Closer Look: OU-SE Missouri St.
Inside duo of Paris, Rush too much for Redhawks
Posted: Saturday March 17, 2007 4:47PM; Updated: Saturday March 17, 2007 5:54PM
AUSTIN, Texas -- Oklahoma center Courtney Paris came awfully close to seeing her long-running streak of double-doubles come to an end. She didn't notice. Paris was more worried about watching her season come to a close. With their super sophomore having a rough time in the paint, though, the Sooners found another way to hold off a gutsy Southeast Missouri State team for a 74-60 win in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at the Erwin Center.
"I think in my first possession when [Lachelle Lyles] boxed me out, I said, 'No wonder this girl leads the nation in rebounds,'" Paris said. "She's very strong and very powerful. All of their guys are tough and scrappy. All that credit goes to them. They came out, and maybe we were the higher seed, but they played us tough and it was definitely a dogfight in there."
Lyles finished with 10 rebounds, one less than Paris, who is second in the nation in that category. But, it was such a fight that the third-seeded Sooners had a tough time getting the ball inside to Paris early on. So, they took it outside. They hit 10-of-17 3-pointers, and they needed it all against the Redhawks, who forced the action to the perimeter. That, and a bit of long-range shooting of their own, put the 14-seeded Redhawks in a surprising position -- the lead. They held it for much of the opening half thanks to guard Sonya Daugherty, who hit four of her first five shots and finished with 25 points.
But Oklahoma's experience and depth took over in the second half. Point guard Jenna Plumley, who has played incredibly well since moving into the starting lineup late in the season, found a way to get Paris more involved. Paris, who had just three points and three rebounds in the opening half, finished with 13 and 11. The rebounding effort matched her lowest of the season, but kept her streak of double-doubles going at 59.
PLAYER WHO IMPRESSED ME
It's hard not to like Southeast Missouri's Daugherty, but senior Leah Rush was clutch for Oklahoma. She helped wear down the short-staffed Redhawks inside and hit big shots from the outside. Rush scored 19 points, and did it in an efficient manner. She missed just four of 12 shots and dropped in three of five from beyond the arc. Her 3-pointer with 1:08 left in the first half gave OU a 37-34 lead and momentum at the break. It was a lead the Sooners never relinquished.
Ashley Paris just wanted to get her team the ball. When she snatched a defensive rebound from her sister's clutches with 2:33 left in the game, Ashley didn't realize she was putting Courtney's run of double-doubles in danger. Courtney had eight at the time. "I didn't know she needed it," Ashley said. "She looked at me kind of crazy." Fortunately, Courtney had another chance. She grabbed what appeared to be rebound No. 10 with 50 seconds left. Turns out, it wasn't so dramatic as it appeared, though. The monitors on press row showed Courtney with nine rebounds, but she was later given credit for an earlier loose-ball rebound awarded to Kendra Moore.
THE BIG PICTURE
The Sooners look prepared for a lengthy tournament run. The perimeter game is improved and capable of taking advantage of the double and triple teams that Paris will continue to draw in the paint. They've developed a good bit of depth and have the potential to wear down opponents. If they can be patient and avoid forcing the ball into Paris at the wrong times, the Sooners will go a long way. "They're a total team," said Southeast Missouri coach John Ishee. "They're not a one-player team by any means."