NORMAN, Okla. -- Fresh off a six-game road trip, the undefeated and third-ranked Oklahoma women’s basketball team (7-0) returns to the Lloyd Noble Center for the first time in 28 days on Sunday when Arkansas-Pine Bluff visits for a 2 p.m. game.
Sales for the Sooners’ return have been steady, but general admission tickets remain at the cost of $10 for adults and $5 for children. Group tickets can also be purchased by calling the OU Ticket Office at (800) 456-GoOU. Those who do not make it out to the arena can catch the game on KOKC 1520 AM with Brian Brinkley and Tara DeGiusti. Additionally, the game will be webcast live on the SoonerSports.com’s O-Zone.
The Sooners are riding a 21-game regular season winning streak, which is the second longest in Big 12 history. The Sooners are chasing the 25-game record, which was set by OU from January 2001 to December 2001. OU will continue the chase against an Arkansas-Pine Bluff squad that has averaged 57 points per game while losing its first six contests. The Lady Lions have been defeated by an average of 30 points and their smallest deficit was 20 points to Oral Roberts on Nov. 29.
OU comes off one of its biggest challenges to date. The Sooners survived a ragged first half against South Carolina’s full court pressure to beat the Gamecocks 78-51 on Thursday night in Columbia. OU was lead by Courtney Paris (15 points, 16 rebounds), Leah Rush (13 points) and Chelsi Welch (13 points). Welch and Rush are playing arguably the best basketball of their Sooner careers and have been consistent offensive compliments to Paris. OU has also revved up its defense in the last three games, when opponents have shot just 30 percent from the floor and 24 percent from 3-point range.
The Sooners are in the midst of a three-game home stand. After UAPB, OU will host Northern Colorado at 2 p.m. on Dec. 17. After that is a potential top-10 showdown with still undefeated and fifth-ranked Ohio State at LNC on Dec. 20.
Setting The Scene
Date: Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006
Tipoff: 2 p.m. Central
Venue: Lloyd Noble Center
Webcast: O-Zone on Soonersports.com
Radio: KOKC (1520 AM) and Yahoo! Radio
Radio Talent: Brian Brinkley (Play-by-Play) & Tara DeGiusti
Tickets: (800) 456-GoOU
Promotions: Postgame autograph session (one item per person).
First 1,000 fans receive free glow sticks.
Player To Watch
OU head coach Sherri Coale expects to dig deep into her bench against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which should mean increased minutes for the freshmen class. That class has been led by Amanda Thompson so far this season. The consistent forward has scored between eight and 11 points in six of seven games. She is also in the top-10 among Big 12 freshmen in four statistical categories.
Previewing Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Arkansas Pine Bluff is 0-6 this season after posting a 7-21 record in 2005-06. The Lady Lions are led by head coach Danny Evans.
Evans put together a daunting schedule for UAPB with Michigan, Cincinnati, Indiana State, Arkansas State, Ole Miss and Oral Roberts leading up to the Sooners. The Lady Lions closest loss was a 20-point defeat in Tulsa to Oral Roberts. Their six losses have come by an average of 30.3 points.
UAPB is starting four guards and two seniors this season. The tallest starter is 6-1 sophomore forward Ciara Shields, who is averaging 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds.
The leading scorer for UAPB is junior guard Delores Hughley at 14.7 points per game. Senior guard Arica Green, who is listed as the top returning player, is also in double figures at 11.2 points per game.
UAPB is shooting 33 percent from the floor, 26 percent from 3-point range and 66 percent from the free throw line. They are pulling down 11 fewer rebounds than their opponents and committing 24 turnovers per game.
Sunday’s game will mark the first meeting between the two programs.
Time to Talk About Rush
Leah Rush, the nation’s Most Underrated Player last season, is playing some of the best basketball of her career according to the OU coaching staff.
Over the last four games, Rush has been spectacularly consistent. Rush is averaging 14.3 points while shooting 60 (21-35) percent from the field, 85 percent (11-13) from 3-point range and 80 percent (4-5) at the free throw line. She has also committed just six turnovers in 124 minutes of action.
On the season, Rush is shooting 71 (12-17) percent from 3-point range to lead the Big 12. She is also 11th in the league in field goal percentage at 57 percent.
Welch Off To Strong Start
Chelsi Welch is off to a fast start to her senior season. The Plainview, Texas native is 24 points shy of 1,000 career points. She should approach that number in the next three games.
