OU Pulls Away from USC on the Road

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
DECEMBER 08, 2006

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Courtney Paris will do anything to help No. 3 Oklahoma, including play the role of decoy.

Oklahoma's 6-foot-4 All-American had 15 points and 16 rebounds to improve her streak to 35 straight games with a double-double. But it was the Sooners' outside shooting that led to a 78-51 victory.

It's usually hard to miss - or ignore - Paris. Her scoring, rebounding and presence down low are why the defending Big 12 Conference champions are among the favorites for a national title this year.

But there were the third-ranked Sooners, swishing 3-pointers to pull away while Paris tried to set up underneath the basket.

``Tonight,'' Paris said, ``was my decoy night. If they're watching me, we have guys that can shoot the ball. That's our deal. That's what we do.''

And it led the Sooners to their third 7-0 start in six seasons.

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Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said her players were determined to follow what's worked and get the ball to Paris near the basket. ``She's the best player in America. That's what we're going to try and do,'' Coale said. ``But we didn't do a good job adapting to the fact they were not going to let the ball go to the post every time.''

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 22.3-point average coming in.

Paris came out fast and looked like she'd put this one away herself, easily getting to the basket and drawing two fouls on South Carolina star Iva Sliskovic in the first 38 seconds.

Press Conference Video: Coale | Paris | Rush

But the Gamecocks kept Paris in check the rest of the half, limiting her to one field goal and 5 points. She proved a force on the defensive end, though, with eight rebounds and four blocks in the first 20 minutes.

At halftime, Coale got her players thinking about taking more shots if Paris was covered. The move worked to perfection.

Oklahoma led 38-28 early in the second half when Leah Rush hit two 3-pointers and Erin Higgins added a third. After Paris had 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.

Paris wasn't frustrated about her role in this one. After all, she knows it'll take Oklahoma's outside shooters to win a national title.

``I like to touch the ball and I like to be an active player,'' Paris said. One of the best parts of playing with the Sooners, she said, is that they are talented in many areas.

Rush said the focus was on slowing down on offense and ``do what we're capable of doing.''

When the outside shots began to fall, ``everything else opened up,'' Rush said.

Paris came out after the break and quickly got two close-in baskets and a pair of foul shots in the first three minutes to end any suspense about the streak going forward.

Oklahoma has won its past 21 regular-season games.

Rush had 13 points, including three of the Sooners' seven 3-pointers.

Melanie Johnson and Stacy Booker had 10 points to lead South Carolina (5-4), which has lost three of its past four games.

Still, the Gamecocks used the 6-5 Sliskovic and 6-6 Ilona Burgrova to lock down 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.

``We did a lot of things right in this game,'' South Carolina coach Susan Walvius said. ``Everything but put the ball in the basket.''



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