January 18, 2006
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - When its transition offense isn't working well, Oklahoma has a nice safety net in Courtney Paris.
The Sooners' offense sputtered at times Wednesday night against Texas Tech, before the freshman center rescued them with her 10th straight double-double, finishing with 17 points and 19 rebounds as No. 17 Oklahoma won 63-57.
``She's an awesome player,'' Tech senior center LaToya Davis said of Paris. ``I feel sorry for everyone when she gets to her senior year. She's big and she's aggressive and she's very good for a freshman.''
Oklahoma (14-4, 4-0 Big 12) remained the conference's only unbeaten team in league play heading into its game Saturday at defending national champion Baylor.
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Texas Tech (7-8, 2-2) came into Wednesday's game off a win over Baylor, and Tech assistant coach Krista Gerlich said after the game that Oklahoma is ``the best team in our conference.''
Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale accepted the compliment, but with some reservation.
``There are a lot of talented teams in our conference,'' Coale said. ``We've got to keep getting better. We can't sit around. We were indecisive with the basketball early. We never got a rhythm on offense, forced some things, shot the ball poorly from the 3-point line and won a game.
``That proves if you guard people and rebound you can still win games even if you don't shoot it very well.''
Texas Tech was without head coach Marsha Sharp, who was briefly hospitalized earlier in the day after suffering flu-like symptoms during a shootaround at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Sharp, 53, felt nauseous and short of breath and was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, team spokeswoman Tammi Hoffman said. Sharp was released after tests came back normal.
The medication Sharp took for the nausea caused her to be too sedated to coach the Lady Raiders on Wednesday, Hoffman said. Gerlich ran the bench in the absence of Sharp, who plans to return Saturday, when Texas Tech hosts Nebraska.
Gerlich said Sharp watched the game on a television set at the arena and even offered a couple of halftime tips.
``It was killing her not to be out there,'' Gerlich said.
The Lady Raiders cut a 13-point second-half deficit to one midway through the period before Oklahoma pulled away again. Each time the Sooners had a run, it was when they successfully got into their transition offense.
``Every time we push the ball, good things happen,'' Oklahoma forward Leah Rush said.
It didn't happen much, though, as Texas Tech managed to slow down the Sooners, who went just 4 of 17 from 3-point range. But the Lady Raiders had no answer for Paris, who had her 15th double-double of the season - tops in NCAA Division I. She's scored in double figures in each of Oklahoma's 18 games.
Paris also had a career-high seven blocked shots against Texas Tech and added four assists. But her first words about her performance were about the shots she missed that she thought she shouldn't have.
``You can't always control that, but you can control defense and rebounds and other things,'' Paris said.
Oklahoma, which had a 52-40 rebounding edge, used a 10-0 run to close the first half and take a 37-29 at the break.
The Sooners opened the second half on a 7-2 run to take a 44-31 lead on a basket by Paris with 16:42 left. Texas Tech rallied and pulled within 49-48 on Davis' three-point play with 10:12 left.
The Sooners pushed their lead back to 10 points, at 58-48, with 6:34 left. Texas Tech came within five points three times after that, but no closer. The Lady Raiders didn't make a basket during the final 4 minutes.
``We fought back every time, but ... free throws killed us,'' Gerlich said.
The Lady Raiders made just 14 of 25 free throws (56 percent) and shot 29.7 percent from the field. Alesha Robertson led Texas Tech with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Oklahoma limited Texas Tech's standout point guard, Erin Grant, to a season-low one assist.