has already passed for the Purdue women’s basketball team, the senior Boilers will play their final game in Mackey Arena tonight during the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I think our band I amazing and our fans are amazing,” senior guard Brittany Rayburn said. “We come out of the tunnel and you can hear them, the uproar they bring … As seniors, I think we are both excited to be able to play again in the NCAA Tournament and to finish out the year playing at home and hopefully push farther in the tournament.”
The 4-seed Purdue team (25-8) will face 5-seed South Carolina (24-9) this evening in a matchup between two defense-heavy squads.
The Boilers have held opponents to a school record-low 35.3 percent shooting from the field this season and limits opponents to an average of 58 points per game.
According to Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp, although both teams are focused on the defensive end the Boilers have drastically improved their offense during postseason play.
“Both offenses have said they have been inconsistent throughout the year, but I think ours has really picked up over the last two, three weeks,” Versyp said. “I think it’s going to be a battle of defense, a battle of the boards and transition defense.”
South Carolina is the nation’s top 3-point defender, holding opponents to 21 percent from behind the arc. During the first round of the tournament Purdue made 11 of 22 shots from long distance to seal a 83-68 win over 13-seed South Dakota State.
“Purdue has some very skilled players and they are pretty much a machine when it comes to offense,” South Carolina head coach Staley said. “I think that what has been our main objective all season long is to disrupt what (shooters) are trying to do. I’m very comfortable with the amount of ball pressure we exert on basketball teams.”
The South Carolina Gamecocks defeated 12-seed Eastern Michigan 80-48 Saturday morning in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the team’s highest score all season.
According to South Carolina senior guard La’Keisha Sutton, the team’s offensive success gives the Gamecocks some confidence for Monday’s game, which may ward off some of the inconsistency that the team has battled throughout the season.
“It’s a huge confidence boost because we hit shots (against Eastern Michigan) and were able to score easy in transition,” Sutton said. “Just knowing that we were able to hit shots, we are going to go and do the same thing on Monday … We are confident that we’ll make the same kind of shots.”
Purdue holds a 2-0 record over South Carolina, both at neutral sites, during the 2005 Grand Bahama Junkanoo Jam and in 2000 to win the Torneo Cancun de Basquetbol tournament.
The Gamecocks have not advanced past to the Sweet 16 since 2002, and are looking to make the jump by overtaking the Boilers. Last year Purdue didn’t make it out of the second round, falling to then-top ranked Connecticut.
If the Boilers win Monday night, they will travel to Fresno, Calif. to face either 1-seed Stanford or 8-seed West Virginia on Saturday.