There 's just something about third seeds and Big Ten tournament semifinal games that sits well with Purdue's women's basketball team.
Senior forward Sam Ostarello scored 18 points and had 9 rebounds, while junior guard Courtney Moses scored 16 points and junior guard KK Houser added 13 as the defending conference tournament champion Boilermakers downed No. 2 seed Nebraska 77-64 in Saturday's first semifinal at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.
Purdue (23-8), with no players selected to either the first or second team all-conference, will battle No. 4 seed Michigan State, which upset top-seeded Penn State 54-46 in the second semifinal, at 3 p.m. Sunday for the tournament championship. The Boilermakers will be seeking their conference-best ninth Big Ten tournament title.
"We knew it would be a very tough game but today, collectively, was one of the best games we've played this year," said Purdue coach Sharon Versyp. "Our defense in the first half was a big key to our success today."
This was the fifth time Purdue has been a No. 3 seed and the fifth time the Boilermakers advanced to the title game from that position as well as the 13th time in 19 tournaments that they'll play in the championship game.
"I'm not sure it's the seed," Versyp said. "It's a group of young women at Purdue that have a lot of tradition."
Purdue created some separation to a fast-paced first half when Moses and Houser hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Houser's coming with 7:30 left to give Purdue a 28-21 lead. The Boilermakers, who went on a 22-10 run after trailing 22-21, extended their lead to 42-31 by halftime and led by as many as 18 in the second half.
"It was kind of helter-skelter and both teams were pushing the tempo," Versyp said. "We had to settle down and knock down some shots and that was huge to knock those down."
Purdue was 26-for-59 shooting, and made 20 of 22 free throws. Houser added 8 rebounds, 6 steals and 5 assists and freshman Taylor Manuel had 11 points. Purdue scored 17 points off 14 Nebraska turnovers and the Boilermakers outrebounded Nebraska 40-33.
"Defensively we really picked up the intensity," said Moses. "We got a couple steals and had some transition baskets."
No. 21 Nebraska, in its second year in the Big Ten, closes out the regular season 23-8 and would appear to be a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid. Senior Lindsey Moore led the Cornhuskers with 22 points and 8 assists, while junior Jordan Hooper added 15 points and 8 rebounds.
"Purdue played really well," said Nebraska coach Connie Yori. "They had a lot of the facets of their game going today. The two elephants, rebounding and turnovers, we didn't take care of either today."