Last year, Purdue's Drey Mingo had to watch from the bench in street clothes as her teammates won the Big Ten women's basketball tournament championship while she recovered from an ACL injury.
On Sunday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Mingo more than made up for lost time.
Mingo, Purdue's 6-foot-2 graduate student forward, scored 24 points on 10 of 11 shooting and pulled down 8 rebounds as the third-seeded Boilermakers won their second straight tournament title, beating Michigan State 62-47. It is Purdue's conference-record ninth tournament crown.
"Drey Mingo was amazing today, absolutely amazing," said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant.
Purdue (24-8) was able to find Mingo, who was named the tournament's most outstanding player, in the paint time after time all game long. By the end of the first half she had equaled Michigan State's point total as Purdue rolled out to a 33-14 lead. Purdue made its first eight shots and went 23 of 47 for the game as Mingo set a tournament title game record for field goal percentage. Purdue led by as much as 23 in the first half.
"It feels amazing," Mingo said of the championship. "I'll never forget, coach V (Sharon Versyp) looked in my face last year after we won and said, 'We will get back," and I'm so happy we did. My teammates kept giving me the ball and I just tried to finish for them. Michigan State is a great team. They're aggressive and physical and we knew we were going to have to dig our feet in early and get off to a good start."
"Drey was awesome tonight," said Purdue junior all-tournament guard KK Houser. "She just came out with so much energy and fire. I wouldn't have wanted to play against her."
For the second straight game fourth-seeded Michigan State (24-8) struggled in the first half, making just 7 of 32 shot attempts and missing numerous layups.
"We're not going to make excuses," Merchant said. "We played badly. We were not very sharp and Drey Mingo ... she had 14 points at halftime and we had 14 for crying out loud."
The Spartans, playing in their second Big Ten tournament title game and first since 2005, did make a comeback in the second half and drew to within nine, 46-37, on 2 free throws from sophomore Becca Mills with 5:40 left in the game. But all-tournament junior guard Courtney Moses hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the second coming off one of Michigan State's 18 turnovers, to make it a 52-37 game with 4:46 left.
The Spartans didn't get closer than 12 the rest of the way as Purdue posted the largest margin of victory in a title game in the 19 years of the tournament and held Michigan State to the lowest point total of any losing team in title game history. Versyp joined Ohio State coach Jim Foster as the only Big Ten coaches to win four tournament titles.
"There were a lot of doubters and a lot of underestimators but we did it again," said Versyp, whose team rebounded from a 2-5 month of February. "I'm just real proud of our team. They had a different level of energy. We wanted to come here and win the Big Ten championship and I couldn't be prouder of a group."
Moses added 16 points for the Boilermakers, while Houser had 10. Senior all-tournament guard Jasmine Thomas led Michigan State with 15 points and 7 rebounds, while Whitney Young product Kiana Johnson added 11 points and 4 assists for the Spartans.
"It's disappointing," said Merchant, whose team upset top seed Penn State Saturday night. "That wasn't the team that showed up here the last two days."
The attendance for Sunday's game at Sears Centre was 4,739.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.