NORMAN, Okla. -- After a 10-day break for the Christmas holiday, the No. 8/7 Oklahoma women’s basketball team (9-1) looks to return to its winning ways against its second consecutive ranked opponent, No. 22/25 New Mexico (9-2), at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Sooners and Lobos will meet at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. OU is playing at Cox to get comfortable in the venue that will host the 2007 Big 12 Championship. Tickets remain for the game and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com.
The Sooners took the holiday off to recoup and refocus after a seven-point loss to No. 8 Ohio State on Dec. 20. The loss ended the Sooners’ 23-game regular season winning streak, which was the longest in Division I basketball. It also dropped the Sooners from No. 3 in both polls to No. 8 in the AP and No. 7 in the Coaches.
OU traveled to New Mexico and the infamous Pit twice last season and came out with wins on both occasions. The Sooners defeated the Lobos by double figures in both games, using long range sharp shooting and stingy defense. The Sooners shot 42 percent combined in the two games at the Pit and limited the Lobos to 35.8 percent shooting from the field and just 33.3 from 3-point range.
Courtney Paris averaged 25 points and 16.5 rebounds against UNM last season, while Chelsi Welch averaged 13, including a breakout 20-point performance in the second meeting.
This season New Mexico is off to a 10-2 start with its two losses coming away from Albuquerque. The Lobos fell prey to Arizona State (67-49) and Nebraska (66-59) in consecutive games in November. Since they have won nine straight games , including impressive victories over Texas, Arizona and UCLA. The Lobos are led by senior guard Julie Briody, who is averaging 17. 3 points per game and is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range and 97 percent at the free throw line.
After its final pre-conference game, the Sooners will open the 2007 Big 12 season at home against 2006 WNIT Postseason Champions Kansas State on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. A limited number of general admission tickets remain for the contest.
Setting The Scene
Date: Saturday, Dec. 20, 2006
Location: Oklahoma City
Tipoff: 2 p.m. Central
Venue: Cox Convention Center
TV: Sooner Sports Network
TV Talent: Bob Carpenter & Debbie Antonelli
Channel Listings: KWTV in OKC
Cox 3 in Tulsa
Channel 32 in Enid
Cable Channel 5 in Lawton
Channell 22 PTCI in Guymon
KOMI in Woodward
Radio: KOKC (1520 AM), Sooner Sports Radio Network and Yahoo! Radio
Radio Talent: Brian Brinkley & Tara DeGiusti
Radio Broadcast Info
Tickets: $12. Ticketmaster.com
Player To Watch
The last time the Sooners played New Mexico, Chelsi Welch broke out with a double-double while Courtney Paris sat on the bench in foul trouble. The 20 point, 10 rebound effort was her first career double-double and her first 20 point game in since her freshman season. She has been OU second leading scorer since that game last season, including her average of 11.8 this season.
Recap - Ohio State
(AP) - Jessica Davenport made Courtney Paris work for her 38th consecutive double-double. She wouldn’t let her escape with the win, too.
Marscilla Packer scored 15 points and Davenport added 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 8 Ohio State to a 74-67 victory over No. 3 Oklahoma on Dec. 20 in a matchup of two of the country’s best centers.
The Buckeyes (10-1) overcame Paris’ 22 points and 13 rebounds to end a 23-game regular-season winning streak for the Sooners (9-1) that was the longest in the country.
While Paris had the more impressive stat line, Davenport got the last laugh for the second straight season. The preseason Big Ten player of the year hit two free throws with 7:15 left to give Ohio State the lead for good. Last season, it took a turnaround jumper with 3.4 seconds left for Davenport to push her team to a 75-71 victory against Oklahoma.
Much of the focus before the game fell on Paris, who last season became the first freshman on AP’s All-America team, and Davenport, who placed behind her on the second team.
Davenport set the tone early, swatting three of Paris’ shots in the first eight minutes. The eventual result was Paris’ least efficient game of the season. She took 24 shots and made only 10, finishing below 50 percent shooting for only the second time this season.
Paris, the Big 12 preseason player of the year, and Chelsi Welch scored all of the Sooners’ points in a 10-0 run to start the second half. Paris tied the game by rebounding her own point-blank miss, and Welch put Oklahoma ahead with a 3-pointer from the left side. Paris’ three-point play off a runout layup made it 46-40.
Davenport helped start Ohio State’s push back with a three-point play that resulted in Paris’ third foul with 14:39 left. The Buckeyes reclaimed the lead on Packer’s 3-pointer that made it 52-51.
