Oklahoma Prepares For Fourth Straight NCAA Tournament Appearance

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 21, 2003

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Head Coach Sherri Coale has guided Oklahoma to its fourth straight and sixth overall appearance in the NCAA Championship. The Sooners (19-12) enter this year's championship as the No. 10 seed in the Mideast Region, its lowest seed ever in postseason play. For previous OU seedings and results see page 3. This marks the third consecutive year Oklahoma has hosted NCAA first and second round games.

OU has never lost an opening game in the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners welcome No. 2 seed Villanova (25-5), No. 7 George Washington (24-6) and No. 15 Saint Francis (23-7) to the subregional at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., on March 23 and 25. In this week's Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls Villanova is ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, while George Washington came in at No. 25 in both polls after not being ranked the previous week.

The Sooners will face George Washington on Sunday, March 23, at approximately 8 p.m. or 30 minutes after the completion of the first game between Villanova and Saint Francis at 6 p.m. CST. The winners of Sunday's games will advance to the second round game on Tuesday, March 25.

Although OU was the 2002 NCAA runner-up, the Sooners have a whole new look in 2003. Oklahoma entered the season with just one returning starter from the team that won the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles. Then, OU entered conference play with five new starters after senior forward Caton Hill was lost for the season with a knee injury on Nov. 26.

As the season developed, the Sooners found their leader in sophomore Dionnah Jackson. Jackson took a handful of young and inexperience role players and guided them to fifth place finish in the Big 12 Conference (9-7) and produced an 19-12 overall record. Of OU's 10 active players, eight average at least 10 minutes per game and four are averaging better than 10 points and four rebounds per contest.

Jackson is one of only two players who has started all 29 games this season. Her offensive and defensive production over the course of the season earned her All-Big 12 second team honors. She produced a team-best 15.0 points and 5.0 assists per game during the Big 12 Tournament while shooting 59.1 percent from the field by hitting 13-of-22 shots. Jackson's offensive production exploded against Iowa State (Feb. 22) when she nailed a career-high five of seven three pointers for a season-best 21 points. She also had seven assists and seven rebounds against the Cyclones. In addition, her defensive skills have improved as she currently ranks second on the team for most rebounds per game with 6.4. She tops the team in assists (5.1) and steals (2.0) per game and ranks third in scoring with 11.9 ppg. The St. Louis, Mo., native ended the season as the Big 12's best in assist/turnover ratio with a 2.3 against league opponents.

Freshman Chelsi Welch, an All-Big 12 second teamer and co-Big 12 Freshman of the Year selection, has also started every game for the Sooners, averaging 12.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. At the Big 12 Tournament, she was one of four OU players to average double digits in scoring with 11.5 points. In the last two regular season games, Welch contributed a team-best 16.5 ppg and hit 81.8 percent from the free throw line. The 5-9 guard also scored 10-plus points in 13 of 16 conference games.

Appearing in 28 of OU's 31 starting lineups has been junior Maria Villarroel. Villarroel, a transfer from Northeast Oklahoma A&M, has been the team leader in scoring the entire season and currently boasts 14.6 ppg. Villarroel unleashed a career-high tying 31 points against Missouri on Feb. 26. She also scored 31 against Sam Houston State on Nov. 26 and dropped 30 vs. Fordham three days later in Hawaii. Because of her quickness and ability to finish at the rim, Villarroel continues to lead the Big 12 Conference for best field goal percentage (.571). She also averages 5.0 rebounds per game and has a team-high 21 blocked shots.

OU's inside play comes from a pair of 6-3 centers in senior Theresa Schuknecht and freshman Beky Preston. Schuknecht, who has returned to the starting lineup, has averaged 13.5 points and a team-best 8.5 rebounds per game over the last three games. She has also shot better than 50 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free throw line.

Preston has started every game since first appearing in the starting lineup against Baylor on Jan. 26. For the season, she averages 4.3 rebounds and 4.1 points per game. In two of the last three regular season games, Preston produced double-doubles with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Missouri and 13 points and 10 rebounds at Oklahoma State. She ranks second on the club with 19 blocked shots and in field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent.

Appearing in the starting lineup at times have been freshman forward Laura Andrews (3.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and sophomore guard Lauren Shoush (3.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg).

As a team, Oklahoma is averaging 67.0 points and 40.1 rebounds per game. The Sooners have improved to 41.7 percent from the field and remain solid at the stripe, hitting 70.8 percent.

Oklahoma is the only team in the Norman NCAA subregional that received an at-large bid. The other three schools (Villanova, George Washington and Saint Francis) were automatic quailifiers by winning their respective conference tournaments.


George Washington:
The seventh-seeded George Washington Colonials (24-6) come to Norman having clinched their first Atlantic-10 tournament title since 1996 with a 56-49 victory over Rhode Island. The Colonials are currently riding a nine-game win streak. Ironically, GW was also a No. 7-seed when they last visited the Lloyd Noble Center in 2001 to take on 10th-seeded Stanford in the first round. The Colonials concluded that season with a 76-51 loss to the Cardinal.

