Coming into Sunday's home game against sixth-ranked Purdue, the women's basketball team was white hot. After two consecutive losing seasons, it stood atop the Big Ten. \nThe Hoosiers' only losses came at the hands of undefeated Ole Miss and perennial powerhouse Louisiana Tech, which was ranked eighth at the time.\nIn road games, the Hoosiers began conference play by walking all over Ohio State, 65-56, and Michigan State, 71-54. They held off Minnesota in overtime, 79-76. Every week, they picked up more votes in the Associated Press poll, peaking at No. 27. \nJunior center Jill Chapman, the Hoosiers' leading scorer and rebounder, was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the second time this year Jan. 2.\nInstilling the importance of strong defense, new coach Kathi Bennett's rebuilding efforts were working much faster than anyone anticipated.\nWhile no one now mistakes the Hoosiers for the cellar-dwellers they have been, Sunday's game could have established IU as a legitimate contender in the Big Ten. And it almost certainly would have given them a top-25 ranking.\nThe Hoosiers had all the momentum. Scheduled after the sold-out men's game against top-ranked Michigan State, the game drew 3414 attendees, the largest crowd for the women's team in several years.\n At the beginning of the season, there were more empty seats in the first five rows than there were fans. Waiting for the tip-off, the Hoosiers could only look around in amazement.\n Despite that momentum, the Hoosiers ran head-first into the Boilermaker Special, falling to their in-state rival 67-59.\n Purdue roared to a 37-21 lead at halftime. Employing a full-court press and playing very physical defense, it kept the Hoosiers to 38.5 percent shooting from the floor during the first half.\n"We played very helter-skelter," Bennett said. \nThe Hoosiers turned the ball over 14 times.\n"It's nothing we hadn't seen before," said junior point guard Heather Cassady.. "But they were really up there in our face."\nWith Chapman benched because of foul trouble, Purdue dominated in the paint, out-rebounding the Hoosiers 17-11. \nFans streamed out at halftime, writing the Hoosiers off. While the Boilermakers widened their lead when the second half opened, the Hoosiers soon regained their composure. IU then stopped Purdue at the defensive, igniting a 27-9 run that got the Hoosiers within six. The crowd got back in it, many fans screaming at the top of their lungs.\nBut the rally fizzled out.\nPurdue coach Kristy Curry said she admired the Hoosier's resilience.\n"We just played our best ball out there," she said. "I have a lot of confidence in this program. They'll be a force in the Big Ten, y'all. They're for real"