The 5-10 guard has scored in double-figures in five of seven games this season, while tallying eight points in the other two games. She posted a season high 23 points in the season opener against DePaul. Last season, Welch only scored in double-figures on four occastions during the non-conference schedule
She appears to be picking up where she left off last year, when she scored in double figures in 14 of the final 24 games. She also dialed up her shooting percentage during that stretch and finished 11th in the Big 12 in field goal percentage during conference action. She also ranked No. 2 in conference-only games in 3-point percentage with a 44.9 mark.
This year, Welch ranks fourth in the Big 12 and 11th in the NCAA with 3-point percentage of .517. She is also seventh in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at .588.
Seeking 1,000 Point Club Membership
Three current Sooners are hoping to join Leah Rush in the OU 1,000 point club. Rush reached the career milestone against Baylor on Feb. 12, 2006. She should have company from Courtney Paris, Chelsi Welch and Erin Higgins before the end of the season.
Below is a chart on the chase for 1,000:
Rush Moves Up To No. 16
During the Lamar game senior Leah Rush surpassed Mandy Wade, who had 1,148 points from 1992-95, for 16th place on the OU career scoring list. Rush currently has 1,189 points and is three shy of surpassing Lisa Allison (1984-87) at No. 15 with 1,191 and 17 shy of topping LaTrenda Phillips (1984-87) at No. 14 with 1,205.
Turning Up The Defense
OU is yet to allow a team to shoot over 40 percent from the field and is holding opponents to a combined shooting percentage of .322. The highest shooting percentage posted against the Sooners this season was .387 by UCLA. The low mark was a .286 against South Carolina. OU has revved up its defense over the last three games when it has limited opponents to 30 (51-170) percent shooting from the field and 24 percent from 3-point range. Last season 12 of 36 opponents shot over 40 percent, while OU held all opponents to a combined percentage of 37.
Recap - at South Carolina
(AP) - Courtney Paris had 15 points and 16 rebounds - her 35th straight game with a double-double - and No. 3 Oklahoma defeated South Carolina 78-51 on Thursday night to open 7-0 for the third time in six seasons.
While Paris continued her streak that started more than a year ago, it was her lowest point total of the season and well below her average of 22.3 points coming in.
It didn’t matter as the Sooners used some accurate long-range shooting to turn a tight game into a runaway.
Oklahoma led 38-28 early in the second half when Leah Rush hit two 3-pointers and Erin Higgins added a third. After Paris added an inside bucket, Rush made another long shot to put the Sooners out front, 52-32.
South Carolina did not get closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Oklahoma has won its past 21 regular-season games.
Rush had 13 points, including three of the Sooners’ seven 3-pointers.
The Gamecocks used the 6-foot-5 Sliskovic and 6-6 Ilona Burgrova to lock down on Paris in the paint.
With South Carolina concentrating close to the hoop, Oklahoma found room to operate on the outside.
The Sooners were 6-of-9 on 3-pointers in the second half.
Sliskovic, the Gamecocks’ top scorer coming in at nearly 12 points a game, was held to one field goal for 2 points. She was 1-of-7 from the field.
OU torched the nets in the second half, shooting 67 (18-27) percent from the field and 3-point line (6-9).
With 15 points and 16 rebounds, Courtney Paris collected the 40th double-double of her career. She has played 43 games and has collected a double-double in 35 straight outings.
Courtney Paris has shot 73 (11-15) percent from the free throw line in the last two games. She shot 57 (13-23) from the line in the first five games.
C. Paris had already tied a season high for blocks with four by halftime. She finished the game with five blocks.
Britney Brown tied a career high with 10 assists. She also accomplished the feat against BYU in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
Leah Rush (13 points) scored in double figures for the fourth straight game. She picked up her pace after only scoring four points in the first half. Additionally, Rush has made 11 of her last 13 (.846) three-point attempts, including 3-4 against USC. The hot stretch dates back to the UCLA game on Nov. 21.
Chelsi Welch (13points) scored in double figures for the fifth time in seven games. She only reached double figures in four preconference games last season.
The Winning Streak
OU has won 21 straight regular season games dating back to Jan. 14, 2006. The streak is tied for the second longest in Big 12 history with a Baylor streak of the same length that stretched from January 2005 to January 2006. The record resides in Norman and is a 25-gamer by Oklahoma (January 2001-December 2001).