As a team, GW dishes out 18.9 assists per game which is the fourth most in the NCAA. They also average shoot the eighth best field goal percentage of 47.6 percent.

This year, the Colonials are back in the tournament thanks in large part to senior guard Cathy Joens and junior center Ugo Oha. Jones averages 17.3 points per game along with 4.8 rebounds a game. She ranks 16th nationally in 3-pointers per game (2.9) and 3-point field goal percentage (42.3). Oha is not only a threat on offense (15.5 ppg) but also ranks seventh nationally in blocked shots with 2.9 per game.

Sophomore Anna Montanana complements Oha on the boards averaging 6.2 rpg and has a total of 107 assists this season. Montanana also leads the team in free-throw percentage at 80 percent.

The No. 2-seed Villanova Wildcats (25-5) begin their NCAA Tournament run on a roll after not only winning the Big East Tournament Championship but also ending Connecticut's record setting 70-game win streak. This will be the Wildcats' second consecutive postseason trip to Norman. Villanova was the No. 9-seed in last year's NCAA Tournament. VU engineered a 67-46 victory over Pepperdine in the first round but fell in the next round to then No. 1-seed Oklahoma, 66-53.

This season, the Wildcats lead the country in 3-point field goals averaging 8.9 per game. Villanova has also been tough at the defensive end holding their opponents to 52.6 ppg which ranks them third in the nation in scoring defense. Senior guard Trish Juhline leads the team in points per game with 18.2 while also contributing an average of 4.3 assists per game.

Senior forward Katie Davis is another scoring threat, averaging 15.2 ppg. Nationally, Davis ranks 13th in 3-pointers per game (3.1) and 14th in 3-point field goal percentage (43.4). She also leads the team in field goal percentage (.497) and free throw percentage (.838). Junior guard Courtney Mix dishes out at team-high 4.9 assists per game while also grabbing 6.8 rebounds per game.

Saint Francis:
The 15th-seeded Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (23-7) enter the tournament having won their last seven games and 18 of their last 20. Sophomore center Beth Swink scored 22 as the Red Flash beat Md.-Baltimore Country, 58-41, to claim their seventh Northeast Conference title and an NCAA Automatic bid. This is St. Francis' seventh trip to the Big Dance since 1996 and the Red Flash will be looking for their first ever tournament victory when they take on second-seeded Villanova Sunday.

Saint Francis is only giving up an average of 57.2 points per game, ranking them 22nd nationally. The Red Flash are 30th in the county in field goal percentage, hitting 45.0 percent.

Swink is fourth in the nation and tops the team in field goal percentage with an average of 63.4 while averaging 16.1 points per game. She also leads the team in rebounds per game with 8.3.

The Red Flash also get consistant scoring from each of their starting forwards. Senior Carlin Chesick contributes 13.9 ppg and helps Swink off the glass with 7.1 rpg while Junior Tonjee Ward chips in with a steady 13.2 ppg.


Out of the 64 teams in the men's and women's 2003 NCAA Championships, only 22 institutions have both programs competing in the "Big Dance." Better yet, only eight universities have both teams making their second consecutive NCAA trips together.

The Sooners were only one of 18 universities to have both teams to qualify for the 2002 NCAA Tournament. OU also became just the third univeristy to have both programs to advance to the Final Four in the same season (Duke, 1999 and Georgia, 1983).

Oklahoma has played five teams from the Atlantic 10 Conference producing an overall mark of 3-2 including a 28-point win over Fordham in the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Classic on Nov. 29, 2002. The Sooners have also defeated Dayton and LaSalle (1-0). St. Joseph's and George Washington have beaten OU.

OU's biggest thorn in the Big East Conference has been Connecticut, losing to the Huskies four times (twice in 2000 and 2002). Miami (Fla.) is the only other team Oklahoma has played more than once (1-2). Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Villanova have fallen victim to the Sooners, while Rutgers and West Virginia have defeated OU their only attempt.

No members of the Northeast Conference have ever played the Sooners.

Oklahoma has limited experience against the teams in its sub-regional in Norman. Overall the Sooners are 1-1 against the three programs.

Over the past four games, Oklahoma has shot a much improved 47.3 percent from the field and a solid 37.7 percent from beyond the arc. In the four games prior to this, the Sooners were only hitting 37.4 percent of their field goals attempted and a poor 26.7 percent of their three pointers.

In this stretch, OU has four players averaging double-digits in scoring, led by sophomore guard Dionnah Jackson's 14.8 points per game, with freshman Chelsi Welch following closely at 14.0 ppg. Senior Theresa Schuknecht adds 12.3 ppg and Maria Villarroel chips in 10.3 ppg.

Oklahoma will be going for its fourth straight season of producing 20-plus wins. The Sooners recorded a school and Big 12 Conference record last season with 32 victories. OU's 19 wins is the 10th best in program history.

With OU's next win, Head Coach Sherri Coale will tie former Sooner coach Maura McHugh for most 20-win seasons (4).

Oklahoma, which averaged 78.2 points per game last season, is scoring at a 67.0 ppg clip this year. However, OU's inside power has improved as the Sooners are averaging 40.1 rebounds per game, compared to last year's 39.2 rpg.

