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Monday, Mar. 26 8:07pm ET
Purdue returns to the Final Four


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Katie Douglas, Kelly Komara and Camille Cooper are going back to the Final Four. Xavier's remarkable postseason ride is over.

With Purdue's starting point guard watching from the bench, the Boilermakers got strong games from the three Final Four veterans to end Xavier's tournament run with an 88-78 victory Monday night.

Kelly Komara
Kelly Komara (3) of Mideast Regional champion Purdue is returning to the Final Four for the second time.

Komara played a superb game filling in for injured point guard Erika Valek and Douglas hit two critical 3-pointers while battling through an off night shooting, then secured the victory in the Mideast Regional final with near-perfect free-throw shooting.

"Kelly Komara was huge for us," Douglas said. "Just talking to Kelly before the game, she was ready to play. She provided a huge spark for us. Thank God she was there in the first half because I sure wasn't."

Komara, selected the regional's outstanding player, was forced to move from shooting guard to the point after Valek tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee while Purdue (30-6) was beating Texas Tech on Saturday.

She responded with 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting, five assists and four steals.

"I think my game relies a lot on confidence," said Komara, who scored 14 points in the first half. "If I start fast, the game just flows."

Douglas, Komara and Cooper all played on the Purdue team that won the 1999 national championship. They'll lead the Boilermakers against West Regional winner Southwest Missouri State in the national semifinals Friday night in St. Louis (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Southwest Missouri State, the fifth seed, defeated No. 6 seed Washington 104-87.

Defending champion Connecticut made it back to the Final Four by beating Louisiana Tech.

Xavier (31-3) had become one of the darlings of the NCAA Tournament after upsetting top-seeded Tennessee 80-65 in Saturday's regional semifinals. But the Musketeers couldn't keep the magic going and saw their 21-game winning streak, the nation's longest, come to an end.

"It was a tough night for us," Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb said. "We didn't do a good job with our game plan. The effort was there, we continued to play as a team, but it just wasn't our night."

Douglas, 3-for-13 from the field, finished with 19 points after scoring only two in the first half, Cooper added 16 and Shereka Wright 14. Shalicia Hurns had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Taru Tuukkanen led Xavier with 23 points. Nicole Levandusky had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Musketeers and Jennifer Parr scored 124.

Xavier shot only 44 percent and committed 19 turnovers. But Levandusky said that's not what beat the Musketeers.

"I think it comes down to defense," she said. "They were beating us in our zone defense and beating us on the baseline. That's something we wanted to take away. We didn't take it away from them and they took advantage of it."

Xavier survived a long stretch of missed shots in the first half, but could not hold on after Atlantic 10 player of the year Jennifer Phillips went to the bench with her fourth foul.

The Musketeers led 47-39 with 15:57 left and were answering every time Purdue challenged until Phillips left with 9:08 remaining. Xavier led 58-55 at the time. By the time she came back, Purdue was ahead.

Douglas hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 58 with 8:55 left. That was the score when Xavier took off against Tennessee. Purdue didn't let that happen.

Wright's two free throws at 6:55 gave Purdue the lead for good, 64-63, and Douglas followed with a 3 from the left corner. Parr's 3-pointer drew Xavier to 67-66, but it would never be that close again.

Seven straight points gave Purdue a 74-66 lead with 3:04 to play and the Boilermakers finished it off at the free throw line, Douglas sinking 11-of-12 in the final 2:03.

Purdue becomes the first school to reach the Final Four under three coaches. Lin Dunn took the Boilermakers in 1994 and Carolyn Peck guided them to their title in 1999. This trip is coming under Kristy Curry, in her second season as coach.

"We're not talking about just going to the Final Four," Curry said. "We want to win. We've got some unfinished business."

The ball bounced right for Xavier early – literally.

Xavier was leading 12-6 when the Musketeers ran an inbounds play under their own basket. Phillips slapped at the ball after Reetta Piipari passed it in, it bounced high off the floor and dropped into the basket.

The Musketeers then went the next 9½ minutes without a field goal and that allowed Purdue to stay close. The Boilermakers led 34-32 at halftime, then recovered after Xavier made six of its first eight shots in the second half.

"There was a timeout and we were down seven I think and I said you're 15 minutes away from a Final Four," Curry said. "You can do anything for 15 minutes."

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 Camille Cooper hauls in the rebound and goes right up with it for the basket.
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 Katie Douglas takes aim from the corner and buries the trey.
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 Kelly Komara and the Boilermakers maintain composure and clinch a berth in the Final Four.
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 The Xavier inbounds pass seems to have a mind of its own and somehow ends up in the hoop.
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 Purdue coach Kristy Curry is not satisfied with just reaching the Final Four. She wants to win (Courtesy: NCAA Productions).
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