COLUMBUS, Ohio – Coach Sharon Versyp knows there is nothing more important for her Purdue team than to learn from its mistakes.
The No. 16 Boilermakers wasted an eight-point second-half lead on Sunday and fell at No. 10 Ohio State, 80-71. But with just a little bit of fine-tuning, Versyp says Purdue can remain at or near the top of the Big Ten standings.
"I thought we played real good basketball today and that's what was good," she said. "We made some mistakes. We have to learn from that. But that's what you want to be doing at this time of year."
Purdue (19-6, 9-3) came into the showdown at Value City Arena with the lead in the conference. Instead, it fell into a four-team dogfight with Penn State, Ohio State and Nebraska — each with three losses in league play — heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
"You always say that the next game is important," Versyp said. "Well, when it comes down the stretch, jockeying for the top four spots (in the Big Ten tournament), you've got to take care of your home and you've got to steal some on the road."
The Boilermakers have home games against Penn State and Indiana bookending games at Michigan State and Michigan.
"We have a lot of things that we can learn from," said Brittany Rayburn, who led Purdue with 22 points. "We're getting to that point where you want to start peaking. We're playing well. There's still a lot of things to learn from and you learn every day."
Ohio State trailed for most of the second half before Samantha Prahalis, who scored 21 of her 26 points after the break, led Ohio State (22-3, 9-3) back to take a late lead.
Purdue's Courtney Moses hit a left-handed follow with just over a minute left to narrow what had been a six-point deficit to 73-71.
The Buckeyes called time out with 43 seconds left. Prahalis, the Big Ten's second-leading scorer at 21.4 points a game, tossed an inbound pass into center Ashley Adams, who quickly kicked it right back to her. Prahalis' 3-pointer from the right wing pushed the lead to five and spurred a clinching 7-0 run over the final minute.
"Ashley posted up pretty strong and I saw that she was open, so I passed to her," Prahalis said. "She made a great pass back and I hit it."
Versyp regretted a slip by her defense.
"We just made a mistake, a big one," she said. "If we could have had a good defensive stand, then we had a play set up to come down and execute. Them nailing that shot, obviously, was the big key."
There were many positives for the Boilermakers. Sam Ostarello, who had 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the way to an overwhelming 41-24 advantage on the boards. They shot 48 percent from the field.
It seemed as if the Boilermakers controlled the paint throughout the game.
"It was huge. It was working," Ostarello said of her team's inside-out passing on offense. "We just kept trying to do that because we were successful in the first half."
But the Boilermakers also had some problems, totaling 18 turnovers. Versyp made it clear that there will be plenty of things to iron out in practice this week.
"Fouling the 3-point shooter three times — that's really unacceptable," she said of Purdue's mistakes. "If you foul them one time, that's fine. You just can't give them three free throws. That was a big key. And turnovers that kind of got them going. And then you've got to knock down free throws."
Purdue was 9 of 13 at the line to Ohio State's 20 of 27.
Buckeyes coach Jim Foster expected the Boilermakers to be ready and rested. They didn't disappoint in building a six-point halftime lead and leading most of the second half.
"They played great," Foster said. "They're a senior-dominated team. They had a week to prepare. They wanted this. Who wouldn't love to be in that situation? And playing at this time of year?"
Now the Boilermakers will try to regroup and bounce back.
The road ahead will be difficult for everyone — particularly the four teams at the top of the Big Ten standings.
"When you play at home, you usually have a good shot of beating any team," said Versyp, a former star Purdue player in her seventh year as a head coach in the conference. "But other teams are coming in and beating you right off the court. Top to bottom, this is one of the toughest leagues — moreso than any other year. And the Big Ten tournament is going to be really amazing."
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