LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Liberty coach Carey Green has joked that the two most important words for his Lady Flames are "rebound" and "Jesus."
Yet the nation's best team in rebound margin found themselves outworked Sunday on the boards with nothing helping as Liberty lost 77-43 to fourth-seeded Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"They came out physical," Liberty senior Tolu Omotola said of Purdue. "They just won most of the battles inside. We came out, we were only one deep so it was a lot on us. So we just came out physical and just didn't win the battle, some of the battles down inside."
Liberty, the university founded by the late Jerry Falwell, prides itself on hitting the boards under coach Carey Green. The Lady Flames outrebounded opponents by a difference of 17.5 per game this season. However, the Boilermakers finished with a 40-38 advantage, led by Sam Ostarello's 17 boards. Liberty finished with 10 fewer rebounds than their season average of 48.
The 13th-seeded Lady Flames were without junior Jasmine Gardner, a 6-foot-2 post player averaging 7.3 rebounds per game. She injured her knee after the Big South Conference tournament and will be having surgery soon. That affected the Lady Flames' usual rotation.
"Usually, I know she has my weak side if I'm not here, so it did throw us off a little bit," Omotola said.
Courtney Moses paced Purdue (25-8) with 21 points, shooting 5 for 8 on 3-pointers. KK Houser scored 15 points and Ostarello added 10.
Senior Devon Brown scored 21 points to lead Liberty (27-7), which snapped a 14-game winning streak. Ashley Rininger grabbed 13 rebounds.
"We just did not play as well as we could have and we lost to a very good Purdue team that played up to their potential," Green said. "It's unfortunate, but very proud of this group and reaching this level. And we'd like to have went farther. That was our goal. ... Poor shooting percentage is pretty simple. They doubled our shooting percentage."
Liberty started cold, with Purdue's pesky defense forcing the Lady Flames to their season-worst 26.3-percent (15 of 57) shooting performance. In contrast, Purdue shot 26 of 52 (50 percent). Liberty had held 28 straight opponents below 50 percent shooting FG since Baylor shot 55.2 percent on Nov. 23.
Purdue led 33-17 at halftime and was up by 35 late in the game as the Boilermakers won their fifth straight overall. They had this game so in control that 12 Boilermakers played with nine seeing at least nine minutes. Purdue's reserves outscored Liberty 28-8.
"Before you can run, you have to first rebound, so Sam's rebounds were key," Moses said. "She was getting it out, kicking it and when we run, we have fun."
Green said he thinks nerves played into the shooting, pointing out one post shot that hit the bottom of the backboard with another a 2-foot airball.
"That was nervousness or not really positioning yourself offensively to take good shots so we were taking those poor shots, which will in turn give them opportunities to get a defensive rebound and run out," Green said. "That's exactly what happened."
Liberty's size advantage with four players 6-foot-2 or taller just didn't matter against the faster Boilermakers, who pushed the tempo from the opening tip.
The Lady Flames led only once at 10-9 on a 3-pointer by Reagan Miller. Houser answered with a three-point play with 14:51 left, putting Purdue ahead to stay, the first of 11 straight points to push the Boilermakers' lead to double digits. Moses hit her fourth 3 of the first half, and April Wilson added a 3 in the final seconds to give Purdue a 33-17 halftime lead.
In the second half Liberty scored six straight points, the last on a jumper by Brown, to pull to 42-27 with 15:08 left. That was as close as the Lady Flames would get as Ostarello scored to start a 13-2 run to stretch the lead even more.
From LU athletics:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Liberty redshirt senior Devon Brown reached the 2,000-point mark in the final game of her career, Sunday afternoon, thanks to a determined 21-point effort. However, it was not enough for the No. 13 seed Lady Flames, who fell to No. 4 seed Purdue, 77-43, in an NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship first-round tilt at the KFC Yum! Center.
Brown's contested bank shot from the right block with 1:17 to play enabled her to join Elena Kisseleva as the only Lady Flames ever to tally 2,000 career points. The Waynesboro, Va., native finished with 2,001 points.
Liberty struggled to shoot the basketball as a team, though, hitting a season-low 26.3 percent (15-of-57) of its field goals on the day. The Lady Flames end the 2012-13 season at 27-7 after their 14-game winning streak was halted.
Purdue, the Big Ten Tournament champion, improves to 25-8 and advances to a second-round contest against either No. 5 seed Louisville or No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Boilermakers were keyed by the dynamic trio of Courtney Moses (21 points, five three-pointers), KK Houser (15 points, six assists) and Sam Ostarello (10 points, 17 rebounds).
Purdue scored the game's first five points, on a baseline jumper by Ostarello and a triple from Houser.
Liberty battled back to take a 10-9 lead when Reagan Miller's three-pointer from the right wing swished through the net at 14:56.
