No 1 Seed Sooners Look The Part; Take Down Kansas
Courtesy: Associated Press
          Release: 03/13/2009
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - First, Courtney Paris guaranteed that Oklahoma would win the national championship. Then she went out and showed she means business this postseason.

Paris scored a season-high 27 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked six shots to lead the No. 3 Sooners to a 76-59 victory over Kansas in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals on Friday.

"I just am ready to play," Paris said. "It is postseason. Every game is that much more important because if you lose it, you don't get to play again. So, I was just really feeling it today and I wanted to come out and make sure I did the best I could."

Paris guaranteed at her senior day celebration last week that Oklahoma would win its first national championship, promising that she would pay back her scholarship if it didn't happen.

"She's a driven individual, as we all know, and she understands clearly what time of year it is," Sooners coach Sherri Coale said. "I think great players sense that. I think all seniors sense it to a certain degree.

"But I think the really great players get that in the way that the rest of the world doesn't. She established herself early and was just terrific the entire game."

Paris dominated the Jayhawks (18-13) inside and caused havoc on the defensive end, too.

The All-America center had 10 points during a 15-4 run early in the second half as Oklahoma (28-3) broke open a close game after the Jayhawks had pulled within two. The Sooners then continued to pull away, building a 23-point lead that gave Paris the rest of the game off after she went to the bench with 11:41 to play.

Danielle McCray scored 22 points to lead Kansas, which can only hope its five wins in the last seven games will bring an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Sade Morris added 15 points and Aishah Sutherland had 10.

Paris had a three-point play and tipped an offensive rebound to herself for a putback to help Oklahoma gain some distance after Kansas had drawn within 36-34, then kept adding to the Sooners' lead. She finished the big run with a pair of free throws, a layup at the right block and an assist on Danielle Robinson's jumper from the left wing that pushed the lead to 51-38 with 12:28 left.

"We didn't have answer, not that many people in the country have an answer, for Courtney," Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "But we didn't have an inside presence at all."

Paris' teammates closed it out from there.

Jenny Vining hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 19-6 burst while Paris was sitting on the bench, and Nyeshia Stevenson's steal for a runout layup pushed the lead to 72-49 in the final 5 minutes. There was no point for Paris to come back in after that, getting some extra rest before the Sooners' semifinal Saturday against either No. 10 Texas A&M or No. 22 Kansas State.

Amanda Thompson added 12 points for Oklahoma. Whitney Hand, who had missed four games after having surgery on a dislocated left index finger, looked rusty while missing all four of her shots for the Sooners.

"Understand that one of the reasons Courtney Paris got 27 points and had single coverage is because somebody was following Whitney everywhere she went on the floor," Coale said. "Even though it's not reflected in a statistical category, she had huge impact on this game and the way Kansas defended us."

Paris asserted herself from the very beginning, drawing the Jayhawks' first four fouls -- the last coming when she took a charge from Krysten Boogaard under the basket, and then pumped both fists in a flex pose as she sat under the basket.

Henrickson implied that Paris, who had a significant size advantage, flopped.

"How aggressive of Krysten Boogaard to produce that offensive foul. Just how aggressive that was," Henrickson said. "She's been watching a lot of NBA. Shaq did that, Didn't he?"

After a brief rest, Paris returned and demanded the ball at the left block -- raising her hand and then shaking it in the air. When she got it, she bulled her way toward the basket to draw another whistle against Boogaard.

Paris eclipsed her 16.1-point scoring average in the first half, making all five of her shots and also grabbing nine rebounds and swatting away four Kansas shots.

She finished with her 124th double-double in 131 career games.

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