Paris looks to add to run of 58 straight  double-doubles

Updated: March 16, 2007, 7:56 PM ET
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- Shaq-like.

Ask Southeast Missouri State about Oklahoma's Courtney Paris, and that's one of the images used to describe the Sooners center who averages 23.6 points and 16.2 rebounds.

Courtney Paris
Peter Aiken/WireImage.comAt 6 feet, 4 inches, Oklahoma center Courtney Paris towers above the competition.

"She's a generational player," Redhawks coach John Ishee said. "I've never seen anybody quite like her.

"She's very much like Shaquille O'Neal. She's got great footwork and quickness for someone who has that kind of size," he added. "You can double team, and with her size it won't affect her."

The Sooners (26-4), the No. 3 seed in the Dayton Regional, play No. 14 Southeast Missouri State (24-7) on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Paris, the 6-foot-4 daughter of former San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Bubba Paris, has dominated the Big 12 since she arrived on campus with her twin sister, Ashley.

Courtney was a consensus All-American as a freshman, when she became the first player in NCAA history with 700 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in a single season.

And there's been no sophomore jinx to slow her down this season. She's only 15 rebounds away from doing it again.

Paris' domination has been so complete, her run of 58 straight double-doubles has become so routine that her teammates say they're no longer surprised by anything she does near the basket on either end of the floor.

She needs only five points Saturday to reach 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career, and reach those totals faster than any other player in NCAA history.

"Our offense moves through her," said Sooners senior forward Leah Rush, who used to play center until Paris arrived. "Defensively, she is such a dominating presence."

Paris grew up admiring O'Neal, whose sheer size often overpowers opponents. Paris' game can get like that when she uses her wide body to box out defenders under the boards to grab rebounds for easy putbacks.

"She's got great footwork and quickness for someone who has that kind of size," Ishee said. "You talk about averaging 24 points in a conference like the Big 12, those are monster numbers."

Even when she misses, Paris usually gets one or two cracks at her own shots until she scores while defenders helplessly flail away.

"She's beastly on offense," said Southeast Missouri State's 6-2 center Lachelle Lyles, whose rebounding average of 17.2 puts her first in the country.

Those two should make for the most interesting personal matchup of the games in Austin this weekend. Paris had been wondering just who was the player who kept her from being No. 1 in rebounds, and now she gets to face her on the court.

"I think it's cool," Paris said. "I always thought, 'Who's the No. 1 rebounder?' so I think it's kind of funny that I finally get to go up against the girl who is."

The Redhawks' chances for an upset depend on how well the long and lean Lyles can match Paris' strength under the basket. Lyles grabbed 32 rebounds in a game against Tennessee State but her scoring (8.5 points) is well below that of Paris.

"If she blocks out like Courtney blocks out," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said, "there's going to be a lot of collisions under the basket."

Also on Saturday in Austin, the No. 3-seed LSU Lady Tigers (26-7) play No. 14 North Carolina-Asheville (21-11) in the first round of the Fresno Regional. It will be LSU's first game without former coach Pokey Chatman, who abruptly resigned last week amid allegations she had an improper relationship with a former player.

UNC-Asheville won the Big South tournament behind senior forward Amanda Elder, who averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.

No. 6 seed Marquette (25-6) and No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette (25-8) meet in the Dayton Regional.

The Rajun' Cajuns earned their first postseason appearance and are right back where their season started with three games in a November tournament at the University of Texas. Guard Krystal Ellis averages 18.2 points to lead Marquette, which set a school record for victories this season.

In the other Fresno Regional game, No. 6 Xavier (26-7) meets No. 11 West Virginia (20-10).

Xavier senior reserve Joie Clyburn, who transferred from the Mountaineers, was named the Atlantic 10 tournament most outstanding player after the Musketeers won the title. West Virginia finished fourth in the Big East even without their best player, senior forward Meg Bulger, who blew out her left knee before the season started.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press