OU has won 13 straight games away from Norman which is three shy of tying the Big 12 record of 16. The streak includes true road games and games at neutral sites. OU set that mark with 16 straight wins from December 2000 to December 2001.
OU has won 12 straight true road games, which is a Big 12 record. The previous record was 11 games and was set by OU from December 2000 to December 2001.
OU is 42-1 when it is ranked in the top-10 and the opponent is not ranked. The lone loss came to Washington in the 2001 Sweet 16.
OU is averaging 82.7 points and 18.7 assists. Both numbers are up from last season when OU averaged 76.3 points and 16.8 assists.
Senior point guard Britney Brown’s 58 minute streak without committing a turnover ending at the 15:23 mark of the first half against South Carolina. Brown made up for it by dishing out 10 assists to tie a career high. She also dished 10 dimes against BYU in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Brown’s current assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.6 (36-to-14).
OU will play seven of its 11 non-conference games away from Norman and the Lloyd Noble Center this season. It is nothing new for Sherri Coale’s program, which has played 64 (57-89) percent of its preconference game outside the Lloyd Noble Center since 1999-00. OU has won 75 (43-14) percent of its pre-conference road games during that time.
Paris Sets Pace to 900
Courtney Paris became the fastest player in OU and Big 12 history to reach 900 career points when she reached the milestone in her 42nd career game against Tulsa. Paris topped the 52-game pace former Sooner Molly McGuire (1980-83) needed to establish the mark.
Paris & Putbacks
27 (40-149) percent of Courtney Paris’ points this season have come after she pulled down an offensive rebound. Of that total, 20 have come after her own miss and 16 have come after her teammates’ misses. She has scored four at the free throw line after collecting an offensive board.
The Double-Double Streak
Courtney Paris has recorded a double-double in 35 straight games. The streak began against UCLA on Dec. 5, 2005. The streak will be 370 days old when OU takes the court next.
The Half Double-Double
Courtney Paris has recorded a double-double in a single half on 12 occasions (5 first half, 7 second half). She has achieved the mark against UCLA (second half) and Tulsa (first half) this season.
Last year her four first half double-dips came against BYU, Texas (second meeting), UCLA and SMU. Her second half double-doubles were against New Mexico (twice), Illinois, Michigan State, Texas (first meeting) and Baylor (second meeting).
As usual, Paris shines in the brightest spotlight with six of these double-doubles coming against ranked teams.
On the Milestone Verge...
Courtney Paris is 63 points shy of 1,000 in her career. She is also four steals shy of 50, eight field goals shy of 300 and 23 assists shy of 100. Based on her current pace, Paris will easily be the fastest player in OU and Big 12 history to 1,000 career points. The Sooner center is also 34 rebounds shy of entering the OU career top-10 for rebounds. Melissa Richie (1986-89) is at No. 10 with 679.
Chelsi Welch is 24 points shy of the 1,000 point club.
Leah Rush (1,189) is three points shy of surpassing Lisa Allison (1,191) for No. 15 on the OU career scoring list.
Ashley Paris is three offensive rebounds shy of 100 in her career. She is also nine boards shy of 200 and 28 points shy of 300.
The Experience Factor
Notes on the level of experience OU has on its roster:
Between eight players, including six seniors, OU has 376 career starts. Sophomore Carolyn Winchester is the only non-freshman that has never started a game for OU.
The combined consecutive starts of Chelsi Welch (30), Leah Rush (93) and Courtney Paris (43) is 156.
Britney Brown had a streak of 25 consecutive starts snapped on opening night. She returned to the starting lineup against Hawaii (N18) and has started the last five games.
Since earning her first start at Texas A&M during her freshman season Leah Rush has started 93 straight games.
Erin Higgins had started 77 straight games before senior night last season when she gave up the honor to then-senior Laura Andrews.
Leah Rush, Erin Higgins, Chelsi Welch, Erin Higgins and Courtney Paris already appear in the OU career record books a total of 17 times.
Home Court Advantage
OU posted a 12-1 record on its home floor, the Lloyd Noble Center, in 2005-06 and owns a 90-19 (.827) mark since the start of the 1998-99 season. The Sooners have won nine straight home games. This season OU is 1-0 at LNC.
Under Sherri Coale, OU is 95-34 (.736) at LNC. All-time, OU is 255-103 (.712) at Lloyd Noble