WEST LAFAYETTE – Something that was said next to her during the opening news conference of the women’s NCAA Tournament caught Sharon Versyp off guard.
Don’t worry Purdue fans, it was in a good way.
“You don’t usually have student-athletes verbally say that,” said the Boilermakers’ head coach when talking about the Purdue administration on Friday afternoon at Mackey Arena.
It’s because of them that Versyp’s team will be playing at home for at least the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament on Saturday when the 4th-seeded Boilermakers face Akron at 1:30 P.M. Once again the school put up a financial bid to earn the right to host four teams in the first two rounds of the “Big Dance”-something no one on the team has forgotten.
“I compliment this administration every single second,” said Versyp. “I instill that in our student-athletes and that’s one of the big reasons why Purdue women’s basketball has been one of the top programs in the country because they started it way before I got here.
“They were hosting way before and that’s when they got to hopefully get to the Sweet 16 and march on from there.”
Purdue has been able to do so without putting out some money for it in the past when the team qualified to host games based on their overall seed. But over the past decade-including 2014-put out successful bids to host the first two rounds of the tournament.
For players it’s not just a chance to get a jump on the competition during March but also a sign of the significance of women’s athletics at the school.
“A lot of schools are male-oriented so they rely on the boys teams but here it’s pretty much all around. We get treated equally,” said senior forward Liza Clemons of Purdue’s commitment to the program. “Coach is big on that so we definitely appreciate it.”
Courtney Moses is in the same boat. Regardless of what happens, these will be her final days in a Purdue uniform at Mackey Arena and is grateful for the shot given to them by the administration.
“On our senior day we knew it wasn’t last time playing so that’s always nice when you’re seniors,” said Moses. “Just thankful for the administration for giving us this opportunity and we hope to see lots of fans out tomorrow.”
That, of course, is a critical factor for the Boilermakers in being able to stay home for the opening part of the NCAA Tournament. At 21-8 this season, Purdue will be a heavy favorite against Akron and with a win would advance to the round of 32 against either 5th-seeded Oklahoma State or 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast.
“It’s a huge advantage to have it here at home and have your fans cheer for you,” said senior guard Dee Dee Williams. “I love it, I feel like the girls love it.”
This March, they haven’t been afraid to show some love for those who made it happen.