Sherri Coale's Sooners Send Texas Packing

3-7-07 - Oklahoma had trouble against Texas' defense getting the ball inside to All-America center Courtney Paris. Once she did get involved, it was the Longhorns that started to struggle.

Some hot outside shooting by the eleventh-ranked Sooners helped Paris break free to score 12 of her 17 points in the second half and lead Oklahoma to a 67-58 win over Texas in the Big 12 quarterfinals Wednesday night.

"We established ourselves on the outside first and then Texas had to adjust, and then the second half I was open a lot more," Paris said.

Paris also had 18 rebounds to notch her 61st career double-double, tying the Big 12 record set by Baylor's Sophia Young last season. It was the 56th consecutive double-double for Paris.

After getting only four shots in the opening half, Paris took five in the first 2 1/2 minutes after halftime. She made three in that span, and later added a three-point play to make it 42-26 as Texas suffered through an extended shooting drought after halftime.

"It was sort of an atypical beginning because typically we establish Courtney in the low block, and we pound it in, we pound it in, we pound it in. And then once they're surrounding her, we kick it out and get the 3," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "We had a hard time getting her the ball early. It wasn't that we weren't trying to."

The seventh-seeded Longhorns (18-14) missed their first 13 second-half shots and didn't make one until Earnesia Williams hit a jumper from the left wing with 12:39 to play. That cut the lead to 46-33 but didn't get Texas out of its funk.

Texas missed seven more shots and the second-seeded Sooners (24-4) piled on eight more points -- including the final six from Ashley Paris, Courtney's twin -- to push the lead to 54-33 with 10:12 remaining.

In the process, the Sooners set a school record with 15 blocks -- getting five apiece from Courtney Paris and Amanda Thompson. Thompson's total was her career high.

"We had spells throughout the game where we really got pretty frustrated on the offensive end," Texas coach Jody Conradt said. "We got shots blocked because we went right into the big people and invited them to block it. When we did have some open looks, we were looking around to see who was going to block it."

The blocks contributed to Texas' 25 percent (18-of-72) shooting for the game.

"That's one of the strengths of having Courtney in the middle along with Amanda Thompson," Texas forward Tiffany Jackson said. "They had us altering our shots."

Carla Cortijo's 3-pointer from the right wing trimmed Texas' deficit to 62-49 with 5:24 left, but the Longhorns didn't make another shot for 3 1/2 minutes. Texas outscored Oklahoma 8-0 in the final 1:43 to reach the final margin.

Ashley Paris ended up with 16 points, Jenna Plumley added 13 and Leah Rush had 10 for Oklahoma. The Sooners advanced to a semifinal Thursday against third-seeded Baylor, which beat 11th-seeded Kansas 71-54.

Jackson led Texas with 16 points, Cortijo scored 14 and Erneisha Bailey added 11.

The loss, which came one night after Conradt joined Tennessee's Pat Summitt as the only Division I coaches with 900 wins, puts the Longhorns' NCAA tournament hopes in doubt.

"Are we one of the best 64 teams in the country? I believe so," Conradt said. "I believe that our conference is very tough. I think we have beat up on each other."

Courtney Paris accepted the Big 12's player of the year award from commissioner Kevin Weiberg before the game, but there were few other highlights for her early on.

Texas collapsed around Paris whenever she touched the ball, but Oklahoma's outside shooters started out 5-for-6 from 3-point range and pushed the Sooners to a 15-8 lead after Plumley's 3-pointer from the top of the key.

Paris didn't get a shot off before taking a rest about 6 1/2 minutes in, and her first attempt was off an offensive rebound of Rush's miss with 9:15 left before halftime. Paris finally got on the board when she followed another Plumley 3 with a layup off a high-low feed from her sister just before the 8-minute mark in the first half.

Her free throw on Oklahoma's next possession made it 23-13. The Sooners led 33-26 at halftime.