NORMAN, Okla. (AP)—With No. 2 Oklahoma struggling on offense, Courtney Paris and her teammates turned to some lockdown defense to build a commanding lead in the Big 12 standings.
Paris had 18 points and 15 rebounds and the Sooners fought their way out of a second-half hole by shutting out fifth-ranked Baylor for 11 minutes on their way to a 66-58 victory Saturday.
Oklahoma was suffering through a 6-minute scoreless stretch of its own when it turned the tables on Baylor.
“The No. 1 thing we say is you’ve got to get stops because if we’re not scoring, they can’t score,” Paris said. “I just feel like whenever we’re in a drought like that, we have different people who can step up and kind of take the game over.”
The Sooners (24-2, 12-0 Big 12) squandered a 15-point, first-half lead before finding themselves down by six in the second half. That’s when Oklahoma came up with a huge defensive stand, holding the Bears scoreless for 11 minutes while reeling off 15 straight points to surge back into the lead.
Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose sister plays for Oklahoma, stood and raised both arms over his head when Nyeshia Stevenson hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 7:20 to play. Paris added another six straight points for Oklahoma, and Whitney Hand capped the surge with a putback that gave the Sooners a 58-49 lead.
“I think what it says is our team understands the totality of the game,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “At a timeout, we actually made reference to that: We had quit scoring but they had quit scoring, too, and ours was going to come back.”
Danielle Wilson had her 15th double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Baylor (21-4, 9-3). Kelli Griffin and Melissa Jones added 12 apiece. Baylor, the Big 12’s top rebounding team, was beaten on the boards for only the second time this season as Oklahoma held a decisive 51-31 edge.
“It was just rebounding. Rebounding was the difference in the game,” Bears coach Kim Mulkey said.
Danielle Robinson added 19 points and eight assists for the Sooners, who set a new school record with their 20th straight win and came away with a three-game lead in the Big 12 standings with only four games to play. Next up is another showdown Monday night at No. 14 Texas A&M.
“We put both of these games together. This was the weekend that could put us in the spot we’ve fought for all year long. We’re just kind of halfway done,” Coale said.
“As proud as we are of this win and as significant as it is in the position it puts us in for the remainder of Big 12, the weekend’s not over yet. We still have Monday night to deal with.”
After trailing the entire first half and being down 26-11 at one point, Baylor came out of halftime on a 7-1 run to tie it at 38 on Griffin’s jumper. Jones put the Bears ahead for the first time a few minutes later with a driving layup, which Robinson answered with a three-point play at the 15:33 mark for Oklahoma.
Baylor then held the Sooners scoreless for nearly 6 minutes, with Hand missing a large chunk of that span after injuring a finger on her left hand. She returned with the first two fingers taped together, and Coale said after the game that she didn’t yet know the extent of Hand’s injury.
Wilson scored the first five points in a 7-0 spurt for Baylor before Morghan Medlock’s layup made it 49-43. But Oklahoma responded with an even more impressive defensive stretch.
Roethlisberger watched from a courtside table with a group of his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates, but his sister, Carlee, came up empty on both of her shots— a layup in the first half and a 3-pointer in the second half. They did applaud when she took a charge that started Oklahoma’s defensive stand, and got even more fired up when it pushed the Sooners back ahead at 50-49 on Stevenson’s 3-pointer.
Paris then went to work inside with three straight baskets inside, and Baylor could only get back within 58-52 on Rachel Allison’s 3-pointer with 2:19 to play.
The Bears missed 11 straight shots during their drought and had five turnovers, including three offensive fouls.
“There were probably six to eight points taken off the board. … and how do you fault kids for that? They’re fighting in there to score,” Mulkey said. “I just thought those were big.”
With Paris’ twin sister, Ashley Paris, on the bench with four fouls, Amanda Thompson helped keep the Sooners ahead by grabbing five of her nine offensive rebounds in the final 6:05. She finished with a career-high 15 rebounds.
“Honestly, I probably lost consciousness,” Thompson said. “All I could remember was Ash telling me, `You’ve got to get every rebound. You’ve got to get every rebound.’ That just locked into my head.”