The teams traded the lead before Davenport put Ohio State ahead 61-60 on two free throws with 7:15 left, as Paris sat on the bench with four fouls. Brandie Hoskins made a driving layup and Star Allen added another basket inside to give the Buckeyes some breathing room at 69-64. Oklahoma had chances to close the gap but missed five straight shots.
Welch ended the drought with a 3-pointer to get Oklahoma within three in the final minute, but Erin Higgins’ 3-pointer that would have brought the Sooners to 72-70 was negated when Paris was whistled for her fifth foul with 14.1 seconds left.
∙ The game marked just the second top-10 matchup at the Lloyd Noble Center in OU history. The last time it happened, No. 4 OU faced off against No. 10 Baylor on Feb. 5, 2002.
The official attendance of 11,441 was the fifth largest in program history.
Ohio State (45 percent) was the first OU foe to shoot over 40 percent against the Sooners this season.
Both Chelsi Welch and Courtney Paris reached the 1,000 career point plateau against Ohio State, joining teammate Leah Rush and marking the third time that OU has had three 1,000 point scorers on the same team. The other instances were 1994-95 (Angi Guffy, Mandy Wade and Etta Maytubby) and 2001-02 (Stacey Dales, LaNeishea Caufield, Caton Hill). Only 11 known teams have had four players with 1,000 points in NCAA history.
Previewing New Mexico
New Mexico and its home court, The Pit, have become one of the meccas on women’s basketball. The Pit is routinely packed and one of the toughest environments in game.
Last season, OU became the first non-conference opponent since 1975 to defeat New Mexico on its home court twice in one season. Both of OU’s wins were by double digits.
The architect of the New Mexico program is Don Flanagan is in his 12th season and owns a 239-106 record. Under Flanagan the Lobos have finished in the upper half of the Mountain West Conference for six straight years, including last season when they reached the NCAA Tournament and were ranked for the majority of the season.
The Lobos are led on offense by senior guard Julie Briody, who is averaging 17 points per game. Briody was injured in the second meeting of 2005-06 and only registered eight minutes and two points in the first meeting.
OU is well aware of the Loboo second offensive option, Dionne Marsh, who is averaging 14.8 points. The long and athletic forward averged 18 points against OU last season, including 23 in the first meeting. OU will also spend plenty of practice time preparing for point Katie Montgomery, who is averaging nearly 11 points and four assists per game.
OU leads the all-time series with New Mexico 6-2, including wins in five of the last six meetings. Saturday will mark the first meeting in the state of Oklahoma since 1995. OU is 2-1 against the Lobos in Oklahoma, with all three meetings coming in Norman. It will mark the second consecutive meeting in which both teams are ranked in both polls. OU is also 15-6 against current members of the Mountain West Conference.
An Early Look
OU decided to host the New Mexico game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City so that the Sooners could get comfortable with the surroundings. The 2007 Big 12 Championship will make its Oklahoma City and Cox Center debut this March 6-8, 10. The men’s Big 12 Championship will be held at the Ford Center.
Getting a Rush on the Competition
Leah Rush, who is shooting 56.5 percent from 3-point range, is deadly when she makes her first attempt of the game. She has done so in 22 contests over the last two seasons and shoots 61 percent (38-62) when she hits her first from long range. OU is 21-1 in those contests with the lone loss coming to Illinois last season. This year Rush has made her first attempt in four games, all OU wins, and she has shot 75 percent (9-12).
OU is 2-1 against ranked foes in 2006-07 with wins over No. 20 DePaul and No. 21 UCLA and a loss to No. 8 Ohio State. New Mexico is ranked No. 25 by the AP and No. 22 by the Coaches.
OU is 43-59 (19-21 at home) all-time against ranked opponents. Last season the Sooners were 7-4.
OU is 39-30 (17-9 at home) when it is ranked and facing a ranked team. It is also 11-2 when ranked higher, with the losses coming on Jan. 24, 2004 to No. 19 Baylor and Dec. 20, 2006 to No. 8 Ohio State.
OU is averaging 81.5 points and 19.6 assists. Both numbers are up from last season when OU averaged 76.3 points and 16.8 assists.
Leah Rush had a season low two points against Ohio State. It was her lowest point total in 23 games, dating back to the Oklahoma State game on Jan. 31, 2006.
Paris In Elite Status
Courtney Paris needed just 46 career games to reach 1,000 career points. That pace places her among the 16 fastest players in NCAA history to the career milestone. Below is the list of players in NCAA history that have reached 1,000 career points in 46 games or less:
Historic Defensive Stretch
OU held its first nine opponents below 40 percent shooting this season. The previous record for consecutive opponents held below 40 percent was seven and set in 1984-85.
