8:00 PM ET, November 11, 2005
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Courtney Paris' debut for Oklahoma went as she hoped, and the highly touted freshman provided what coach Sherri Coale expected. Paris scored 24 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the 25th-ranked Sooners to an 89-57 victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round of the Preseason Women's NIT on Friday night. "It was perfect," Paris said. "It was just the way I wanted it to be." The 6-foot-4 center, the high school player of the year by USA Today and the Naismith Foundation last season, shot 12-of-15 from the field before sitting out the final six minutes in the best scoring debut by a freshman in school history. "Every time she pulls a rebound down and goes back up and scores, it's exactly as I dreamed it would be," Coale said. "And then every time she doesn't help and gets crashed on and doesn't block out, that's exactly as I dreamed it would be, too. "We have a healthy balance here. Trust me, we're keeping her humble." Laura Andrews scored all of her 11 points in the first half, Chelsi Welch also added 11 and Leah Rush had 10 for Oklahoma (1-0), which has won its last eight home openers. With the win, the Sooners advanced to face SMU in the second round of the Preseason WNIT on Sunday. Turquoise McCain scored 14 points and Nichole Drummond added 12 for Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the first Horizon League team to play in the Preseason WNIT in the tournament's 10 years in existence. "I'm glad to see our freshmen kind of receive a baptism by fire," Panthers coach Sandy Botham said. "What better way to introduce them to the college game than to play Oklahoma. I just kept thinking this is so good for them -- as much as it hurts -- to go up against this caliber of a team because this is where we want to be." Paris, who had 25 points and 20 rebounds in Oklahoma's only preseason game, said she was "really nervous'' to play in her first regular-season game. Despite that, she scored Oklahoma's first two baskets and had six points in the Sooners' opening 11-0 run. "I had so much adrenaline going," she said. "I think after you get into the flow of the game, that kind of settles you down. It's more excitement rather than a little bit of being scared." She excited the crowd with an athletic sequence in which she blocked a shot, scooped up the loose ball and ran down court -- although she couldn't convert the layup at the other end. "She's a really determined kid. What that is more than a skill set I think is her mind-set. She gets really irritated when she misses a shot, particularly if it's a fairly easy one," Coale said. "And she's just that much more determined." Andrews' third 3-pointer of the first half stretched Oklahoma's lead to 43-18 before Aubrey Hampton cut the deficit to 22 on a 3-pointer on the Panthers' final possession before halftime. It was less than 5 minutes into the second half when Paris passed Erin Higgins' mark for scoring in a freshman's debut. Higgins, who's still on the team, scored 18 points against Tennessee in 2002. Paris tied the mark when she rebounded her own miss and scored underneath. She then broke it with a putback of Welch's missed shot. "That's what you call padding your stats," Coale joked. "A few offensive rebounds before you finish." Paris scored Oklahoma's first 10 points of the second half and extended the lead to 53-27 on her third straight basket off an offensive rebound. The Panthers were never closer than 24 after that. The Sooners outrebounded the Panthers 45-31 and forced 22 turnovers.
Country star Toby Keith sat at courtside, and football coach Bob Stoops and members of the Oklahoma football team watched most of the first half from the stands. Others in attendance included Dionnah Jackson, the Sooners' leader in rebounds, blocks, steals and assists last season, and men's basketball starters Taj Gray, Kevin Bookout and Terrell Everett. ... The game was played with two experimental rules. The 3-point line was moved back 9 inches to 20 feet, 6 inches and teams were required to advance the ball out of the backcourt in 10 seconds. ... The Panthers' last win against a Top 25 team was an 88-76 victory against No. 13 Nebraska on Dec. 13, 1997.