FORT WAYNE – Purdue’s 23rd trip to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in the last 25 seasons will not be an easy one.
The Boilermakers (24-8) are the No. 4 seed in the Oklahoma City region and open against No. 13 Liberty (27-6) at noon Sunday in Louisville, Ky.
If Purdue gets past the Flames in the first round, it could have to play host team and No. 5 Louisville (24-8) in Tuesday’s second round.
The Cardinals play No. 12 Middle Tennessee (25-7) at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
If the Boilermakers get past the first weekend, they will likely run into No. 1 overall seed Baylor (32-1) in the Sweet 16 on March 31 in Oklahoma City.
Purdue is no stranger to dealing with difficult situations and coming out on top.
The Boilermakers struggled in the final month of the regular season going 3-5 and falling out of the Associated Press Top 25 as they dealt with Sam Ostarello’s shoulder injury and Courtney Moses’ shooting struggles. Ostrarello is the team’s top rebounder, averaging 9.8, and Moses leads the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game.
Purdue, which was ranked No. 21 in Monday’s AP poll, got itself together for the Big Ten tournament and won the conference tourney title for a second year in a row and ninth time in school history.
The Boilermakers will face another team that knows how to win tournaments in the Flames.
Liberty reached the NCAA tournament by winning its 15th Big South tournament in the last 17 seasons. Devon Brown leads the Flames’ offense with 16.3 points per game, and Tolu Omotola averages 13.3 points.
This will be the first meeting between Purdue and Liberty. The Boilermakers, who a No. 4 seed for the second straight year and seventh time in school history, are 4-0 all-time against No. 13 seeds.
Purdue defeated its first-round opponent, South Dakota State, 83-68 last year when it played host for the first two rounds before falling to South Carolina 72-61.
The Boilermakers are 44-21 all-time in the NCAA tournament and have made 12 appearances in the Sweet 16, including the last time they were in the Oklahoma City region in 2009.
Purdue has reached three Final Fours – 1994, 1999 and 2001 – and won the national title in 1999.