WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Purdue center Mary Jo Noon was a
frustrated spectator during most of last year's national championship game against Notre Dame because of an injury. So when she got a second chance against the Irish, she was determined to make the most of it.
Noon scored a career-high 21 points and had 13 rebounds, Shereka Wright scored 17 and Kelly Komara added 15 as the Boilermakers (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) beat Notre Dame 70-57 Thursday night in a rematch of last year's title game.
Noon tore an anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee last January and was thought to be out for the season. But she made a quicker than expected recovery and was active for the championship. She played only three minutes and missed her one shot.
"I can't go back and play that game over again," Noon said. "It was great for me because I got to play more than three minutes. It felt good."
Purdue (6-1) won thanks to an edge from the free throw line, making 19 of 29 attempts while the Irish were just 7-for-10. Notre Dame (2-4) also committed 21 turnovers to Purdue's 10.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said her young team -- the Irish
start two freshmen and a sophomore -- is overaggressive on defense.
"They beat us at the free-throw line," she said. "If we could quit fouling, we'd be a very good defensive team."
Both teams struggled from the floor, with the Irish shooting 43 percent and the Boilermakers at 39. Purdue made only one of 13 3-pointers.
The Boilermakers weren't able to put the Irish away until the final three minutes.
Jeneka Joyce made a 3-pointer midway through the second half and the Irish pulled within eight. The Boilermakers led 50-40, then went on an 18-8 run to lead by 20.
When Noon went to the bench, the Boilermakers inserted Emily Heikes who scored 10 points and had six rebounds to help them to a 43-34 edge on the boards. Noon and Heikes combined to go 12-for-19 from the floor.
"I thought Heikes and Mary Jo both were phenomenal," Purdue
coach Kristy Curry said. "I thought the biggest key was their teammates but them in a position to be successful.
Noon, who entered averaging 7.7 points, said she expected to be having a better season.
"This is the start of a new beginning for me," she said. "I'm
going to make it a point to play like this every game.
Alicia Ratay led Notre Dame with 12 points and eight assists and Jacqueline Batteast added 10 points. Ratay scored her 1,000th career point. The Irish have lost all four games on the road.
McGraw said the Irish were improving.
"We just wanted to come out and play hard for 40 minutes and I
thought we did that," she said. "But we really hurt ourselves in
a lot of situations with the turnovers and rebounding."
Purdue led 21-13 in the first half, but a basket by Le'Tania
Severe and a 3 by Joyce cut the gap to three. The Boilermakers
extended the lead to 31-24 at the half.
Notre Dame trailed by as few as five points early in the second
half but couldn't get closer.
Many of the players who appeared in the title game are no longer with their teams. Graduation cost the Irish All-American center Ruth Riley, forward Kelley Siemon and point guard Niele Ivey. The Boilermakers lost All-American Katie Douglas and center Camille Cooper to graduation and Shalicia Hurns transferred.
The Irish won the national title when Riley made two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining to give them a 68-66 win. Douglas missed an 18-footer at the buzzer for Purdue.
"We can't bring back April 1st," Curry said. "There's not a day that goes by where I don't think about it. But I'm very proud of it because not many people get the opportunity to go that far."
McGraw said watching the 6-foot-5 Noon dominate the Irish was
like watching Riley play in the final.
"She's bigger than almost anyone else we have," McGraw said. "Now I know how they felt about Ruth Riley last year."
The Boilermakers are 6-0 against the Irish at Mackey Arena.