OU Falls to A&M in Big 12 Semifinal

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 14, 2009
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Courtney Paris spent way too long on the bench in foul trouble for Oklahoma to feel comfortable about its chances of advancing to the Big 12 championship game.

Of course, when the third-ranked Sooners are facing Texas A&M (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP), nothing ever seems comfortable.

Danielle Gant scored 22 points, Sydney Colson added a career-best 15 and the Aggies beat Oklahoma 74-62 on Saturday to move on to the Big 12 title game for the second straight year.

"We haven't won anything yet. They don't give any consolation prizes and the last time we beat Oklahoma at our place, our fans thought we had won the national championship," said coach Gary Blair, referring to Aggies fans storming the court after A&M snapped Oklahoma's 20-game winning streak last month.

"We haven't won a thing yet."

The Sooners (28-4) were able to rally back once after Paris got into foul trouble, but the Aggies (25-6) delivered a knockout punch even with the All-America center on the court.

Tanisha Smith sparked an 11-1 run with a jumper from the left wing, and Colson added a 3-pointer, a steal and a fast-break layup that pushed the lead to 42-31. Paris wasn't able to make a dent in the deficit before leaving with four fouls, and the Sooners were still down 10 when she fouled out with 3:23 to play.

"It's my own fault. I wasn't ready to go," Paris said. "A lot my fouls came off of situations I can control. I've got to come out ready to play -- a lot of that's my fault -- and make sure my teammates are ready to play, too."

Paris ended up with 15 points and 15 rebounds, matching an NCAA record by reaching double figures in scoring for the 130th time in her career. Sophia Young also had 130 games with at least 10 points in her career at Baylor.

Danielle Robinson added 11 points for Oklahoma while Nyeshia Stevenson and Jenny Vining scored 10 apiece off the bench.

Smith finished with 13 points and Starks had 12 for Texas A&M, the defending Big 12 tournament champion. The Aggies were the only team to beat Oklahoma in conference play, coming through with a 57-56 win on Feb. 23.

For a time, it looked as though the Sooners would be able to overcome the three fouls that landed Paris on the bench midway through the first half. They needed less than 2 1/2 minutes to slice an eight-point halftime deficit to one, scoring the first seven points of the second half to get within 29-28 on Stevenson's three-point play.

The Aggies didn't flinch and were able to pull back away by stealing a series of sloppy passes as Oklahoma tried to force-feed Paris under the basket.

Paris, who guaranteed last week that the Sooners would win the national championship, was coming off a season-high 27 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks in a quarterfinal win against Kansas a day earlier. She said after that game that the postseason brought out another level of determination in her.

"You play Courtney by fronting her and ball pressure and praying for help. That's the only way you can guard her," Blair said. "If you're going to stay behind, you're going to see a who's who in America like you did [Friday] because she's too good.

"You've got to take chances. Our style of defense, that's how we do it."

Then suddenly Paris wasn't an option anymore.

She picked up her fourth foul while trying to block Takia Starks' shot under the basket and came out of the game with 9:19 remaining. Abi Olajuwon replaced her and missed the front end of a bonus situation and committed an offensive foul on back-to-back possessions, and then Colson connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Aggies their biggest lead of the game at 56-41.

"We were just mentally prepared this time to go out there and defend anybody. At Texas A&M, our style of play is just to come after them hard," Colson said.

Oklahoma scored four points in a row after Paris came back in one last time with 5:50 to play, but she fouled out while going up against LaToya Micheaux in the lane and the Sooners still down 58-48.

Whitney Hand, Oklahoma's primary outside threat, didn't score for a second straight game after missing four games following surgery on a dislocated left index finger. She has missed her last 18 3-pointers.

Texas A&M had led by as much as 11 in the first half after Paris sat down with three fouls with 9:13 to play. Paris picked up her second foul when she tracked down a loose ball in front of the Texas A&M bench and tried to whirl her way toward the basket, knocking Damitria Buchanan to the floor in the process.

She got whistled again 29 seconds later when she tried to block Buchanan's putback try at the other end.

"A&M did a great job of being scrappy and hustling, but we just weren't as tough as we usually are. We've had games were we didn't shoot very well, and we still find a way to fight through," Paris said.

"That's the No. 1 thing we didn't have is any fight."



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