By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - After Oklahoma finished the regular season at Texas, the players adopted a motto: "We've been playing win, now we're winning to play."
Translation: Winning games during the regular season is important, winning games during the postseason is imperative.
Now, the Sooners really mean it.
Oklahoma, top-seeded and the regular-season champions, went back to Norman a day early. Fourth-seeded Texas A&M's defensive effort stifled the Sooners, 74-62, in Saturday's semifinals of the Phillips 66 Women's Basketball Championship.
The Aggies (26-6) will face No. 2 seed Baylor, a 63-57 winner over third-seeded Iowa State in Saturday's second semifinal.
"We didn't play as hard as we need to play," said Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale, whose team will likely receive a No. 1 bid when the women's NCAA Tournament bracket is announced Monday. "We didn't play with the sense of urgency you need when you're trying to reach a championship game in your conference tournament. It's baffling."
About as baffling as the Sooners' offensive woes. Let us count the ways:
* Oklahoma made 19-of-59 shots (32.2 percent) and missed 12 of 14 3-point attempts.
* The Aggies tried to help, committing 25 fouls but the Sooners were 22-of-36 from the line.
* Oklahoma had 72 possessions. On just five occasions did the Sooners score on consecutive chances.
* You've heard of the assist to turnover statistic? OU created new statistic - field goals to assists. The Sooners didn't total more field goals that turnovers until 40 seconds remained.
"Texas A&M did a reat job being scrappy and hustling," Oklahoma's Courtney Paris said. "We're not as tough as we usually are. We usually fight through it when we have a bad shooting night."
Paris finished with her typical scoresheet numbers - 15 points and 15 rebounds. However, she played just 24 minutes. She picked up her second and third fouls in a 29-second span in the first half and fouled out with 3:23 remaining and OU trailing by 11.
The Aggies' defensive pressure on OU's ball handlers and their post players' work on Paris set the tone.
"They were not able to run those picks and screens and isolate Courtney," Aggies coach Gary Blair said. "We got ball pressure, fronted her and prayed for help."
Even with the offense sputtering, the Sooners inspired the partisan crowd at the Cox Convention Center by pulling to within 31-30 early in the second half.
Texas A&M's response was a game-changing 14-3 run that was democratic. Tanisha Smith (four points), Danielle Gant (five) and Sydney Colson (five) shared the scoring. Colson's 3-pointer off the dribble and her change-of-pace blow-past of Oklahoma's Danielle Robinson were the most notable scores.
"We got a little nervous there," said Colson, who had 15 points, five assists and two steals. "We wanted to get the lead stretched out. When I hit that three, I got some adrenaline going."
Two of Oklahoma's four losses have been to Texas A&M. That means little to Blair.
"We haven't won anything yet," said Blair, whose team has defeated OU five of the last games. "When we beat 'em before (in College Station) our fans thought we'd won the national championship.
"Defense is gonna win you championships. That's our bread and butter and we don't apologize for it. If defense is the best thing we do, I wish that coaches would say, "That's a damn good team' instead of, 'They play hard. They scrap. They get lose balls.' 'Damn good' is a pretty good adjective, too."
Texas A&M, the defending tournament champions, might want to adopt its own motto: "Damn good and in it to win it."
* Texas A&M coach Gary Blair was asked if the Big 12 might get two No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament (assuming that Oklahoma has one No. 1 locked up). "They're not gonna let that happen," Blair said, referring to the NCAA women's basketball tournament committee. "Oklahoma is gonna be a No. 1, Baylor and us will be No. 2s. Kansas State and Iowa State should be in the top four (seeds)."
* Courtney Paris tied the NCAA record for most games (130) scoring in double figures. Baylor's Sophia Young also scored in double figures in 130 games.
* Oklahoma's 12-point loss to A&M is the Sooners' worst loss in the Big 12 Championship since losing by 14 to Oklahoma State in 1999.
* Texas A&M will try to duplicate last year when the Aggies' became the first No. 4 seed to win the Championship.