8:00 PM ET, February 15, 2006
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas did everything it could to stop Oklahoma freshman center Courtney Paris, denying her passes and dropping extra defensive help when she got the ball.None of it could stop the Sooners from staying perfect in the Big 12 and clinching at least a share of the conference title.Paris had 20 points and 20 rebounds and No. 9 Oklahoma held off Texas 61-54 to keep alive the Sooners' bid to be the first team to go undefeated in the Big 12. The Sooners have a four-game lead with four games to play."We're really good right now," Paris said. "But I think we have a chance to be really great."Paris shot 10-of-12 from the floor and grabbed 20 rebounds, but was held without a field goal in the final nine minutes as the Longhorns put up a furious bid to end the Sooners' run at becoming the first team to go undefeated in the Big 12. Oklahoma has a four-game lead in the standings with four games to play."We went in knowing she was going to get her points," Texas coach Jody Conradt said. "Our goal was to make her work harder for them and we did."But they couldn't stop the Sooners (22-4, 12-0) from hitting five of eight free throws in the final minute to hold their lead. Paris grabbed her 20th rebound off a miss by Britney Brown with 20 seconds left to keep possession and end any hopes of an upset.Nina Norman scored 24 to lead Texas (12-11, 6-6), which has lost three in a row without injured center Tiffany Jackson, their best scorer and rebounder. Texas is 1-8 against ranked teams this season in a schedule ranked as the fourth-toughest in the country.The Longhorns have lost consecutive Big 12 home games for the first time since the 2001-02 season.Texas tried to defend Paris with lanky freshman center Ashley Lindsey's long arms denying her entry passes and collapsing the defense around her when she got one. The Sooners had 22 turnovers.Even so, Paris snared every rebound she touched and had a double-double by halftime with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting and 12 rebounds."Texas did a great job defending Courtney, bringing the baseline help," Oklahoma coach Sherri Cole said. "What it did was force our other guys, our feeders to make bad decisions. Our timing was just miserable."The Sooners held the biggest lead of the first half when Erin Higgins hit a 3-pointer, Paris blocked a layup and Chelsi Welch ran up court to hit another 3 that made it 27-18.But an 11-4 Texas run quickly closed the gap. Lindsey's hook shot over Paris and Crystal Boyd's 3-pointer in the final second pulled Texas within 31-29 at halftime.Texas grabbed the lead when Erika Arriaran hit consecutive baskets to open the second and the Longhorns' defense limited Paris to just one touch in the first three minutes.But the Longhorns missed their next nine shots and Paris had three quick catch-and-shoot layups that gave Oklahoma the lead. Leah Rush converted a four-point play when she was fouled on a 3-pointer to make it 45-39."Like previous games we've had lapses where we don't score for four or five minutes," Norman said. "We have too many mental mistakes."Texas' last best chance at the upset came when Paris went to the bench to rest with 8:15 to play and Norman hit a long 3-pointer to get the Horns within three. Paris' twin sister, Ashley, hit a layup and Laura Andrews' 3-point play ended the threat.Texas took itself out of its own rally with wild shots down the stretch. Arriaran went 3-of-19 and the Longhorns shot just 26 percent in the second half."Erika was not good tonight offensively," Conradt said. "She gave the effort but they weren't the kinds of looks we need to get."
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