Erika Valek had two years to ponder Purdue's loss to Notre Dame in the 2001 NCAA women's tournament final -- a game she watched from the sidelines after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament during the round of 16.
With those memories tucked in her back pocket, the 5-foot-6 junior scored 19 points to lead the Boilermakers past Notre Dame, 66-47, in an East Region semifinal today in Dayton, Ohio.
Purdue (29-5) will face top-seeded Connecticut (34-1) on Tuesday in a region final for a chance to advance to its fourth Final Four. The Huskies defeated Big East rival Boston College, 70-49, in the first semifinal at Dayton today.
"I know that [senior forward Mary Jo Noon] and I have had similar situations," said Valek, who is averaging 22 points in the tournament. "We've both been hurt or something's been going on with us like when we were in the Final Four. It's hard to be in a Final Four and not be able to play, so obviously that's been a motivational factor for both of us. We want to get there and experience that."
Notre Dame (21-11) tied the score at 27 with 1 minute 1 second left in the first half as Alicia Ratay -- who had 10 first-half points -- scored on a jumper from the left wing. But Beth Jones and Valek sandwiched three-pointers around two free throws by Ratay for a 33-29 halftime lead.
The Boilermakers opened the second half with a 22-4 run and didn't allow Ratay to score again until the 12:15 mark of the second half to put the game away.
"We were able to deliver the first punch of the second half, and it was a knockout," Purdue Coach Kristy Curry said. "We tried to limit Ratay's touches. I thought where she caught it was different in the second half."
Notre Dame pulled to 55-43 on a jumper by Ratay with 5:05 left; the Boilermakers had gone nearly eight minutes without scoring until Noon (12 points) converted a pair of free throws a possession later.
Shereka Wright added 12 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists, and Jones had 10 points for Purdue. Ratay (16 points) was the only player in double figures for the Fighting Irish, who shot 26.7 percent from the field in the second half and 33 percent for the game.
Notre Dame, a No. 11 seed, was the lowest remaining seed in the tournament.
"There was a five-minute stretch where we got on our heels a little bit and they just took advantage of it," Coach Muffet McGraw said. "We worked hard to get the ball inside and just couldn't score."
* CONNECTICUT 70, BOSTON COLLEGE 49: Boston College got into the round of 16 behind two one-point victories, but the Huskies' Diana Taurasi snatched the Eagles' magic carpet from underneath them by scoring 18 of her game-high 26 points in the first half.
"I'm not a coach that does a lot to get a specific player certain shots," Huskies Coach Geno Auriemma said. "I want them to feel the game out for themselves. Diana looked to have an effect right away."
Taurasi, who scored a career-high 35 points in an 81-66 second-round victory over Texas Christian, made 6 of 8 shots in the first half to help the defending champions take a 44-25 halftime lead.
"You can't afford to have a bad game at this point," Taurasi said. "There is a sense of urgency because if you lose, you go home."
Jessica Moor scored 17 points and Barbara Turner added 14 for the Huskies. Jessalyn Deveny led Boston College with 14 points, Becky Gottstein had 10 and Clare Droesch 11 as a reserve.
Boston College (22-9) pulled to 30-23 with less than five minutes in the first half on two free throws from Deveny, but Taurasi responded with six consecutive points, capped by using a pump fake on a potential three-pointer and instead making a jumper.
The Eagles were held to 28.6 percent shooting and had 16 turnovers the second half.
"Our kids are pretty resilient; hopefully they have one more game in them," Auriemma said. "I think we played better defensively against them this time" than in an eight-point victory in February.