However, the Lady Flames' only advantage lasted just five seconds, as Houser answered with a traditional three-point play. That sparked an 11-0 run by the Boilermakers. Moses scored the final seven points of the surge, including a fast break layup at the 12:03 mark which gave Purdue a double-digit lead at 20-10.
The Boilermakers held Liberty to one made field goal during the final eight minutes of the half and took a 33-17 lead into the intermission when April Wilson's three-pointer connected at the halftime buzzer.
Liberty's 17 first-half points were its fewest tallies in a half this season for the team, as the Lady Flames shot just 18.8 percent (6-of-32) from the field and only 42.9 percent (3-of-7) from the free throw line.
Purdue's fast start was keyed by 46.2 percent (6-of-13) three-point shooting in the first half, including four triples by Moses.
Moses led all players with 16 first-half points, while teammate Ostarello's 13 rebounds helped the Boilermakers record a 26-21 rebounding edge for the period.
Miller and Devon Brown scored five points apiece for the Lady Flames during the first 20 minutes while Ashley Rininger collected eight boards during her first career start.
After Brittany Campbell opened the second-half scoring with a fast break layup, Purdue scored nine of the next 11 points. Ostarello's uncontested layup with 17:07 to play bolstered the Boilermakers' advantage to 42-21.
Liberty countered with a 6-0 run, pulling to within 42-27 on Brown's acrobatic layup at the 15:06 mark.
But Purdue bounced right back with eight consecutive markers. The Boilermakers' cushion reached 50-27 on Houser's steal and layup with 12:38 remaining.
Purdue's lead got as large as 35 points before the Boilermakers closed out a 77-43 triumph. The 43 points were a season low for the Lady Flames, who entered the contest averaging 72.0 ppg on the season.
While Liberty struggled with its shooting, Purdue finished at 50 percent from both the field (26-of-52) and three-point range (8-of-16). The Boilermakers ended the Lady Flames' 28-game streak of holding opponents below 50 percent field goal shooting.
Ostarello's work on the glass also helped Purdue finish with a 40-38 rebounding edge against the nation's No. 1-ranked team in rebound margin.
Two other key stats for the Boilermakers were bench points (28-8) and fast break points (17-2).
Brown, who scored 16 of her 21 points after halftime, added seven rebounds and a game-high five steals in 29 minutes of work. She finishes her career with 803 boards, ranking seventh in program history and No. 15 in Big South annals.
Fellow senior Tolu Omotola chipped in seven points and six rebounds. She will leave the Lady Flames ranked No. 15 in program history for points (988) and No. 8 in rebounds (672).
Liberty got solid production from redshirt freshmen Rininger and Katelyn Adams, helping offset the loss of Jasmine Gardner to injury. Rininger collected a team-high and career-high 13 boards, while Adams added six points, six rebounds and two blocks off of head coach Carey Green's bench.
For Purdue, Ostarello's 17 boards (16 defensive) were the most a Boilermaker has ever grabbed in the NCAA Tournament. The double-double was her 11th of the year, and the junior also rejected four shots on the afternoon.
The Boilermakers have now won 16 consecutive NCAA first-round contests.
Liberty Head Coach Carey Green
"As disappointing as this particular game was to all of us, I'd like to say thank you for the opportunity to play on this level. I've got a young group of women, who are five seniors, who have led us this year and in the preseason with all of our training. I'm very proud of their efforts. It's just unfortunate that we get to this level and didn't play very well. That is the way the game sort of turns out. I feel like Purdue played very well. They played as well as they could and we didn't play as well as we could have, so we lost to a very good Purdue team. They played up to their potential. I'm very proud of this group for reaching this level. We'd have liked to gone further, that was our goal. Unfortunately poor shooting percentage is pretty simple. They doubled our shooting percentage and that's not a good opportunity for you to win.
"Well, [Devon Brown] has the heart of a lion and it's hard to find those. She is a great scorer. Obviously you wouldn't score 2,000 (points) if you weren't. I wish I had her healthy for four years but she's never been healthy. She's missed about nine or 10 games throughout her career. It's hard to replace those types of players because of her scoring ability, her desire to win and her toughness. She is a very tough player. She will certainly be missed. You don't find players like her very often. She's been the backbone to our team.
Liberty Redshirt Senior Devon Brown
"It's been a blessing, up and down. But I'm really proud of the accomplishments I've made, and I'm glad I made it with these girls."
Liberty Redshirt Freshman Ashley Rininger
"It's definitely great exposure, great experience, just being able to go out there and play tonight. It's definitely going to prepare us for the future. Especially, me and the rest of the younger players because not only are we used to playing at this kind of level, now we are getting this kind of exposure and we're also preparing for future NCAA Tournaments."
Purdue Head Coach Sharon Versyp
"We were just real anxious to play a basketball game; it has been over two weeks. We had a game plan put in and I feel like we executed it to a tee. I thought our defense was the key and helped us set the tone early. For us to be able to have our bench come in and score 28 points was really good for us."