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Time to focus (cont.)

Posted: Friday March 16, 2007 9:18PM; Updated: Friday March 16, 2007 9:18PM
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Battle of the boards

Southeast Missouri State didn't have endure the moments of worry that other teams experienced while waiting for the NCAA women's bracket announcements. The Redhawks already earned a spot by winning the Ohio Valley Conference championship.

That didn't keep center Lachelle Lyles from watching with anticipation. She was more interested in seeing the team opposite hers.

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"I was hoping we'd play Oklahoma even before the selections," Lyles said. "I wanted to play against them. I wanted that challenge."

She got it. When Southeast Missouri State takes on Oklahoma in the opening round, it'll be a matchup between No. 1 and No. 2. Not teams, but rebounders. That's where Lyles and OU center Courtney Paris rank. With 17.2 a game, Lyles leads the nation. Paris is right behind her with 16.2.

"I think it's cool," Paris said. "I've said in our local media that a few days before, our SID told me I was the No. 2 rebounder, and I always thought, 'Who's the No. 1 rebounder?' It's kind of funny that I finally get to go up against the girl who is."

At 6-foot-4, Paris has a two-inch advantage. She's also a walking double-double. Paris has recorded 58 of them in a row. She averages 23.6 points a game, nearly three times the scoring output of Lyles (8.5 ppg.). And Paris has done it against the Big 12.

The OVC might not match that caliber, but Lyles has been tested by stronger teams, including Oklahoma foe Baylor. She grabbed nine rebounds against the Bears. Lyles has yet to face someone with the size and strength of Paris, however.

"It's going to be very physical," Lyles said. "She's a great player. She's quick to the ball. She's beastly on offense. I just have to go out there and compete."

Stopping by

Just four days after unexpectedly announcing her retirement as the head coach of Texas, Jody Conradt was back in the Erwin Center, where she coached the Longhorns for so many years. Conradt was courtside when Oklahoma took the floor for its open practice. She made her exit after a quick chat with OU coach Sherri Coale.

Familiar site

Host team Texas may not be in the tournament, but two others in the field should feel comfortable on the Longhorns' home court. With a home-and-home series in the Big 12, Oklahoma plays at the Erwin Center every season. Louisiana-Lafayette has already played three games in Austin. The Ragin' Cajuns are 2-1 at the Erwin Center this season. They knocked off Texas State and Maryland-Eastern Shore at the Texas Basketball Traveler's Classic. They lost to the Longhorns.

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