March 25, 2007
DALLAS (AP) -Katie Gearlds extended her career at Purdue and now has a chance to finally make it to the NCAA Final Four.
Not wanting her career to end yet, Gearlds had 30 points, nine rebounds and helped Purdue overcome a big early deficit to beat Georgia 78-65 on Sunday night and earn a spot in the Dallas Regional final.
Purdue (31-5) won its 10th straight game, all since Gearlds had impromptu meetings with her teammates and first-year coach Sharon Versyp, who in the mid-1980s was a four-year starter at the school.
The Boilermakers will play North Carolina or George Washington on Tuesday in their first regional final since 2003, which came two years after they were national runner-ups.
Georgia (27-7) was in the round of 16 for the fifth straight season, but it was the fourth time in that stretch the Lady Bulldogs didn't advance past that.
The Bulldogs missed becoming the fourth Southeastern Conference team to advance to a regional final this season - even after scoring the game's first eight points and jumping out to a 13-point lead midway through the first half.
Gearlds had the final points in Purdue's 14-4 run to end the opening half, with a 3-pointer and a free throw. But her missed free throw with 41 seconds left kept the Boilermakers from getting even before the break.
She more than made up for that miss.
Gearlds scored 18 of her points after halftime, when her first basket was a long jumper she made despite having the arms of a defender wrapped around her waist while she was in the air. She added the free throw.
Purdue's first lead came when Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton opened the second half with a short jumper. Gearlds' three-point play followed and Georgia never caught up.
Wisdom-Hylton had 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting and nine rebounds, while Danielle Campbell had 11 points. Gearlds was 10-of-16 shooting with four 3-pointers.
Tasha Humphrey had 20 points to lead Georgia.
Gearlds has played in all 132 games in her career. And her 100th start could be the one that finally gets her to the Final Four.
During Gearlds' freshman season, the final game was a loss to Georgia in another regional semifinal. The Boilermakers won only one tournament game in 2005, but again got to a regional semifinal last season before losing to North Carolina.
Things didn't start smoothly in the rematch against Georgia.
Purdue had four turnovers and two missed shots while the Lady Bulldogs raced out to an 8-0 lead. Gearlds finally scored with a 15-foot jumper that rolled around the rim a few times before falling.
Still, the Boilermakers didn't get close until that run before halftime. But everything seemed to go their way after that.
With about 6 1/2 minutes left, there was a scramble for a near-turnover under the Purdue basket before Gearlds ended up with the ball at the top of the key. She made the 3-pointer, pushing the Boilermakers ahead 64-54 - and finishing the Bulldogs.
Angel Robinson had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting for Georgia.
Both teams shot better than 54 percent from the field: Purdue was 28-for-49, and Georgia was 24-for-56.