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Paris & Davenport In Spotlight
December 19, 2006

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Oklahoma center Courtney Paris isn't challenged very often, so when the opportunity for a test presents itself she becomes especially intrigued.

There once was a time when the 6-foot-4 sophomore might have been, in her own words, "overwhelmed" by Wednesday's game between No. 3 Oklahoma (9-0) and No. 8 Ohio State (9-1), which features another of the nation's elite post players, 6-5 senior Jessica Davenport.

But after leading the Sooners to 23 straight regular-season wins - the longest current streak in NCAA Division I - recording 37 straight double-doubles and seeing about every style of defense possible, those days are long such past for Paris.

"You get here (to college) and you learn what it's all about," Paris said. "It's about going out and playing hard and welcoming the challenge and having fun. I embrace it. It's such a positive thing for our sport and for our individual teams."

  OU Talks OSUPreview | Game Notes

The Ohio State-Oklahoma game is notable on many levels. It's only the second matchup of top-10 women's teams at the Lloyd Noble Center - Oklahoma officials Monday declared the game a sellout - and the Buckeyes are the last team to beat Oklahoma during the regular season, 75-71 on Jan. 9 in Columbus, Ohio.

Also, Ohio State had won 23 straight regular-season games until Dec. 10, when it fell 75-51 to then-No. 9 LSU.

But the focus will be the matchup between the centers. Paris last season became the first freshman on The Associated Press' All-America team, while Davenport made the second team.

Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said the matchup is worth watching.

"You don't see a lot of girls this size (who are) this talented and this agile," Coale said. "They're both incredibly talented young women who are bigger than your average college player, so people want to pit them against each other."

Ohio State coach Jim Foster said the big question is whether Davenport and Paris will neutralize each other.

Paris is averaging 21.4 points and 14.4 rebounds per game and is 19 points shy of the 1,000-point career mark. During the Sooners' last two games - lopsided wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Northern Colorado _ she's hit 21-of-24 field-goal attempts.

Davenport has averages this season of 19.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots per game and has scored in double digits in 60 of her last 61 games. She's shooting 69.7 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line - a category in which she holds the edge over Paris, who has improved from the line this season to 61.7 percent.

Davenport hit the game-winner in last season's game, a 12-foot turnaround jumper over Paris with 3.4 seconds left and the score tied, capping a 15-point, three-rebound outing.

"I think Jess has to rebound better this year than she did last year against them," Foster said.

Paris finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the loss and said after the game she would be a better player for having faced Davenport. Paris still thinks that's the case.

"Great players want to play against great players," she said. "That's how you get better. That's how you really challenge yourself and your comfort level. Whenever you get a chance to play against a player like Jessica Davenport, that's an awesome experience for me, and for our team to get the chance to play against Ohio State, that's an awesome opportunity for us. It's only going to make me as an individual better and our team better."

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