NORMAN, Okla. (AP)—A fast start in a Big 12 showdown lifted No. 3 Oklahoma on Sunday back to a place where it’s become accustomed—atop the conference standings.
For the third time this season, three Sooners—Danielle Robinson and twins Courtney Paris and Ashley Paris—recorded a double-double in the same game as Oklahoma jumped to a 7-0 lead in the opening two minutes and led all the way on Sunday in a 71-59 win over No. 8 Texas A&M.
Freshman guard Whitney Hand had a career-high five 3-pointers in six attempts and scored 17 points for Oklahoma (13-2, 3-0 Big 12), which won its ninth straight game overall and its second straight over a ranked conference foe, having also beaten No. 17 Kansas State on Wednesday.
The Sooners are tied with Baylor atop the Big 12.
“Big win for our program,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “…I thought we played really well out of the gate the first four minutes, with really a lot of energy (and) great adherence to the defensive game plan.”
Robinson had 19 points and 10 assists for her second double-double of the season. Courtney Paris had 11 points and 14 rebounds to extend her NCAA-record streak of consecutive double-doubles to 108 games. Paris didn’t reach double digits in points until 1:01 remained, catching a long pass from Robinson and converting a layup, leading to a roar from most of the 9,531 fans at the Lloyd Noble Center.
“It’s cool to keep that going,” she said of her streak. “The fans are into it.”
Ashley Paris had 16 points and 10 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. The Sooners had never had three players with double-doubles in the same game until this season, when they also recorded the feat in a loss to North Carolina and a win over Tulsa.
“We didn’t get beat by Courtney Paris, we got beat by Oklahoma,” Blair said. “Oklahoma did a good job of balancing. Give those kids credit. That is what is going to make Oklahoma a better basketball team—it’s about balance.”
Texas A&M (14-2, 2-1) had been off to the best start in school history and won three of its last four games against Oklahoma. But led by the 6-foot-1 Hand, the Sooners held Texas A&M’s leading scorer, 5-foot-8 guard Takia Starks, scoreless in the first half as Oklahoma took a double-digit lead.
Starks finished with 19 points, leading a second-half rally that fell well short, and Oklahoma City native Danielle Gant added 18 for the Aggies. No one else scored more than four points for Texas A&M.
Coale said the Sooners’ defensive focus on Starks and Gant “and knowing the sense of urgency with them was key. Sometimes that sense of urgency toward those scorers that you’re trying to keep in check can then carry on to your next pass as well.”
About the only negative for the Sooners: 22 turnovers, which prevented the score from being even more lopsided. Oklahoma shot 47.4 percent from the field and dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Aggies 43-27.
Texas A&M shot 39 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers.
The Aggies cut a 19-point deficit early in the second half to 12 points at 41-29 on a three-point play by Starks with 15:58 left. Hand started a 14-0 Oklahoma run with a put-back, followed by a 3-pointer, and another 3-pointer by Carlee Roethlisberger gave the Sooners a 55-29 bulge with 11:54 left.
Texas A&M, whose only previous loss had come to Florida State, rallied within 60-51 on a three-point play by Starks with 3:23 left, but after that, Robinson went 4-of-4 from the free-throw line and assisted on two baskets by Courtney Paris to keep the Sooners comfortably ahead.
It won’t be any easier for the Aggies during the next 10 days, as their next three games are at No. 5 Baylor, at home against No. 22 Oklahoma State and at No. 16 Texas.
“What OU did was hold serve,” Blair said. “What we’ve got to do Wednesday is hold serve against Baylor. That’s all you do in the Big 12 South.”
Oklahoma committed 13 first-half turnovers but still led 35-22 at halftime, thanks in good part to 4-of-4 3-point shooting by Hand and a 23-11 rebounding advantage.
“It’s not very hard to get open when you have Courtney, Ashley and everybody drawing so many people,” Hand said. “My role is to shoot and today they fell.”
The Aggies missed their first four shots as Oklahoma sprinted to a 7-0 lead, prompting a quick timeout by Blair. The Aggies pulled within 9-7, but Ashley Paris had three baskets in an 11-0 Oklahoma run, including a 19-foot jumper that made it 20-7 and led to another Texas A&M timeout. Oklahoma led by as many as 15 points before halftime.
“We couldn’t score to be able to get into our press, and then when we did score, we were so elated we jumped back when we were supposed to be in a press,” Blair said. “Sometimes it just happens that way.”