OU also held South Carolina, Arkansas Pine Bluff and Norther Colorado to below 30 percent in consecutive outings. That is another record streak. OU had held two straight opponent below 30 percent on seven previous occasions in 33 seasons of Sooner basketball.
OU is third in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense at .324.
Only Ohio State (.450) has shot over 40 percent against OU this season. The lowest mark was a .224 by Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Northern Colorado. Last season 24 of 36 opponents failed to reach the 40 percent mark against OU.
1,000 Point Club Membership
Three current Sooners - Leah Rush, Courtney Paris and Chelsi Welch - are in the OU 1,000 point club. Rush reached the career milestone against Baylor on Feb. 12, 2006. Courtney Paris and Chelsi Welch both reached it against Ohio State on Dec. 20, 2006. It marks the third time that OU has had three 1,000 point scorers on the same team. The other instances were 1994-95 (Angi Guffy, Mandy Wade and Etta Maytubby) and 2001-02 (Stacey Dales, LaNeishea Caufield, Caton Hill). Only 11 known NCAA Division I teams have had four players with the 1,000 career points.
Erin Higgins is also closing in on the 1,000 career points and should, based on her career scoring average, reach the milestone this season:
The Winning Streaks
OU has won 13 straight regular season 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 regular season 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 has won 19 straight games against Big 12 teams (including postseason championship) and 17 straight regular season games against conference foes. The Sooners have also won eight straight Big 12 home games and nine straight Big 12 road games.
OU won 23 straight regular season games between Jan. 14, 2006 and Dec. 17, 2006. The streak is the second longest in Big 12 history. The record resides in Norman and is a 25-gamer by Oklahoma (January 2001-December 2001).
Paris & Putbacks
26 (56-215) percent of Courtney Paris’ points this season have come after she pulled down an offensive rebound. Of that total, 28 have come after her own miss, 24 have come after her teammates’ misses and four have come at the free throw line after being fouled after an offensive board.
Paris At The Charity Stripe
Courtney Paris has made 68 (15-22) percent of her free throws in the last five games. She shot 55 percent from the charity stripe in the first five games of the season. Her yearly percentage for 2006-07 is 60.8 and her career mark is 50.2.
The Double-Double Streak
Courtney Paris has recorded a double-double in 38 straight games. The streak began against UCLA on Dec. 5, 2005. The streak will be 390 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.
Paris Sets Pace to 1,000
Courtney Paris became the fastest player in OU and Big 12 history to reach 1,000 career points against Ohio State on Dec. 20, 2006. She had previously set the record at every 100 point interval to 1,000. She needed 46 games to reach 1,000 career points, which is tied for the 13th fastest in NCAA history.
Double Figure Twins
Courtney Paris and Ashley Paris have scored in double figures in the same game on 11 occasions, including four times this season. The 11 occasions account for all 11 double figures games of Ashley’s career. OU is 10-1 when the low post twins reach 10 or more points.
What Brown Can Do For OU
Despite perhaps her worst statistical game of the year against Ohio State (five assists, seven turnovers), Britney Brown has still posted an impressive run over the last six games. Including a career high 10 assist effort against South Carolina, Brown has posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4 (31-to-13) over the last six games.
On the season she is third in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio with a 2.17 mark. She is also fourth in the Big 12 in assists per game at 5.2.
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.
Since the fourth game of the season Rush is averaging 11.7 points while shooting 59 (31-53) percent from the field, 63 percent (12-19) from 3-point range and 80 percent (8-10) at the free throw line. She has also committed just 10 turnovers in 193 minutes of action.
On the season, Rush is shooting 57 (13-23) percent from 3-point range, which ranks second in the Big 12. She is also fifth in the league in field goal percentage at 56.9 percent.
Rush Moves Up to No. 14
During the Northern Colorado game senior Leah Rush surpassed LaTrenda Phillips, for 14th place on the OU career scoring list. Rush currently has 1,214 points and is eight shy of passing Jo Mosley (1986-89) at No. 13 with 1,221.
Welch Off To Strong Start
Chelsi Welch is off to a fast start to her senior season. Most recently she became the 21st member of the OU 1,000 point club when she scored 14 points against Ohio State on Dec. 20.
The 5-10 guard has scored in double-figures in six of 10 games this season, while tallying eight points in three others. She posted a season high 23 points in the season opener against DePaul. Last season, Welch only scored in double-figures on four occasions 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. At the end of the year, Welch ranked No. 2 in conference-only games in 3-point percentage with a 44.9 mark.
This year, Welch ranks fifth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at .580 and third in 3-point percentage at .528.