Oklahoma lost 85.4 percent of its scoring, 51.9 percent of its rebounding and 78.9 percent of its minutes played from last year's NCAA Final Four team. OU also lost its only returning starter Caton Hill, an All-America and Naismith candidate, to injury four games into the season (Nov. 26, 2002). Hill will return for the 2003-04 season. (Hill is included in the percentages)

Head Coach Sherri Coale had to replace four starters (Stacey Dales, LaNeishea Caufield, Rosalind Ross and Jamie Talbert), and three WNBA first round draft selections (Dales, Caufield, Ross).

Sophomore Dionnah Jackson, junior transfer Maria Villarroel and freshman Chelsi Welch have combined for 38.6 ppg and 15.2 rpg, in an attempt to replace Dales, Caufield and Ross.

In addition, 6-3 centers Theresa Schuknecht and freshman Beky Preston have teamed up for 15.0 points and 10.8 rebounds to fill the volid left by Hill and Talbert, who averaged 20.4 ppg and 11.9 rpg last season.

Senior center Theresa Schuknecht has put up some improved numbers in the post for the month of March. She is averaging 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, is shooting 75.0 percent from the three-point line (3-of-4) and has a 58.3 mark from the field. All of Schuknecht's three pointers have come this month. Her overall averages are 11.4 ppg and 6.7 rpg, on 44.3 percent from the field.

Oklahoma has produced an overall record of 12-1 when scoring 70 points or more. However, the Sooners are 7-11 when recording 69 or fewer points.

Stingy defense continues to be one of Sherri Coale's Sooners' trademarks. The Sooners have held 20 of their 31 opponents below 40 percent field goal shooting this season. Opponents are shooting a combined 38.5 percent from the field against Oklahoma. Since Coale took her first team to the NCAA Tournament in 2000, OU has held 69 of its 134 opponents to under 41 percent shooting. Oklahoma sports a 64-6 mark in the last four years when accomplishing the feat (16-4 this season).

Eight of OU's 10 players are averaging at least 13.0 minutes per game, and five of those are averaging at least 4.0 points per game. Oklahoma has had six different leading scorers (Maria Villarroel 14, Chelsi Welch 8, Dionnah Jackson 5, Theresa Schuknecht 4, Laura Andrews 1, Caton Hill 1). In fact, five different OU players have recorded at least 20 points in a game (Villarroel 9, Jackson 4, Schuknecht 4, Welch 2, Andrews 1) and all 10 active Sooners have reached double figures in scoring in at least one game.

Even though they still have less than two years of experience on the Division I level, sophomore Dionnah Jackson, junior transfer Maria Villarroel, senior transfer Theresa Schuknecht and freshman Chelsi Welch rank among Sooner greats on the single season and career charts.

Jackson and Villarroel are among OU's all-time best and single season leaders while Schuknecht and Welch have posted some impressive marks for this season.

Jackson ranks 10th in assists (261), 11th in career defensive rebounds (279) and minutes played per game (29.2). After the Big 12 Tournament, Jackson moved up to fifth on the single season chart in assists with 157. She also ranks ninth in defensive rebounds (149) and 15th in minutes played (1,033). With seven more steals she will appear among the top 15 in this category. She has 61 steals to date.

Villarroel is sixth on the single season list for best field goal percentage (57.1%), 10th for attempted free throws (165), 11th for made free throws (117) and tied for 14th in offensive rebounds (74). She's also one blocked shot (21) shy of ranking 15th in single season and career categories.

Schuknecht's 83.5 free throw percentage ranks her fourth best among single season leaders and her 86 offensive rebounds rank eighth best.

Welch is ninth on the single season list for three-point field goals attempted (141), 14th for most made treys (43) and free throw percentage (80.7%).

For the sixth year in a row, a Sherri Coale coached team has averaged better than 38.0 rebounds per game. This year's team averages 40.1 boards per game while her 2001 team averaged 41.2 rpg, the most for a Coale team.

Oklahoma has outrebounded 19 opponents, including the last six and nine of the last 10.

At last week's Big 12 Tournament, OU averaged 40.0 boards to its opponents 32.5 rpg.

OU is 12-6 when outrebounding its opponent and 7-5 when being outrebounded. OU lost its only game of the season when tying its opponent for rebounds.

Head Coach Sherri Coale has always emphasized the importance of sharing the basketball and making the extra pass. That was evident against Iowa State as 88.9 percent of OU's 18 field goals made were assisted (16), marking the best assists to field goal made ratio under Coale. Overall, 61.4 percent of all OU field goals have been assisted this season (450 assists to 733 field goals).

Coale's teams have had 18 games where five or fewer field goals were unassisted and seven games where four or fewer field goals were unassisted.

Sophomore Dionnah Jackson accounts for 40.0 percent of OU's made field goals and assists. She has dished out 157 assists and scored 136 field goals in 31 games.

As this young Sooner team is learning to play together they have realized how important it is to share the basketball. Of OU's 733 field goals made this year, 61.4 percent have been assisted.

As a team, the Sooners have dished out 450 assists for a 14.5 per game average.



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