March 18, 2006
DENVER (AP) - Courtney Paris couldn't get the ball, fumbled it away against a double team once she finally did, then headed off down a tunnel holding her hip. She returned after a few minutes, re-entered the game and promptly sent a Pepperdine defender flying across the lane, scoring with ease.
Paris had her way inside for 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Oklahoma overcame a sluggish start to open the NCAA tournament with 78-66 victory over Pepperdine on Saturday in the San Antonio Regional.
Britney Brown added 11 points and six assists, and Oklahoma (30-4) reached 30 wins for the second time in school history to move on to Monday's second round against the winner between Brigham Young and Iowa.
The Sooners made the first perfect run (16-0) through the Big 12 in the conference's 10-year history and tied a school record with a 17-game winning streak to end the regular season, thanks in large part to Paris.
The freshman sensation used her size and a beyond-her-18-years understanding of the game to dominate her first season of college basketball, setting 36 school records and ending the regular season three rebounds shy of becoming the first player in NCAA history to have 700 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in a season.
The Sooners had trouble getting the ball to Paris in the post early against Pepperdine (14-17), forcing passes and looking away when she was double-teamed. But once Paris got the ball, the Waves had no chance.
Though an inch shorter at 6-foot-3, Paris used her strength to bull past Pepperdine's Teiosha George inside, forcing her into tough shots and repeatedly sealing her off at the other end, leading to numerous easy baskets.
Paris hit the 500-rebound mark in the game's first 10 minutes and pressured George into missing all six of her shots in the first half, helping Oklahoma to a 36-19 lead.
Paris finished 11-for-13 from the field, blocked four shots and passed Texas' Edwina Brown's Big 12 record of 722 points in a season before heading to the bench midway through the second half with Oklahoma leading 59-33.Pepperdine opened the season 1-6 before winning eight of its final 10 games, including three straight for a surprising win in the West Coast Conference tournament to become the fourth team to qualify for the NCAA tournament with a losing record.
The 15th-seeded Waves seemed to have a glimmer of hope for the upset in the early going, using solid defense to keep it close in the first 10 minutes, but had a miserable day from the field to let Oklahoma pull away.
Pepperdine shot 8-for-32 in the first half and not much better in the second, finishing at 35 percent to drop to 0-4 in NCAA tournament games. Daphanie Kennedy led the Waves with 31 points - 23 in the second half as the Waves cut into Oklahoma's 29-point lead against mostly reserves.