Freshman Houser leads way for Boilermakers
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue's freshmen offered a promising glimpse of what might lie ahead for coach Sharon Versyp's program.
K.K. Houser scored a career-high 18 points, and the Boilermakers handed No. 4 Ohio State its first conference loss, 63-61 on Monday night.
Sam Ostarello, another freshman, added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Boilermakers (10-10, 5-4 Big Ten). A third freshman, Ashley Wilson, scored eight points.
It was a breakthrough victory for a proud program that reached the NCAA regional finals last season but has struggled while trying to replace forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, who now plays for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.
The Boilermakers have been close. They pushed then-No. 3 Notre Dame on Jan. 4 before losing 79-75, but they refused to be disappointed again.
"It's huge," Versyp said. "Anytime you have a young team, you're going to have ups and downs, but I think it shows that we're continuing to grow and develop."
Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis missed an open layup at the buzzer that would have forced overtime. Her chance to tie was set up when Purdue's Brittany Rayburn missed a free throw with 7.6 seconds left, the only free throw the Boilermakers missed in 15 tries.
Rayburn said once the Buckeyes rebounded her miss, the Boilermakers focused on preventing a game-winning 3-pointer or 3-point play.
"We didn't want to foul a shooter, so if they got by us, worst-case scenario for a layup is overtime," she said. "When she got past us, it was like, uh-oh, so everybody just backed up and she missed."
Jantel Lavender led Ohio State with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but she shot 6 for 18 from the field. Purdue's Alex Guyton and Chelsea Jones shared the responsibility for slowing the Big Ten's leading scorer.
"I think they were physical," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "I think they kept her off balance. And quite frankly, she missed some shots she usually makes."
Brittany Johnson scored 16 points and Prahalis added 11 for the Buckeyes (20-2, 8-1), whose 12-game win streak was snapped.
Johnson made three consecutive 3-pointers to tie her season scoring average in the first two minutes. The Buckeyes held the Boilermakers scoreless for the first 6:40 as Purdue missed its first 10 shots and Ohio State took a 16-0 lead.
Houser helped the Boilermakers settle down. Her three-point play cut Ohio State's lead to 26-23.
Purdue trailed 32-29 at halftime.
"I think it showed our team's maturity," Rayburn said. "We've had this happen to us before. Earlier in the season, we might have folded."
Purdue twice took one-point leads in the early minutes of the second half, but the Boilermakers went cold, and Johnson hit another three to put the Buckeyes up 44-37 with 13 minutes to play.
A three-point play by Rayburn tied the score at 48 with just under eight minutes to play, and a three-point play by Houser one minute later gave the Boilermakers a 51-48 lead.
A putback by Ostarello with just over a minute left gave the Boilermakers a 61-56 lead. The teams traded unsuccessful
possessions before Ohio State's Sarah Schulze was fouled with 16.4 seconds left. She made both free throws to make it 61-58.
Houser got fouled with 13.2 seconds to play, and she made both free throws to push Purdue's lead to 63-58.
Prahalis quickly answered with a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game with 7.8 seconds to go.
The Buckeyes fouled Rayburn immediately and sent her to the free throw line. She missed the first free throw, and Ohio State rebounded to set up the final sequence.
Houser hung tough in her matchup with Prahalis, a sophomore who leads the Big Ten in assists and is one of the conference's top scorers.
"K.K.'s stepping up in a big role and handling the pressure," Rayburn said. "She had the first step on Prahalis, and we just kept going back to her."
The Buckeyes shot 36 percent from the field after shooting just 37 percent in a 58-56 win over Michigan last Thursday.
"The last two games, we've missed a lot of layups, a lot of point-blank shots," Foster said. "You're not going to be a good team if you do that."
2022-23 Big Ten Conference Standings