By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
Associated Press Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) – Shereka Wright couldn’t think of a better way to end her career at Mackey Arena.
Wright had 21 points, and fourth-ranked Purdue poured it on in the second half to win its 15th game in a row, 84-55 over Iowa on Thursday night.
More importantly for Wright, all four seniors played well in their final home game. Erika Valek had eight points and 12 assists, Lindsey Hicks had 11 points and nine rebounds and Beth Jones had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Katie Gearlds added 15 points for the Boilermakers (24-2, 14-1 Big Ten), who play No. 6 Penn State on Sunday for the conference championship. Penn State also won, beating Michigan State 63-51.
The Boilermakers shot 70 percent in the second half and outscored Iowa 46-25 to blow the game open.
“Purdue played a great second half and we didn’t, any questions?” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
Wright and Gearlds were the keys offensively again, which shouldn’t have taken Iowa by surprise. The two stars scorched the Hawkeyes in their last meeting, combining for 64 points in Purdue’s 90-79 win at Iowa on Feb. 10.
But this time Purdue was much more balanced. Five Boilermakers scored in double figures, and Iowa just couldn’t keep up.
Wright dominated the opening, scoring 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the first half.
Playing in her last game at Mackey Arena, the All-American was given a standing ovation when she left the game, as were Hicks, Jones and Valek.
“It’s a tremendous group,” Bluder said of the Purdue seniors. “But they have another tremendous group coming in, starting with Katie Gearlds.”
Freshman Gearlds took over in the second half, scoring 12 points. Her 3-pointer with 15:54 to play gave the Boilermakers a 51-34 lead.
Purdue ended all doubt with an 11-0 run that gave it a 62-36 lead with 11:15 to play. The Hawkeyes went almost six minutes without a basket during the run.
Jamie Cavey led Iowa with 12 points, but the Hawkeyes shot 32 percent in the second half and were outrebounded 41-24 for the game.
“Purdue just changed the intensity in the second half and we couldn’t match it,” Bluder said.
Iowa came into the game leading the Big Ten in scoring offense with 74.4 points a game, but committed 19 turnovers while being overwhelmed by Purdue’s pressure defense.
The Hawkeyes also were last in scoring defense, and it showed over the game’s final 30 minutes when Purdue carved up Iowa with easy layups and wide open jumpers.
Purdue struggled to keep up with Iowa’s high-scoring, quick-shooting style in the first 10 minutes. The Hawkeyes were shooting 50 percent to start the game and took an 11-9 lead on Crystal Smith’s driving layup.
The Boilermakers responded 7-2 run, all on points by Wright. Her burst got Purdue going, and Gearlds knocked down a 3-pointer with eight seconds left in the half to give the Boilermakers a 38-30 lead at the break.
Now, the Boilermakers can focus on their showdown with Penn State. The game has already been sold out, and Curry said she’s looking forward to going into the rowdy atmosphere.
“We welcome that,” she said. “What other environment, as a player, do you want?”