TEMPE, Ariz. -- Freshman Leah Rush had a season-high 23 points, leading Oklahoma to a 58-45 victory over Marist in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday night.
Maria Villarroel had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, and Dionnah Jackson scored 14 points for the Sooners (24-8), who lost their season finale to Texas but also beat the Longhorns to win the Big 12 Conference tournament title.
That earned Oklahoma the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional, where it will meet the Missouri-Stanford game winner Monday.
Sooner Gameday Central | NCAA Tournament | Stats | Photos
Stephanie Del Preore had 12 points and Kerry Sullivan 10 for the Red Foxes (20-11), who belied their No. 14 seed by rallying from a 47-27 deficit in the last eight minutes.
Marist got to 47-42 on a three-point play by Maureen Magarity with 4:06 remaining. Then Rush, who matched her personal best for free throws made with a 9-for-9 performance, stopped the momentum by popping an 8-footer on the baseline and a 12-footer in the paint in a 28-second span.
With 2:31 left, the Sooners led 52-44.
Rush and Jackson had four points each during Oklahoma's 14-0 run to start the second half, a surge that opened a 42-23 lead.
Marist missed its first seven shots, falling behind 10-0 before Kristen Keller, inserted after a timeout, made a layup with 15:18 remaining.
The Red Foxes continued to struggle until reserves got them going late in the half. Megan Vetter had a 16-footer and 3-pointer 34 seconds apart, and Sullivan cut the deficit to 20-16 with two free throws with 5:11 to go.
Kristen Vilardi had a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left, bringing Marist to 26-23, and becoming only the second starter with a basket.
2004 NCAA Women's Tournament | Printable Bracket